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OVERVIEW | Building on strong foundations: BUILD UP Partners’ first reactions to the Clean Energy Package

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Building on strong foundations: BUILD UP Partners’ first reactions to the Clean Energy Package

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On 30 November 2016 the European Commission published the Clean Energy Package, a 1000-page legislative proposal with the threefold goal of putting energy efficiency first, promoting the European Union’s global leadership in renewable energy, and placing the consumer at the heart of the energy system.


Of particular relevance for the buildings sector, the package includes proposals to revise the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), and the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), as well as updates to the Ecodesign work plan. The buildings-related measures have been analysed by BUILD UP partners BPIE and REVHA


The proposed target of a 30% improvement in energy efficiency by 2030 applies to the entire economy. However, the Commission identifies the buildings sector as “the largest single energy consumer in Europe” and cites' energy efficiency as having a “great potential in the sector”.  


The buildings and construction sector represents 9% of the EU GDP and provides 18 million jobs. Three quarters of Europe's buildings are energy inefficient, and buildings account for 40% of energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions , therefore there is a great opportunity to improve energy performance, boost local economies and employment, improve quality of life for building occupants and tackle climate change.


In order to highlight the key points of interest, BUILD UP has gathered together preliminary views from a range of associations on the buildings-related proposals in the Clean Energy Package.  



The 30% energy efficiency target


EuroACE regards the Energy Efficiency Directive’s 30% target as a “small step” in the right direction, continuing the business-as-usual scenario, but feels that it is “missing a once-in-a-decade opportunity to boost the energy efficiency market”. Echoing this, ACE - the Architects’ Council of Europe - says that a 30% target is “not enough”. The European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ECEEE) calls for all Member States to develop long-term renovation strategies, with clear targets and milestones, with the 30% target being the “absolute minimum”.


The International Union of Property Owners (UIPI) highlights the necessity of putting additional effort into the buildings sector, and in particular, on ensuring affordability of measures to improve energy performance. The European Builders Confederation (EBC)  notes that Article 7 of the EED prioritises energy savings obligation schemes for households in energy poverty and social housing, which may artificially segment the renovation market. “Investments and public policies should be open to all citizens living in old and leaky buildings”, according to the EBC’s statement.  



EPBD measures under scrutiny


The proposed revision to the EPBD sets out long-term renovation rates to 2050, and requires Member States to deliver specific milestones for 2030. The EPBD legislative proposal also supports the use of ICT and smart technologies to ensure buildings operate efficiently, and introduces building automation and control systems as an alternative to on-site inspections. A new smartness indicator is proposed to assess the technological readiness of buildings. The ‘Smart Finance for Smart Buildings’ initiative furthermore introduces new financing schemes for energy efficiency renovation.



Long term renovation rates


Inclusion of long-term renovation targets in the EPBD proposal are welcomed by BUILD UP partners. However, there are uncertainties that the proposed amendments would trigger a sufficient rate of building renovation.  


BPIE issues a cautious welcome, stating that “renovating the European building stock would result in a large number of benefits for individuals and society at large; and the political negotiation process in 2017 is an opportunity to improve the current proposal.”


EVIA also welcomes the EPBD proposals to “drive improvements of current buildings stocks” and identifies four priority areas of works: inspections, Indoor Air Quality, energy savings in existing buildings, and optimised occupant behaviours.


EURIMA recognises how deep renovation would help in “maximising contribution of buildings to solving climate and energy, and improving living conditions” and believes that the directive should mandate Member States to implement a clear vision to improve the energy performance of building stock and their national strategies. FIEC suggests that deep renovation should focus primarily on “the private residential market as well as the relatively easy wins offered by retrofitting”.



Smart technology and materials


Some of the BUILD UP partners have highlighted how their products can contribute to optimising energy use in buildings.  


