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23rd Sep 2023

Lower energy bills promised after EU buildings deal

  • According to the European Commission, only 0.4% to 1.2% of building stock undergoes renovations annually, while energy savings can be made in 75% of them (Photo: H E N G S T R E A M)

EU negotiators agreed on Tuesday (19 December) that each member state should set up national plans to make buildings almost carbon neutral by 2050.

The new rules should also lead to lower energy bills, according to Estonia's economic affairs minister Kadri Simson.

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  • Estonia's economic affairs minister Simson (r) hailed the deal reached. EU commissioner Canete also called it a 'step in the right direction', but said it could have been more ambitious (Photo: Council of the European Union)

"Increasing energy-efficiency is a no-brainer: it's one of the cheapest and most effective ways of reducing our energy consumption and contributing to our climate goals," said Simson, whose country chaired the Council of the EU, where national governments meet.

"Considering how much energy is consumed in buildings, getting this element right is crucial," she added.

The European Commission has calculated that the building sector uses around 40 percent of the EU's energy. It estimated that energy savings can be made in 75 percent of buildings, but each year only between 0.4 percent and 1.2 percent of building stock undergoes renovations.

"By renovating and making them smart, we are catching several birds with one stone – the energy bills, people's health, and the environment," said EU commissioner for Energy Union Maros Sefcovic in a statement.

The details of the new EU directive were agreed by representatives of the commission, the council, and the European Parliament, although the final agreed text is not yet made public.

The council and parliament still need to approve the rules in a vote, which will be done in the new year.

As a result, national governments will have to draw up long-term renovation strategies for their building stock.

According to a council press statement the use of smart technologies in buildings is "encouraged", but apparently not made obligatory.

"Buildings would be required to be equipped with automation and control systems by 2025 only when considered technically and economically feasible," the council said.

Parking and charging

The 'energy performance of buildings directive', as the legislation is called, will also introduce some rules requiring additional charging points for electric cars to be built in non-residential buildings.

However, the requirements have been watered down significantly.

The commission had initially proposed that in new non-residential buildings – or old ones undergoing major renovations – with more than ten parking spaces, 10 percent of the parking spaces should have a charging station for electric cars.

The commission introduced this feature to help solve the 'chicken-egg' problem: when there are not enough charging stations, people will be reluctant to buy electric cars, which prevents the large-scale roll-out of charging stations.

Instead, the negotiators agreed that in those buildings, "at least one" charging station is built, if there are more than twenty parking spaces.

In addition, one in every five parking spaces should have the "ducting infrastructure to enable the installation of recharging points for electric vehicles".

These requirements will apply from 2025 onwards.

"I would have preferred to see a more ambitious commitment to e-vehicles charging points for non-residential buildings," said EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Canete in a statement.

Nevertheless, the commission embraced the compromise as "a step in the right direction".

Centre-left Finnish MEP Miapetra Kumpula-Natri was also involved in the negotiations.

"To bring down transport emissions we need electric cars," she said in a statement.

"With this directive we are building European infrastructure for e-cars in the most cost efficient way."

"I'm glad that the European Parliament obtained that the Member States will have to make sure that the national building stocks become nearly zero energy level by 2050," her Green colleague Florent Marcellesi, a Spanish MEP, told EUobserver in an e-mailed statement.

"The deal includes also policies and actions targeting worst performing buildings which will help to fight energy poverty. These are concrete measures allowing citizens to have a healthier buildings to live in,"said Marcellesi.

Indoor air quality on EU building agenda for first time

MEPs will debate amendments to new EU building regulations next week, intended to improve energy efficiency but which could also see indoor air quality become a mandatory criteria for the first time.

Opinion

Why is building renovation 'Cinderella' of EU Green Deal?

The renovation of old buildings will be crucial to the success of the European Green Deal and a clean, robust economic recovery. Unless there is serious commitment from policymakers, we risk the Green Deal turning into a pumpkin.

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