EuropeOn members in Brussels to talk “EPBD” with 3 EU institutions

EuropeOn members came to Brussels on 2 February to meet with EU policymakers and discuss our sector’s contribution in the decarbonisation of our buildings. This timing was no coincidence, negotiators from the EU Parliament, the Council and the Commission are about to sit at the same table to find a compromise on the recast of the so-called “EPBD”, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.

Electrical contractors will be at the forefront of the implementation of this Directive and it is crucial that our voice can be heard to secure the achievement of the EPBD’s goals. Our keynote guest was MEP Ciaran Cuffe, who is leading the Parliament’s work on this file.

Ciaran Cuffe did a great job with his work on EPBD where he sought to increase the level of ambition compared to what the Commission had originally proposed. EuropeOn members are in complete support of his vision for a bold Directive that can set buildings on course to climate neutrality and have worked to issue policy recommendations that would enable this objective.

Throughout this process, Mr Cuffe has been considerate of our asks and position on this legislation, showing a great level of understanding for the issues we raised. While some other MEPs involved on this file have stood by Ciaran Cuffe’s intentions, not all in Parliament subscribed to this vision. Many have attempted to water down EPBD and reduce obligations to decarbonise buildings, which would put our climate neutrality goals in jeopardy, arguing that renovations are too expensive or because the workforce could not handle them. These claims are clearly unsubstantiated as energy renovations stand to reduce consumers’ energy bills, increase the value of buildings, reduce our energy imports and dependence, create hundreds of thousands of jobs, reduce energy poverty and increase the level of comfort in our homes.

Fortunately, 3 days before we met, Ciaran Cuffe managed to clinch a deal with his colleagues in Parliament that still addressed our main preoccupations, for which we congratulate him! Moving forward, it will be key to safeguard these significant advances in the next rounds of negotiations, especially with Members States.

For EuropeOn, it is critical that this Directive includes meaningful skills and workforce provisions. We have been calling for any new climate or energy targets to consider the relevant workforce as the key enabler it truly is and fully assess its availability to meet such targets. This is exactly what EPBD should do, it should ensure authorities map out the workforce they’ll need to decarbonize their building stock well in advance to be able to take appropriate action to address any shortages.

The current agreement on EPBD at Parliament level does include such provisions but it is now up to the Member States to also sign off on this version, which might prove more difficult. Their latest work on EPBD actually reduced the obligations on skills, which is a dangerous path to take if the Directive is to be a success and actually achieve its aims. We all agree that regulatory efforts on climate should take place at EU level as emissions and global warming do not stop at our countries’ borders. It is now time to realise that green skills and workers are a central enabler of this endeavour and cannot be dissociated from this aim, making the case for a certain level of EU emphasis on skills in its climate and energy legislation.

It should be said that the obligations on skills that we support do not overstep into Member States’ exclusive competences. Indeed, the EPBD should simply require them to assess the gap between available and needed professionals, according to their own targets.

But this is not about burdensome obligations. Acting on securing the supply of technical workers with green skills while putting in place decarbonisation strategies stands to create a massive amount of local, purposeful and future-proof jobs!

This argument has also been taken up by the Commission, which has made skills one of the 4 pillars of its Green Deal Industrial Plan. Indeed, we were also pleased to welcome Paula Rey Garcia, a senior official from the Commission’s Energy Directorate, who reiterated the need to secure the skills needed to reach our climate goals.

Finally, while bound by the agenda of their national administrations, some energy attachés of EU Member States present at our exchange supported our vision for an ambitious EPBD, opening the door for constructive negotiations in the near future.

We look forward to supporting all institutions in their work and negotiations on EPBD to make sure the electrical contracting sector can deliver on the promise to decarbonise our buildings but also to make them more comfortable, healthier and more resilient to energy markets!