New EU net zero buildings directive


Regulation covering the environmental impact of buildings in Europe has been updated to meet new net zero targets.

Three years after the European Green Deal prescribed that Europe would become the first climate neutral continent by 2050 and two years after the European Climate Law enacted a precedent to reduce emissions by at least 55 per cent by 2030, one of the last acts of the ‘Fit For 55’ package has been ratified by the European Parliament.

Revision of the EU’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive updates a 12-year old agreement in line with today’s targets. Given that buildings account for 40 per cent of final energy consumption in the EU and 36 per cent of its energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, the undertaking is significant.

The directive targets co-benefits between climate and social objectives. It has the potential to improve energy efficiency, reduce energy poverty by prioritising measures for the worst performing and increase the well-being of citizens through healthier buildings.

The directive establishes a clear roadmap to achieving the target of three per cent renovation per year, by introducing a European framework for the Minimum Energy Performance Standard of buildings.

“We are happy to finally see the introduction of a minimum energy performance framework, with a clear trajectory for cities to prioritise investments and projects,” said Eugenia Mansutti, projects coordinator and policy advisor on environment at Eurocities.

“We also welcome measures that promote the reduction of whole life carbon emissions, such as including these considerations in Energy Performance Certificates, and Digital Building Logbooks.” 

The agreement on a unified European certification scheme that considers social fairness by ensuring that their issuance does not entail extra costs for vulnerable sectors of society means that city administrations can more smoothly guarantee the implementation of minimum energy standards.

The legislation has so far not addressed the existing double reporting that many local councils have reported because of requirements to carry out energy audits every four years and complying with energy performance certificates every ten years on certain buildings.

“Given that city administrations often own large portfolios of buildings, from schools and hospitals to housing units and cultural landmarks, and that we have urban planning competencies, there is much that we can do for ourselves, with our partners, and to encourage a market shift towards greener buildings,” says André Sobczak, secretary general, Eurocities.

Locally established one-stop shops are already vital to speed up the EU building renovation rate. One-stop shops raise awareness and encourage residents to embark on building renovation plans while avoiding the time-consuming renovation process of bureaucracy and hidden costs. The agreement to establish at least one one-stop shop per 45,000 inhabitants will go a long way to ensuring everyone has access to trusted advice on renovations.

The Right to Plug and the strong push for charging infrastructure, obliging EU member states to install charging points (including in non-residential buildings) and remove administrative barriers from public authorities or grid operators, will concurrently help to decarbonise the transport sector.

Another hurdle to clear locally has been to ease permit procedures for small solar installations and level the playing field for local energy communities.

“An ambitious take up of solar energy is crucial to decarbonise the building stock and contribute to the EU’s energy independence goals,” said Masha Smirnova, campaign manager for the Mayors Alliance for the European Green Deal. “However, we would have welcomed a better definition of technical feasibility criteria and a more ambitious timeline, especially if it comes to buildings undergoing deep renovations.”

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