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Agreement on Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD): Focus now shifts to Member States


11 Dec 2023


Climate & Environment
EU lawmakers reached a long-awaited agreement on the recast of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) on 7 December. FIEC, which recognises the varying starting points of Member States regarding building renovation and the considerable social impact of the EPBD, welcomes the agreement. The new text has the potential to boost the European renovation market and to contribute to the decarbonisation of buildings.
However, FIEC regrets that the text does not go far enough in setting clear benchmarks for the renovation of buildings and therefore does not provide sufficient planning certainty for construction companies. The new EPBD also raises questions about financial feasibility. The focus now shifts to Member States, which will have to ensure that enough workers are available and properly trained.
EPBD has potential to give boost to energy-efficient renovations
EU lawmakers have opted for a two-pronged approach to the renovation of buildings on EU  territory: For residential buildings - of which there are around 100 million in the EU - Member  States must set their own national trajectories to reduce the average primary energy  consumption of these buildings by 16% by 2030 and 20-22% by 2035. Member States are  free to choose which buildings to target and what measures to take. The national trajectories  must ensure that at least 55% of this reduction is achieved by renovating the worst performing buildings. Almost half of the residential building stock is 'worst performing'.
For the non-residential building stock, the revised EPBD requires a progressive improvement  through minimum energy performance standards (MEPS). 16% of the worst performing  buildings will have to be renovated by 2030 and 26% by 2033.
Commenting on the agreement, Stephanos Pierides, Chairman of FIEC's sub commission on environmental affairs, states:
"Congratulations to the negotiators on their achievement in reaching an agreement on such a controversial proposal during geopolitical upheaval and after almost two years of intensive talks. The focus now shifts to Member States, who have the responsibility to fulfil the full potential of the Directive."
Renovations already account for one third of all activities of FIEC's members and their  companies, and this number is expected to increase with the new EPBD1.  
Less planning certainty and harmonisation than expected 
However, while FIEC recognises that Member States have inherently different starting  points regarding building renovation, it regrets the lack of clear benchmarks for building  renovation and a standardised EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) system. 
“The minimum standards in the original proposal were too high and needed improvement.  However, Member States now have too much flexibility to define their own renovation plan.  It is now unclear whether the new EPBD will lead to a doubling of the renovation rate in the  EU while at the same time ensuring that businesses have planning certainty and that  lenders can make investment decisions with sufficient data on the energy performance of  buildings. In addition, the new rules may not be enough to meet the EU’s ambitious energy  savings and climate targets” adds Pierides
Will the EPBD discourage new housing construction? 
Negotiators also had to make tough choices for new buildings, where 'zero emission  buildings' (ZEBs) will be the new standard. Under the agreement, all new residential and non residential buildings must have zero on-site emissions from fossil fuels from 1 January 2028  for publicly owned buildings and from 1 January 2030 for all other new buildings, with the  possibility of specific exemptions.  
Member States must also ensure that new buildings are solar-ready and that the so-called  life-cycle Global Warming Potential (GWP) of new buildings is calculated.  
The new rules come at a time of high mortgage rates, high inflation and long waits for building  permits. The combination of these elements is having a negative impact on the already difficult situation in the housing market and on overall construction costs. 
"Although 2028 and 2030 seem a long way off, the ZEB standard and the calculation of the climate performance of new buildings are likely to increase the cost of new homes and could  act as a disincentive to new housing construction at a time when the housing crisis is  spreading across Europe. As FIEC made clear in its Position Paper on the Parliament’s position on the EPBD proposal, the urgent need for housing makes it more important than  ever that energy efficiency policies take into account the impact of specific measures on  housing”, comments Pierides.


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