EC announces agreement to reduce emissions and energy use of buildings

Alina Oprea
The European Commission has welcomed the provisional agreement reached today between the European Parliament and the Council to reduce the emissions and energy use of buildings across the EU. The strengthened Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) will support the EU's efforts to decarbonize buildings across the whole Union. This is an area in which the concrete impact of the European Green Deal will improve the quality of life for people, in their homes and workplaces, and lower their energy bills. This deal will also boost Europe's energy independence in line with the REPowerEU Plan and make a strong business case for a cleaner buildings sector in the EU.

”To succeed in the green transition, we need to make sure that the transformation changes people's lives for the better. We want to help people to make their homes more energy efficient, more comfortable, and healthy. This is a win-win for citizens: improving the energy performance of buildings will result in both lower energy bills and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Today's agreement strikes the right balance, with European standards, national implementation, individual autonomy, and financial support”, says Maroš Šefčovič, Executive Vice-President for European Green Deal, Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight.

The revised Directive will set out a range of measures that will help EU governments boost structurally the energy performance of buildings, with a specific focus on the worst-performing buildings.

Each Member State will adopt its national trajectory to reduce the average primary energy use of residential buildings by 16% by 2030 and 20-22% by 2035, allowing for sufficient flexibility to take into account national circumstances. Member States are free to choose which buildings to target and which measures to take.

The national measures will have to ensure that at least 55% of the decrease in the average primary energy use is achieved through the renovation of the worst-performing buildings.

For the non-residential building stock, the revised rules require gradual improvement via minimum energy performance standards. This will lead to renovating the 16% worst-performing buildings by 2030 and the 26% worst-performing buildings by 2033.

Member States will have the possibility to exempt certain categories of residential and non-residential buildings from these obligations, including historical buildings or holiday homes.

Improved Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) will be based on a common EU template with common criteria, to better inform citizens and make financing decisions across the EU easier.

To fight energy poverty and bring down energy bills, financing measures will have to incentivize and accompany renovations and be targeted in particular at vulnerable customers and worst-performing buildings, in which a higher share of energy-poor households live.

Member States will also have to ensure that there are safeguards for tenants, to help tackle the risk of eviction of vulnerable households caused by disproportionate rent increases following a renovation.

”Improving the energy performance of buildings is vital for reaching our ambition of climate neutrality and will bring concrete benefits to our citizens. Renovations are investments into a better future. They will improve quality of life, allow people to invest their savings elsewhere, and boost our economy. I trust this agreement will allow to spur a renovation wave across the whole Union while respecting the diversity of the EU's building stock”, says Kadri Simson, Commissioner for Energy.

The revised EPBD contains measures to improve both the strategic planning of renovations and the tools to ensure such renovations will happen. Under the agreed provisions, Member States will: establish national Building Renovation Plans to set out the national strategy to decarbonize the building stock and how to address remaining barriers, such as financing, training, and attracting more skilled workers; set up national building renovation passport schemes to guide building owners in their staged renovations towards zero-emission buildings; establish one-stop-shops for home-owners, SMEs, and all actors in the renovation value chain, to receive dedicated and independent support and guidance. 

”In a climate-neutral Europe, we need to be able to heat and cool our homes and buildings with minimum emissions. We have the technologies to do this, but we need to create a stronger business case to boost energy-efficient renovations. The new Energy Performance of Buildings Directive will help mobilize additional finance and boost construction value chains. Together we can help homeowners and businesses renovate to save money and prepare for a net-zero future”, says Wopke Hoekstra, Commissioner for Climate Action.

In addition, the deal will help the EU to phase out, gradually, boilers powered by fossil fuels. 

Subsidies for the installation of stand-alone boilers powered by fossil fuels will not be allowed as of 1 January 2025. The revised directive introduces a clear legal basis for Member States to set requirements for heat generators based on greenhouse gas emissions, the type of fuel used, or the minimum share of renewable energy used for heating. Member States will also have to set out specific measures on the phase-out of fossil fuels in heating and cooling with a view to a complete phase-out of boilers powered by fossil fuels by 2040. 

The deal will also boost the take-up of sustainable mobility thanks to provisions on pre-cabling, recharging points for electric vehicles, and bicycle parking spaces. Pre-cabling will become the norm for new and renovated buildings, thus facilitating access to recharging infrastructure and contributing to the EU's climate ambition. In addition, there will be strengthened requirements on the number of recharging points in both residential and non-residential buildings. Member States will also have to remove barriers to the installation of recharging points, to ensure that the ‘right to plug' becomes a reality. Overall, recharging points will have to enable smart charging and, where appropriate, bi-directional charging. Finally, the provisions will ensure that there are sufficient parking spaces for bicycles, including cargo bikes.    

The revised directive will make zero-emission buildings the new standard for new buildings. Under the agreement, all new residential and non-residential buildings must have zero on-site emissions from fossil fuels, as of 1 January 2028 for publicly-owned buildings and as of 1 January 2030 for all other new buildings, with a possibility for specific exemptions.

Member States will also have to ensure that new buildings are solar-ready, meaning that they have to be fit to host rooftop photovoltaic or solar thermal installations. Installing solar energy installations will become the norm for new buildings. For existing public and non-residential buildings solar will need to be gradually installed, starting from 2027, when this is technically, economically, and functionally feasible. Such provisions will come into force at different points in time depending on the building type and size. 

The provisional agreement now requires formal adoption by the European Parliament and the Council. Once this process is completed, the new legislation will be published in the Official Journal of the Union and enter into force.

Buildings are responsible for approximately 40% of EU energy consumption, more than half of EU gas consumption (mainly through heating, cooling, and domestic hot water), and 36% of the energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. At present, about 35% of the EU's buildings are over 50 years old and almost 75% of the building stock is energy inefficient. At the same time, the average annual energy renovation rate is only about 1%.

In 2020, the Commission presented its Renovation Wave Strategy, as part of the European Green Deal, with the revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive being a key initiative. As set out in the Renovation Wave Strategy, the Commission aims to at least double renovation rates by 2030 and make sure renovations lead to higher energy efficiency and more renewables in buildings. The Commission's proposal to revise the EPBD in December 2021 was further supplemented by additional elements on the deployment of solar energy on buildings as part of the REPowerEU plan in May 2022.

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Green Forum  |  23 April, 2024 at 11:00 AM