The European Parliament formally approves the EPBD

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) is almost past the finish line. On 12 March, the European Parliament confirmed its adoption of the inter-institutional agreement on the new EPBD, marking the end of the Parliament’s work on this file. This is the penultimate step before its full adoption.

Member States have yet to give their formal endorsement of the agreement, before it can be signed into law and published in the Official Journal of the EU. This last step is normally a formality, but some politicised files have seen unusual bumps at this stage recently. However, the expectation is that the EPBD will pass this step and should be published around the summer, marking the start of its transposition period.

EuropeOn has actively followed the legislative work on this file as it stands to impact the work and responsibilities of electrical contractors across the EU for the decades to come. With strengthened provisions for EV charging, electrification of heating, building automation, and a new mandate to install solar on buildings, electrical contractors will be at the forefront of the implementation of this Directive. Electrification is the crucial shift that will enable building to decarbonise completely and become zero-emission buildings.

However, there are a couple things missing from the final agreement to bring its ambitions to fruition:

  • Electrical installations: they are the backbone of decarbonised buildings that rely on electrification. A large proportion of EU buildings will need renovations, and electrical installations must be considered in this progress. Indeed, 132 million EU dwellings have obsolete electrical installations impeding the safe deployment of electric technologies. Renovation policies must duly take this shortcoming into account as consumers are not necessarily aware of the risk posed by lacking capacity in their installations to accommodate the clean technologies needed to decarbonise.
  • Workforce and skills: another critical enabler of renovations and decarbonisation that has been insufficiently addressed in the final agreements. While there are some reporting obligations on this aspect in the EPBD (and more specifically in the National Building Renovation Plans), it is still a timid response to the workforce challenge ahead. It takes a time to attract and train enough workers for the extensive renovation works that will have to take place to decarbonise our building stock. This means that action needs to be taken as soon as possible in order to avoid bottlenecks, by first assessing the workforce gaps and needs and then doing what’s necessary to attract enough workers in shortage sectors as already required under the Energy Efficiency Directive.
  • Indicator for Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs): this central tool to enable the decarbonisation of buildings still uses primary energy consumption as the main numeric indicator of energy performance. EuropeOn has supported the use of final energy consumption or CO2 emissions as a way to incentivise clean energy solutions in buildings. Indeed, with the current methodology a primary energy factor (PEF) is applied to electricity but not to gas when consumed in buildings. This PEF essentially multiplies the kWh really consumed when accounted in the EPC. For instance, in Belgium, a PEF of 2.5 is used, meaning that a consumer using 1kWh of electricity at home will see this reported as a consumption of 2.5 kWh in the EPC, making electric devices appear much less efficient that they really are. While EPCs have to be measured in primary energy, Member States still have leeway to determine the value of the PEF themselves and should opt for the lowest possible to incentivise electrification and zero-emission solutions.

With the end of the EU’s work on this file, Member States are now responsible for the transposition of EPBD provisions in national legislation and ensure they can meet the overall targets set out in this Directive. This means they will have to fill in the blanks left by EU legislators such as those outlined above to reap the full benefits of the decarbonisation of their building stock.

The Commission will also have a role to play in this matter with their recommendations for implementation. EuropeOn will follow this endeavour closely and hopefully the aforementioned shortcomings can be addressed in the non-legislative recommendations.