EU policies and initiatives we are looking out for in 2023

For stakeholders active in the energy and climate bubble in Brussels, 2023 will certainly not be a dull year. While most of the legislative proposal that were central for us in the Green Deal are out, a majority of them are still in the negotiating phase among EU institutions and Sweden is now in charge of coordinating the negotiations on behalf of the Member States with its Presidency of the Council. Further, the Commission President has announced that 2023 will the EU Year of Skills, which is a key issue for EuropeOn members.

Directives for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

As we start the year, we’ll immediately look for updates on the ongoing negotiations on the Directives for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. With the EU Parliament having settled on an agreement for both, they are currently working with Member States to find a compromise. This won’t be an easy task as the Parliament has shown more climate ambition than Member States, and the usually climate-friendly Sweden has decided to be as neutral as possible in its Presidency.

For EuropeOn, these Directives are critical as the Parliament’s mandate for negotiation includes new provisions that are essential to the attainment of their objectives. Indeed, it contains increased attention to the skills and workforce behind renewables and energy efficiency. More specifically, both Directives require Member States to regularly assess the gap between available and needed installations professionals for both energy efficiency and renewable installations, which is the first step to address skills and workforce shortages in the energy transition. Indeed, quantifying the recruitment needs will at least prepare Member States to take appropriate action. 

MEPs also require the Commission to set up a dedicated Platform aiming to support up- and re-skilling efforts in the framework of the EU’s climate and energy targets. This Platform will be complemented by an EU-wide campaign aiming to attract more workers to energy efficiency careers.

Energy Performance of Buildings Directive

This year should also see the adoption of the revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. This is even more crucial for electrical contractors as EU buildings will fall under new and more stringent requirement to ensure they become cleaner and more efficient, meaning they’ll have more work and will be more solicited than ever. Here, the Parliament is yet to find its own compromise as the Committee vote has been pushed forward several times and is now scheduled for late January. This difficulty to agree was illustrated by the earlier vote in the Transport Committee which rejected the opinion it was supposed to issue on the proposed text.

Once Parliament has agreed on a compromise, it will enter in negotiations with the Member States, where the headline targets, or minimum energy performance standards, will take the centre stage. For EuropeOn members, this EPBD offers an unmissable opportunity to future-proof our buildings by securing:

  • Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs): they should give insight into the true energy efficiency of the building. As they are currently based on primary energy, final energy consumption (such as electricity) is multiplied by a primary energy factor in EPC calculations. This discriminates against electricity consumption and blurs the consumer-information potential of EPCs.
  • Modern and renovated electrical installations: they are indeed the backbone of decarbonised buildings and are central to the integration of zero-emission technologies such as solar PV, heat pumps or EV charging, into the built environment.
  • EV charging-readiness: EV users should be able to easily charge their cars in buildings’ parking lots. The EPBD must mandate buildings to be fully pre-cabled and feature some EV chargers.
  • Building automation and control systems: there are significant efficiency gains by smartly managing the energy consumption of a building and such devices must become the norm to smoothly transition to ‘prosumer’ buildings.

But the main opportunity with the EPBD is to again nudge Member States towards ensuring that enough professionals are available and equipped with the right skills to take on ambitious targets for the decarbonisation of buildings. Thanks to the National Buildings Renovation Plans, a new reporting obligation for Member States, the EU can ask them to quantify the necessary workforce. This is the right tool to carry out a gap assessment as mentioned above.

European Year of Skills

With the EU Year of Skills (see other news), the least we can demand is that the Commission will put its weight behind such provisions in these key legislative proposals. Further, it should support more awareness-raising among both public and private stakeholders about the urgency of acting on skills and workforce shortages.

Other expected initiatives

Apart from the ongoing legislative negotiations mentioned above, the Commission will kick-off more reforms and initiatives. Under the pressure of the energy crisis, President Von der Leyen announced that the electricity market rules would have to be profoundly revamped, with the objective to decuple gas prices from electricity prices. This will be no small challenge and all energy experts are now keeping their eyes peeled for a proposal by the end of March.

As expressed by the President of the Commission during her State of the Union Speech last September, more attention must be brought on small and medium enterprises. For Ms. Von der Leyen, this means revising the late payments Directive as 1 in 4 bankruptcies are due to invoices not being paid on time. Another constant worry is finding skilled workers and this includes facilitating rules for third country nationals. Consequently, the Commission will propose a completely new Regulation on Recognition of qualifications of third country nationals. Both initiatives should be unveiled in the third quarter of the year.

Finally, with the mandates of the current Commission college and European Parliament coming to an end in 2024, this year could be a defining year to address the more technical challenges posed by this raft of legislation and we look forward to our continued cooperation with EU institutions as well as civil society representatives on securing the needed workforce for the energy transition.