Plastic play a key part in conserving resources and reducing carbon emissions, as they offer a unique combination of environmental performance, cost-effectiveness, and durability”, states Plastics Europe. LightingEurope is “glad to see that the European Commission’s proposal demands that Member States set system requirements for all technical building systems, built-in lighting included”. Rigorous implementation would help to reduce final energy consumption of lighting, reaching up to 30% in non-residential buildings


The definition of efficient materials should use a broader approach than insulation performance, according to European Aluminium. The association calls for using the ‘energy balance’ approach that “considers both insulation AND solar heat gains to assess the thermal performance of transparent building elements like windows”. This echoes the joint position paper European Aluminium authored together with EuroWindoor, ES-SO and Glass for Europe, which lists three priorities for windows in the EPBD: increase the renovation rate, use the energy balance approach and recognise benefits of daylight, natural ventilation and solar management. 



Assessing the smartness of a building: insulation, EPCs and overall smartness indicators


The use of smart technology and materials could help ensure that renovated buildings operate with maximum efficiency, and the proposed smartness indicator would help assess a building's readiness to interact with its occupants and the wider energy grid.  The European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC) discusses the opportunity to create intelligent buildings, where energy consumption and production are managed by smart systems. The European Building Automation Controls Association (eu.bac) favours reinforced action on Article 8 of the EPBD to unleash the potential of automation and controls not only as an alternative to onsite inspection but also “in empowering consumers and enhancing their savings and their health”. 



Access to finance


The Clean Energy Package also proposes new ways to access finance, through the “Smart Financing for Smart Buildings” initiative. Relying on the Investment Plan for Europe, including the European Fund for Strategic Investments and the European Structural Investment Funds, this initiative will support the effective use of public funds, support promoters and investors to bring good ideas to maturity with more project development assistance and project aggregation mechanisms. This is summarised in an article by the International Network for Information on Ventilation and Energy Performance (INIVE),


The European Commission has also launched a construction initiative aiming to accelerate the modernisation of the construction sector and boost growth and jobs. This initiative encompasses the acceleration of the digitisation of the sector, upskilling of workers, the support of a more coherent internal market and the development of the circular economy. It is linked with the “Smart Finance for Smart Buildings” initiative in three ways: more effective use of public funding, aggregation and assistance with project development, and supporting access to market evidence and performance track records with the Derisking Energy Efficiency Platform (DEEP).


Further support is planned with the goal of involving the construction sector and other stakeholders at national level. Climate Alliance, which is coordinating the Sustainable Energy Investment Forums on behalf of EASME, welcomes the opportunity to support decision-making at the local level.



EU leadership in renewable energy: focus on heating and cooling


The Clean Energy Package proposes revisions to the Renewable Energy Source Directive including increased support for renewable heating and cooling solutions.


EGEC acknowledges this initiative and states that “to boost investors’ confidence, however, Member States and EU Parliament should now make this proposal legally binding.”


The European Heat Pump Association (EHPA) points out that while the Commission has announced the phasing in of highly efficient renewable solutions, a technology-neutral approach may undermine the incentives to favour renewables over fossil fuels. Similarly, the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF) highlights inconsistencies regarding support for fossil fuels, which has in its view hampered the development of the solar thermal sector.


Eurofuel proposes a progressive energy transition, where liquid fuel heating would compete with the deployment of renewables to achieve energy efficiency in a technology-neutral manner.



Putting the consumer at the centre


The third pillar of the Clean Energy EU package is about providing a fair deal for consumers. With regard to buildings and consumers, the focus is on enabling decentralised access to energy, and more transparent information on metering and billing.


The European Heating Industry (EHI) supports these actions to help raise consumers’ awareness on domestic energy use and especially concerning “the energy performance of their home and heating system”;


Energy Cities advocates for a decentralised approach to energy production and consumption, and welcomes new instruments such as ‘Smart Finance for Smart Buildings’ as a first step for local authorities to save energy. Similarly, COGEN reiterates the added value of cogeneration for applying the ‘energy efficiency first’ principle and reaping the benefits of efficient, decentralised generation.


Euroheat & Power recognises that such proposals could allow district heating and cooling networks to fully realise their potential. The International Union of Property Owners (UIPI) warns, however, of the costs and affordability of renovations.


During 2017 there will no doubt be further exchanges of views on the best way to reach the European Union’s targets to decarbonise energy consumption and production. Following the Commission proposals, the debate will continue with the scrutiny of the European Parliament and Council, whose agreement will be necessary before these proposals are formally adopted.