Energy performance of buildings: a deal after all!

European policymakers were able to reach a timely deal on the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) in December. This new piece of legistlation should be formally adopted in early 2024.

The EPBD started its journey with a lot of ambition. The Commission proposal went in the right direction and the EU Parliament selected Ciaran Cuffe, from the Greens, to be its lead MEP (or rapporteur) on this file. The latter immediately sought to address the large share of emissions produced by European buildings by strengthening the Commission proposal and significantly increased the ambition of the text.

However, national circumstances in some Member States started to significantly weigh on EPBD debates at EU level, making the ambitious approach more difficult. First, the text had to be softened in order to pass the plenary vote in Parliament. Then, when negotiations between Member States and Parliament started, there were fears that no deal would be found in time before the 2024 elections. Eventually both negotiators compromised to land on a deal that will still lead to tangible emission reductions from buildings but with less specific requirements coming from the EU.

EuropeOn has been specifically vocal on two aspects that matter most to electrical contractors: electrification and the workforce dimension. In both cases, there have been some advances compared to the last EPBD, even though we would have liked to see Ciaran Cuffe’s ambition materialise in the final deal.

Workforce and skills issues have been addressed to a limited extent as this proved to be a contentious issue for Member States (who have to do most of the work in this regard). Some new reporting obligations on measures to address workers and skills gaps have made it into the final text, as well as bolstered wording on financing relevant education.  

Electrical installations enable the switch to clean energy devices that are necessary to decarbonise buildings, but in many cases need to be modernised to do so. Yet, they have never been explicitly addressed in EPBD. The Parliament added provisions to consider electrical installations in its version of the text but they were removed in the final text, as a result of the negotiations with Member States. Electrical installations are nonetheless necessary and will need to be addressed by national authorities if wider EPBD targets are to be met

Other installations have however been strengthened more significantly since the last EPBD. For e-mobility, pre-cabling, a cost-effective solution to make buildings charging-ready, will be mandatory for half of all parking spaces in new and renovated buildings. Further, the EPBD specifies that pre-cabling installations have to be adequately dimensioned. And automation systems, especially BACS, will need to be fitted to a wider range of buildings, which includes new and renovated residential buildings. 

Regrettably, electricity will still come at a disadvantage in Energy Performance Certificates. EPCs will use primary energy as their numeric indicator, which entails the use of conversion factors that will essentially make electricity consumption (artificially) appear greater in these Certificates, while gas consumption won’t be affected. However, Member States can now choose to apply “weighting factors” which may give them more flexibility than traditional primary energy factors.

Buildings are responsible for a major share of our emissions and energy consumption. Having a European answer to this challenge is a great start but it is now truly up to the Member States to ensure that the EPBD is implemented. And the EPBD should be seen as the minimum threshold for the decarbonization of buildings, Member States should be as ambitious as possible in this regard as the benefits are tremendous, not only for our climate but also for our citizens, consumers, energy sovereignty and security (read more)!