European draft deal paves the way for mandatory solar technology on new builds from 2028 across Europe, and commits financial support for subsidised energy upgrades.
In this article we cover:
- What is the recast EPBD
- What stage the legislation is at
- What the plans are for all new builds and by when
- Renovation Wave: more grants on the way for upgrading existing homes
- How well insulated homes are in ROI today
- How the energy upgrades will be funded
- What exceptions there will be to the rules
- Whether penalties will be introduced
- Building materials of the future, including timber
- Links to draft text and further analysis of the recast EPBD
The EU’s Renovation Wave is underway with the European Parliament voting through draft legislation that paves the way for zero emissions new builds from 2028, and a European-wide upgrading of the building stock. 75 per cent of EU buildings are still energy inefficient.
The draft measures, as per the European Parliament adopted text of the recast recast Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), include changing building regulations so that solar panels become mandatory on all new builds by 2028, in line with all new builds becoming zero carbon. “Two-thirds of the energy used for heating and cooling of buildings still comes from fossil fuels. In order to reach zero-emissions, it is particularly urgent to phase out fossil fuel in heating and cooling,” the document states.
Solar technology will have to be installed “where technically suitable and economically feasible” while residential buildings undergoing major renovation have until 2032 to install solar panels.
The recast Energy Performance of Buildings Directive was first published in December 2021, with analysis here of the full text.
Negotiations between the EU Parliament and the Council (Member States) will get underway before the new rules are finalised and become law. If implemented, the recast EPBD could add 18,000 long term jobs for every €1 billion invested in energy efficiency, said Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Sean Kelly.
The European Parliament expects the recast EPBD will lead to deep renovations in more than 35 million buildings across Europe and create up to 160,000 jobs in the construction sector.
According to the draft legislation, existing buildings will have to achieve, at a minimum, energy performance class E by 2030, and D by 2033 on the energy rating (known as building energy rating or BER in ROI and energy performance certificate or EPC in NI) scale.
The energy rating scale goes from A to G, with G corresponding to the 15 per cent worst performing buildings in the national stock of a member state. Public and commercial buildings have different timelines.
However, energy performance certificates don’t tend to correlate to actual energy use. A Sunday Times analysis suggests C to G properties tend to consume roughly the same amount of energy a year (140 to 180 kWh/sqm/year) while B rated properties consumed a bit less than A rated ones.
MEP Sean Kelly warned that higher energy costs will hit the pockets of people in worst performing buildings 10 times harder than those in energy efficient buildings.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Rapporteur for the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive MEP Ciaran Cuffe said the proposals will be “transformational” and that they would cost around €270 billion annually, with EU funds available to help countries.
The European Investment Bank and European Central bank are willing to lend at negative interest rates to governments who can pass the savings on to householders, Cuffe said.
But according to MEP Sean Kelly funding gaps are inevitable. Government grants and loans will only stretch so far, he said.
“That is where the EPBD can provide solutions by strengthening links between the financial and the building sectors,” said Kelly. “It will ensure banks have appropriate access to data so that they can properly assess risks and offer the most attractive products to consumers. It will support an EU-wide renovation guarantee fund to enable credit institutions to reduce their risk exposure on green mortgages portfolios.”
Dr Ciara Ahern of TU Dublin presented findings to a conference about the recast EPBD which shows the state the ROI housing stock below, based on incomplete data. She said that currently roughly 55 per cent of Irish homes are in the BER database and that poor data made it difficult for governments to come up with targeted initiatives.
National renovation plans will include support schemes to facilitate access to grants and funding, including free information points. Governments will have to come up with ways to introduce cost neutral renovation schemes.
Targeted grants and subsidies will be made available to vulnerable households, according to the European Parliament.
MEP Sean Kelly said the new rules will not put homeowners under pressure: “Nobody is going to be thrown out of their home if they cannot renovate nor will Europe’s cherished buildings be torn down. It is for this reason that we sent a strong signal to citizens by deleting references to penalties proposed by the European Commission. There are many benefits to renovations and that is what we want to highlight”.
The real enforcement mechanism will be the market itself, added Kelly. “The EPBD is as much about asset protection as it is about climate change. Buildings with low-rated energy performance certificates will be less valuable regardless of the EPBD. Without this Directive, we would make it harder for people to renovate,” he said.
“Europe has thousands of beautiful buildings that hold historical and architectural importance. These buildings are part of our history and culture, so we have underlined the importance of protecting their character alongside efforts to decarbonise,” MEP Sean Kelly said.
The Parliament introduced a clause for historical buildings that aren’t on a register of listed buildings.
“For buildings that have historical or architectural merit, but are not officially protected, Member States should set criteria for the application of the highest energy performance class that is technically, functionally and economically feasible while maintaining the character of the building,” reads the adpoted text.
Building materials of the future
The draft legislation also aims to promote the “use of more sustainable construction materials, in particular bio- and geo-sourced materials, as well as simple passive low-tech and locally tested building techniques to support and promote the use of and research into material technologies that contribute to the best possible insulation and structural support of buildings”.
The Parliament sees “the potential to substitute for more carbon intensive materials and to store carbon in the built environment via the use of wood based materials”.
TD Noel Duffy told the TU Dublin conference about the recast EPBD that timber has the potential to reduce embodied carbon emissions in Ireland’s building stock. However the uptake remains low in part due to Part B of the building regulations relating to fire, which makes the use of cross laminated timber in commercial builds “very difficult”.
He added that we have the resources yet are exporting most of our forestry products to the UK, instead of using them at home. He also said that when the Green Party did a study three years ago of how much it would cost the Irish government to retrofit Ireland’s building stock, stating the figure they’d come up with was €100 billion.
The conference also heard that by 2030 embodied carbon (the carbon footprint from materials, manufacture all the way to end of life) would outstrip operational carbon (emissions while the property is in use).
According to the European Parliament, buildings account for 40 per cent of final energy consumption in the EU and 36 per cent of its energy related greenhouse gas emissions. Natural gas plays the largest role in heating of buildings, accounting for around 42 per cent of energy used for space heating in the residential sector. Oil is the second most important fossil fuel for heating, accounting for 14 per cent and coal accounts for around 3 per cent.