Revision of the Buildings Directive: Fit for the Future

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive is Europe’s opportunity to ensure a housing stock that is fit for the future; let’s build on it, says Ciarán Cuffe.
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By Ciarán Cuffe

Ciarán Cuffe (IE, Greens/EFA) is Parliament’s rapporteur on Maximising the energy efficiency potential of EU building stock

09 Jun 2021

Later this year, the European Commission will launch its revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), to bring it in line with our climate obligations.

This will be the moment for us to develop and improve building regulations that will make our homes less energy intensive and safer.

Any revision of the directive needs to be socially and environmentally just. The EU must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 65 percent by 2030 to be in line with the Paris Agreement climate goal.

There are many policy instruments that we can implement that would significantly improve our building stock. In several Member States, we have seen the positive impact of minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) - with social safeguards - in phasing out the worst performing buildings.

“If we are as ambitious in implementing the Green Deal and the Renovation Wave as we were in drafting them, then we can tackle climate change, energy poverty, and the negative economic effects of COVID” 

MEPS require buildings to achieve a predefined minimum energy performance standard which is set, for example, in terms of an energy rating that must be reached by a specified date, or at a certain point in the life of the building.

MEPS can ensure that the worst-performing buildings are upgraded and can help the EU building stock on its trajectory towards climate neutrality.

They can also help alleviate energy poverty, by reducing energy bills for healthy and more comfortable homes, as long as they are accompanied with adequate social safeguards to ensure housing affordability.

MEPS should be accompanied by other tools such as building renovation passports, which act as a building’s long-term roadmap and can be used to plan deep renovations, collate relevant building information, and provide an up-to-date view of a building’s lifespan.

This can help us track a building’s energy performance and gradually improve its energy efficiency rating.

I believe we can create a role within the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive for these tools that will allow us to phase out our worst performing buildings and gradually improve the living standards for those people at risk of energy poverty.

As an architect, I understand the importance of a building’s infrastructure in its overall energy performance. I know that we can use the revision of the directive as a vehicle to drive forward the decarbonisation of buildings, specifically, the heating and cooling of buildings.

The EU’s Clean Energy Package has shown us how local communities can work together and gather financial and technical assistance for their mutual benefit.

These communities act as one-stop shops and have huge potential in accelerating the energy transition at a local level. If we apply this example to building renovations, it will allow local authorities and communities to decide the best way to bring their buildings in line with our climate goals.

The roll out of these one-stop shops would allow us to empower local communities to shape both their own energy transition and improve their mobility and social infrastructure.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen recently proposed including the building sector in a new Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

This will set a price for pollution; however, as citizens will still need to heat or cool their homes, it is likely that vulnerable groups and those in energy poverty would be hardest hit by such policies. Given the complex nature of the building sector, geographical differences and social sensitivities, an ETS price will be difficult to set.

“I know that we can use the revision of the EPBD as a vehicle to drive forward the decarbonisation of buildings, specifically, the heating and cooling of buildings”

The effects of this policy will not be seen before 2030, but we know that direct energy efficiency measures are less costly for citizens. They also have the advantage of achieving the same or better results and are thus more suitable for reaching the goal of reducing emissions from buildings.

Deep renovations and minimum energy performance standards can be designed in order to provide targeted solutions to vulnerable groups. These measures would bring the local and sustainable jobs that we urgently need in the pandemic recovery efforts.

They would also bring concrete benefits for citizens, in the form of more comfortable homes and lower energy bills.

Looking toward the revision of the EPBD, we must ensure that our buildings are healthy, safe, and secure for all citizens and the environment.

If we are as ambitious in implementing the Green Deal and the Renovation Wave as we were in drafting them, then we can tackle climate change, energy poverty, and the negative economic effects of COVID. It is now up to the European Institutions and the Member States to ensure that Europe reaps the benefits of increased renovations and energy efficient buildings.

If we work together on European, national, and local levels, we can make sure that this is a success for all.

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Energy & Climate
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