The European Commission committed to revise the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), a cornerstone of the EU energy policy, as part of the Renovation Wave – the flagship initiative of the European Green Deal aiming at increasing the rate and depth of building renovation across the EU.

The EPBD, together with the relevant provisions of the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) and the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), is the main piece of EU legislation impacting the building sector. First adopted in 2010 and revised in 2018, the EPBD aims to improve the energy performance of the European building stock by introducing measures and obligations for both new and existing buildings, to ensure buildings consume the least energy possible and don’t pollute. Such measures include the development of national Long-Term Renovation Strategies (LTRSs) for the decarbonisation of the building stocks by 2050, setting minimum performance requirements at cost-optimal levels for buildings undergoing a major renovation and meeting the Nearly-Zero Energy (NZEB) criteria for all new buildings as from 2021. The EPBD also prescribes the issuance of Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) every time a building is sold or rented.

The current policy framework is still inadequate to be in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal as well as with the EU objective to reach climate neutrality by mid-century. Too loose obligations and too much flexibility are still granted to the Member States, leading to high heterogeneity of measures across the EU and insufficient action in the sector.

For this reason, the planned revision of the EPBD by the end of 2021 is a unique opportunity to tackle the existing shortcomings and address the building sector in a comprehensive way so as to fully tap into its energy efficiency potential. As part of the review process, the Commission published in February the Roadmap/Inception Impact Assessment in order to present initial ideas on how the EPBD could be strengthened to support a higher 2030 climate ambition. Some of the key improvements envisaged are:

  • Phased introduction of mandatory minimum energy performance standards (MEPS), albeit scope, timeline and type are still to be defined;

  • Better quality, accessibility and diffusion of EPCs, also through greater harmonisation;

  • Possible introduction of Building Renovation Passports and of a deep renovation standard for sustainable finance;

  • Possible revision of the requirements for new buildings (NZEBs) and measures on sustainable mobility, while addressing circularity principles and resource efficiency.

In its submission to the EPBD Roadmap, CAN Europe stressed that, to be in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal, the EU should reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 65% by 2030. This requires to at least triple the current annual rate of building renovations, increasing significantly their depth and moving towards a fully renewables-based energy supply. To this end, CAN Europe supports a broader revision of the EPBD, including the elements identified above and beyond them, aiming at the full transformation of the building sector.

The European Commission started in March the consultation process on EPBD that will last for three months. This consultation will be followed by an impact assessment.

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Read our full contribution to the roadmap.

To be in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal, the EU should reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 65% by 2030. This requires higher binding energy targets (at least 45% for energy efficiency and 50% for renewable energy) and to at least triple the current annual rate of energy renovations, increasing significantly their depth and moving towards a fully renewables-based energy supply. Hence, CAN Europe supports a broader revision of the EPBD, going beyond the limited scope of Option 3 and aiming at the full transformation of the building sector.

Still based on the outdated 2050 goal of reducing emissions by 80-95%, the EPBD’s current provision on the Long-Term Renovation Strategies needs to be strengthened and aligned with the climate neutrality objective. Setting future-proof strategies while addressing the shortcomings of the current plans is a prerequisite to ensure that the building sector contributes to the bloc’s decarbonisation efforts.

Reducing buildings’ energy demand is a priority and a low-hanging fruit to achieve the climate targets. To this end, mandatory minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) are key to phase-out the worst-performing buildings, bringing them to high-performance levels, while tackling one of the root causes of energy poverty. MEPS should sit in a target-based framework that defines and prioritises deep renovations. They should aim at covering the whole stock, including the residential sector, through a progressive implementation that factors in the needs of the different segments and provides adequate funding and financial support. This also requires the revision of the cost-optimality approach in order to take into account the multiple environmental, economic and social benefits linked to energy efficiency.

To ensure consistent monitoring and comparability of results, Energy Performance Certificates should be better harmonised and accessible. The information displayed should always include the share of energy from renewable sources, coupled with recommendations on the measures needed to achieve deep renovation (e.g. Building Renovation Passports).

Increasing rate and depth of renovations, in line with the energy efficiency first principle, should be complemented by the shift towards 100% RES supply, in coherence with the REDII revision. New buildings’ requirements should prevent future lock-ins by banning new fossil installations, while progressively phase-out inefficient and fossil-fuel based heating systems from existing buildings. These should be replaced by alternative RES, such as renewable electricity that powers electric heat pumps and solar thermal heat. Buildings can also be connected to renewable district heating networks. This should be combined with halting any kind of support to fossil fuel infrastructure.

Strengthened regulatory measures must be embedded in an enabling framework that addresses also the non-regulatory barriers to energy renovation and the possible distributional impacts, aiming at reducing upfront costs, raising public awareness, fostering the upskilling of the construction sector and providing public support to the most vulnerable households. Provisions on advisory tools such as one-stop-shops should be strengthened to encourage their roll-out at national and local level, while public authorities should be supported through technical assistance in building capacity to scale up projects and develop integrated renovation programmes, coupling energy efficiency and RES deployment.

Finally, this revision should fit within the proposed Strategy for a Sustainable Built Environment, as it presents the opportunity to improve the buildings’ overall sustainability by introducing a whole life cycle approach in the relevant EPBD provisions. This entails addressing embodied energy through the inclusion of circularity principles that prioritise material recovery and recycling in construction and renovation activities, promoting nature-based and low-carbon materials.