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OVERVIEW | Evolution of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive

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OVERVIEW | Evolution of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive

Shutterstock / Ford Prefect


by Marianna Papaglastra (Sympraxis Team)



The EU’s legislative framework for energy efficient buildings was strengthened in 2002 with the adoption of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD – Directive 2002/91/EC), which introduced Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) and minimum energy performance requirements. Over subsequent years, the continuously evolving regulatory framework has mobilised significant resources and shown a positive impact on Europe’s energy efficiency. This overview article briefly summarises certain relevant milestones in the evolution of the EPBD, and presents its perspectives for the future.



Directive 2002/91/EC (the EPBD)


Directive 2002/91/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2002 on the energy performance of buildings followed earlier EU legislation in the previous decade on energy efficiency measures in buildings and their technical systems. The original EPBD 2002/91/EC included four main aspects:


  1. Establishment of a calculation methodology: Member States were to implement a methodology for the calculation of the energy performance of buildings, taking account of all factors that influence energy use.
  2. Minimum energy performance requirements: regulations would need to set minimum energy performance requirements for new buildings and for large (>1000m²) existing buildings when they were refurbished.
  3. Energy performance certificates: an energy performance certificate would need to be made available whenever buildings were constructed, sold or rented out.
  4. Inspections of boilers and air-conditioning: regulations would be needed, requiring inspections of boilers and heating systems (with the possibility of alternative approaches such as providing advice), as well as inspection of air conditioning systems.


Directive 2010/31/EU (the EPBD recast)


Directive 2010/31/EU on the energy performance of buildings (EPBD recast) widened the scope of the EPBD and raised the bar. It introduced the concept of Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) and a target of 2018/2020 for their introduction. It also introduced the idea of “cost-optimal levels” of energy performance in buildings, meaning the “energy performance which leads to the lowest cost during the estimated economic life cycle”. It further extended certification to cover non-public buildings when they go on sale or rent and strengthened provisions on the inspection of heating and air-conditioning systems. The recast also imposed minimum standards for individual building elements.



Evaluation of Directive 2010/31/EU


Following Article 19 of the recast EPBD, and in light of the experiences gained during its application, the Commission initiated, at the beginning of 2016, an evaluation and review of the Directive. As part of the review process, a public consultation was carried out during 2015. A set of thematic technical workshops on specific topics, which took place during 2015 and 2016, provided further stakeholder input to the evaluation. Various studies supported the monitoring of the implementation of the Directive and provided relevant input. Information was also available through the work of the EPBD Concerted Action and, as per the terms of Article 19 of the EPBD, the work of the Energy Performance of Buildings Committee.


The EPBD evaluation report, presented by the European Commission in November 2016, addresses the effectiveness, efficiency, relevance, coherence and EU added value of the Directive. The evaluation report identified many positive effects and only limited regulatory failures; in parallel, it highlighted the need for the simplification and streamlining of measures, enhancing compliance, better linkage with financial support, adaptation to technological developments, and a strong need to increase building renovation.


The results of this evaluation provided the basis for the Commission’s Impact Assessment, which proposed the targeted amendment of the EPBD, and in particular by:


  • integrating a long-term ambition level to the national renovation strategies (Article 4 of the Energy Efficiency Directive (Directive 2012/27/EU);
  • improving the energy performance calculation methodologies, strengthening the energy performance certification (EPC) schemes, and building upon EPC registers to support compliance and decision making at policy and market level;
  • supporting the roll-out of electro-mobility, as well as the use and adjustment to user needs of technical building systems and "smarter" technologies.


Procedure on proposal for amendment of the EPBD


In November 2016, the European Commission presented a package of legislative proposals under the title "Clean Energy for All Europeans", with the goal of providing the stable regulatory framework needed to facilitate the clean energy transition – and thereby taking a significant step towards the creation of the Energy Union. The Clean Energy for All Europeans proposals are intended to help the EU energy sector become more stable, more competitive, and more sustainable, fit for the 21st century as well as enabling the EU to deliver on its Paris Agreement commitments. The package includes 8 different closely linked legislative proposals, including that of the energy performance of buildings. Several European organisations and associations published their own reaction to the proposals; these have been gathered by BUILD UP in the Overview Article "Building on strong foundations: BUILD UP Partners’ first reactions to the Clean Energy Package".


As part of the legislative proposals, the European Commission proposed a revision to the EPBD. This included measures to accelerate the cost-effective renovation of existing buildings, through the introduction by Member States of specific mechanisms to support the smart financing of building renovations, and the integration of long term building renovation strategies (by moving Article 4 of the Energy Efficiency Directive to the EPBD) to become part of the integrated national energy and climate plans envisaged in the new proposal for a regulation on Energy Union governance (COM(2016)759).


In October 2017, the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) of the European Parliament approved the focus towards the energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness of building renovations in the EU, updating the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) as part of the “Clean Energy for All Europeans” package. According to the rapporteur of the Committee, Bendt Bendtsen MEP, “this vote of the Parliament gives a boost to long-term planning of energy efficiency renovations, facilitating access to financial tools, showing investors that energy efficiency renovations are prioritised, and enabling public authorities to invest in well-performing buildings.”


The report voted calls for:


  • integration of national long term building renovation strategies (Article 4 of the Energy Efficiency Directive), with a clear vision for a decarbonised building stock by 2050;
  • requiring Member States to address energy poverty issues, as well as mobilising smart financing for building renovation and strengthening links between public funding for building renovation and energy performance certificates;
  • introducing a Smart Readiness Indicator to assess the technological readiness of a building to manage its energy consumption and to interact with the energy grid as well as with its users;
  • encouraging the development of innovative, ICT-based and smart technologies that support the efficient operation of buildings;
  • introducing building automation and control systems as an alternative to physical inspections;
  • streamlining other provisions as considered necessary.


The future


Interinstitutional meetings and negotiations on the proposal for amendment of the EPBD are expected to take place in late 2017. Member States will be getting ready to start national implementation and transposition as soon as the proposal is approved. The Concerted Action EPBD has therefore already initiated discussions around the newly introduced topics in the EPBD proposal, to support Member States in their challenging time ahead. At the same time, market actors have begun introducing potential solutions, tools and approaches towards the same directions, e.g., by developing and testing innovative technologies for energy retrofit.


In the meantime, EU programmes for research, innovation and market uptake activities in this direction are ongoing. Projects carried out under the Intelligent Energy Europe programme, the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and the Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation, and the European Structural and Investment Funds, have produced many examples of good practice. The Commission staff working document “Good practice in energy efficiency” accompanying the Proposal for amending Directive 2012/27/EU on Energy Efficiency highlights just some of these good practices. The BUILD UP Overview Article "EU support for (deep) energy renovation of buildings" presents examples of EU-funded projects with valuable insights on promoting renovation, while showcasing how the market is getting prepared for the necessary adjustments.


Under the new Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2018-2020, actions concerning the Societal Challenge "Secure, Clean and Efficient Energy" and more specifically the forthcoming building-related calls under the focus area "Building a low-carbon, climate resilient future", fully support the trends set in the proposal for a revised EPBD, including invitations, among others, for proposals regarding the upgrading of buildings’ energy performance and smartness, innovative approaches for the decarbonisation of the EU building stock, innovative financing for energy efficiency investments, building information modelling adapted to efficient renovation, as well as renewable heating and cooling energy systems, and more.