EU Parliament’s vote on Buildings directive is a hit and miss for our buildings transition
The MEPs’ vote in favour of a mandatory renovations requirement that limits exemptions is welcomed and will help lift millions of Europeans out of energy poverty for winters to come
Yet, flexibilities granted to heating technologies certified to run on renewable fuels is a ‘trojan horse’ for our buildings, as they undermine the 2035 phase out date of fossil fuels in our buildings.
Strasbourg, 14th March 2023 – This afternoon in Strasbourg, a solid majority of MEPs voted on the EU Buildings directive (EPBD), the primary piece of legislation regulating buildings across the EU and key in the climate and energy legislative package ‘Fit for 55’ that should operationalise the EU Green Deal. The vote is a crucial step in the Directive’s revision process and how the EU is responding to its current ‘trilemma’ – a lack of energy security and a cost of living and climate crises. While there are positives to be taken from the EU Parliament’s final agreement on the directive, such as a stronger framework around mandatory renovations (Minimum Energy Performance Standards) which results in more vulnerable homes being renovated, flexibilities on heating technologies’ risk undermining the 2035 fossil fuel phase out date and locking in more vulnerable households into using expensive and polluting fossil-fuel based technologies for seasons to come.
A cap on exemptions for mandatory renovations (Minimum Energy Performance Standards), means that Member States will not be able to exempt as much as they want on these standards and for any timeline of their choosing. Rather they will have to abide by what is in the provision for Minimum Energy Performance Standards which is good news for the most vulnerable and energy poor households living in the worst-performing buildings in the EU who need to be renovated the most and as soon as possible. This directly tackles energy poverty while also helping to drastically reduce energy consumption and mitigate the climate crisis.
Yet, the Parliament voted in favour of flexibilities granted on heating technologies that include hybrid boilers that can use hydrogen, biogas etc. in a blended mix with fossil gas. This is a ‘trojan horse’ and should be removed come the trilogue negotiations later this year. In order to truly achieve the 2035 goal, we must stop promoting false solutions and start supporting other parallel initiatives (i.e. Ecodesign Regulation revision). For these reasons, boilers certified to run on renewable fuels should not be counted as “non-fossil heating technologies”, and should not be used in existing buildings undergoing major renovation and (especially) not in new constructions.
“A stronger framework for mandatory renovations can help lift millions of Europeans out of energy poverty while decarbonising the EU’s inefficient building stock. While this was a strong signal by MEPs today, we need a stronger commitment from Member States to ensure the most vulnerable homes are renovated once the trilogues start in spring. Moreover, we need to see a commitment from both MEPs and member states to cut energy demand and send a strong signal to replace fossil fuel boilers with sustainable, renewable technologies as it is the only way to decarbonise the building stock while enhancing the EU’s energy security and lowering energy costs..” – Eva Brardinelli, EU Buildings Policy Expert at CAN Europe
Notes to the editor:
The EPBD, first introduced in 2002, is the primary piece of legislation regulating buildings across the EU. It aims at improving the energy performance of the national building stocks by fostering energy efficiency and thereby contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the incorporation of renewable energy sources in the sector. After a first recast in 2010, this Directive has been revised in 2018 as part of the “Clean Energy for All Europeans” package.
In December 2021, the European Commission presented its proposal for the recast of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) among the final pieces of the so-called “Fit for 55” package, a set of legislative measures aiming at reaching at least 55% net greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2030 in line with the European Green Deal. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the launch of the REPowerEU plan, the EPBD is viewed as one of the key legislative tools to wean off Russian fossil gas and reduce the EU’s dependency on fossil fuels as a whole.