Brussels, 8th December 2023 – Yesterday evening, the final trilogue of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) came to a conclusion, bringing to an end a tumultuous revision process. The European Parliament, the Council and the Commission managed to reach a deal that unfortunately does not live up to the full potential of the Directive. In view of such high level flexibility granted to Member States, it is now in their hands to ensure that this Directive will ultimately support the delivery of the Fit for 55 goals.
Since the outset, Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS), an instrument that initially had promise, has been hollowed out throughout the whole revision process including yesterday. Meanwhile a small focus on worst-performing buildings remains, (despite the wide pool to choose from), MEPS for homes settled for a 2030-trajectory target of 16%, which will likely require Member States little to no additional effort to ensure renovation rates pick up on time to fulfil the Renovation Wave objectives. For non-residential buildings the target thresholds and timelines have gone through a slight improvement in a move to balance out the too many flexibilities granted to residential buildings, although more should have been done to compensate for the great loss in ambition in the largest building segment in the EU.
Moreover, despite the global push at COP28 to phase out fossil fuels, the co-legislators decided to keep a late phase out date with even more flexibility. The agreed date accounts for fossil fuels in heating and cooling, with a view to a complete phase out of boilers by 2040. To keep in line with the EU’s Paris Agreement commitments, 2035 would have been the preferred date for a complete fossil fuel use phase out. A requirement to ban installations for fossil fuel-based heating technologies in buildings was also scrapped, and even though a phase out of subsidies for stand-alone boilers was set by 2025, the text will still grant a lot of flexibility to technologies that will still rely on fossil fuels. To fully embrace the renewable heating revolution, Member States must look away from false solutions such as hybrid technologies, as these will be potentially forcing millions of households to continue using dangerous and expensive fossil fuels for much longer and ultimately jeopardise the achievement of the EU’s climate goals.
“The final agreement on the Directive missed a significant opportunity to lift millions out of energy poverty and cut our dependence on fossil fuels. A menacing campaign by the fossil fuel industry and right-wing populists ensured the Directive was continuously watered down, meaning in the end, Member States will be required to take little to no additional effort to ensure renovation rates pick up. The date for a phase out of fossil fuel use in heating and cooling remains indicative and comes years too late for the EU to reach its climate and energy goals. This EU framework is disappointing but it is in the hands of Member States now to ensure vulnerable households are not left trapped in leaky buildings.” – Eva Brardinelli, EU Buildings Expert At CAN Europe.
There are some wins from the discussions. As part of the new construction requirements, the introduction of first ever requirements for the calculation of Global Warming Potential should be welcomed as it will reserve an increasingly prominent spot to embedded carbon emissions of buildings. The inclusion of a solar mandate and improvements on the enabling factors to boost renovation, such as an enhanced role for one-stop shops, more financing and technical assistance are also important factors to highlight and strengthen even further once the implementation phase will kick-in.