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Embracing Performance-Based Standards: 5 Major Changes to EPBD

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January 2024

Buildings are the single largest energy consumer in Europe, largely because they are energy inefficient. The building sector will need to completely decarbonise by 2050 and reduce its emissions by 60% by 2030 to meet Europe's climate commitments. JP Johnson explores the changes to EPBD and how it aims to transform the built environment.

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New legislation is focusing on end use energy performance and moving away from Energy Performance Certificates (EPC’s) that assess the theoretical efficiency of the building. Why? Because these measurements are not delivering 2050 Paris Agreement Targets fast enough.

To meet the EU’s climate objectives, the building sector will need to achieve 60% greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions by 2030 and fully decarbonise by 2050. Unfortunately Europe is still not on track: buildings still account for 40% of the EU’s total energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions. To boost the energy performance of the building sector, the EU has established a legislative framework with the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). 

Revisions to the EPBD were made earlier this year, which set out more ambitious energy efficient standards for new and renovated EU buildings. The aim is to make the EU’s building stock more energy efficient in order to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. 

To help you navigate the terrain of these updated legislations, this article provides an introduction to the EPBD, what the changes are and what you need to do to prepare your building to meet the 2030 and 2050 Paris Agreement Targets. 


What is the The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive? 

The EPBD stands as the primary legislative instrument governing buildings throughout the European Union. Its core objective is to promote and enhance energy efficiency whilst expediting the integration of renewable energy sources within the building sector.

The recast of the EPBD is a crucial element of the Climate Law policy. The revision aims to upgrade the European building stock to zero-emission (ZEB) by 2050, increasing the previous requirement that aimed at nearly zero-energy buildings (NZEB). This now implies that roughly 75% of the building stock, which is considered inefficient, must be renovated in the next 25 years. Furthermore, more stringent building energy efficiency is required to avoid creating excess pressure on grid capacity and oversizing generation capacity to manage peaks in electricity demand. 


The Need to Implement Performance-Based Standards

New legislation is focusing on end use energy performance and moving away from Energy Performance Certificates (EPC’s) that assess the theoretical efficiency of the building. Why? Because these measurements are not delivering 2050 Paris Agreement Targets fast enough. At the current rate, it would take centuries to rebuild and upgrade the European building stock, let alone make it resilient to climate change. Performance based standards will now focus on how a building is actually functioning, how much energy is it using, and if its energy use is efficient or not.

Taking HVAC systems as an example, these account for up to 50% of a building's total energy use. Optimising a building's HVAC system is clearly a priority for the implementation of energy performance based standards..


New EPBD Legislation for Buildings: The Five Major Changes

1. The first major change is the introduction of standardised Energy Performance Certificates (EPC). While EPC labels are already established, the methodology used to score buildings and the scoring system itself currently vary between countries and even regions. This makes it very difficult to compare the European building stock and significantly reduces transparency, on top of complicating the enforcement of EU-wide targets. The new amendments tackle this issue by setting a uniform standardised scale and providing a template for EU countries to follow. 

2. The next significant change involves setting minimum energy performance standards. This aims to increase the rate of renovations in the building sector and reduce negative social impacts associated with it. This change will encourage a gradual removal of the least efficient buildings, with standards determined at the EU level. The focus will be on renovating buildings with the greatest potential for lowering carbon emissions, addressing energy poverty, and providing social advantages. These EU-wide energy performance standards rely on harmonised Energy Performance Certificates (EPC). These certificates will gradually push member states to renovate the poorest-performing buildings in their national inventory.

3. Thirdly, EU countries will need to create and maintain accessible National Databases for storing EPC labels and complete certificates for buildings. Currently, data storage and access vary significantly due to differing reporting levels among countries, with many providing limited or no access to EPC information. Once these databases are established, countries must also share their reports with the Building Stock Observatory using a standardised template.

4. The EPBD recast mandates member states to formulate a long-term renovation strategy. They must outline financial measures, investment requirements, and administrative resources needed to achieve their national renovation goals. This roadmap must be updated every five years and set targets for 2030, 2040, and 2050.

5. The EPBD recast also addresses the finances needed to make EU buildings greener, which will vary by country. The EPBD requires member states to create financial incentives for reaching the 2050 zero-emission goal and eliminating non-economic obstacles to renovation.


Conclusion 

Buildings are the single largest energy consumer in Europe, largely because they are energy inefficient. The building sector will need to completely decarbonise by 2050 and reduce its emissions by 60% by 2030 to meet Europe's climate commitments. As a result, it is imperative that building owners and managers inform themselves on the new EPDB requirements and changes, and focus their efforts on tackling the energy efficiency of their buildings through performance based standards, if they are to reach their Paris Proof 2030 and 2050 targets. 


For further information on EPBD, please refer to these EU resources:

Energy efficiency directive

2030 climate & energy framework

Energy performance of buildings directive

Fit for 55: making buildings in the EU greener

Written By:

JP Johnson