Without further guidance, EU countries may mismanage their energy efficiency commitments and risk missing their energy savings' target, says a report by the Buildings Performance Institute Europe.

The report aims to provide guidance for member states to meet the EU’s rules on implementing “cost-optimal” methodology to take into account the lifetime costs of buildings under the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD).

The EPBD requires member states to ensure that by 2021 all new buildings have a net energy output of near zero. According to the European Commission, failure to implement the efficiency goals could result in court challenges.

“The building sector is responsible for the largest share of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions and therefore they are a key sector to reach the long-term climate and energy targets," the BPIE report said.

“The building sector has a significant cost-effective energy and CO2 emissions savings potential, which should be properly addressed by policies in order to mobilise the market towards a low carbon society and trigger multiple benefits”.

The BPIE cites the benefits of these energy savings as: independence from energy imports from politically unstable areas, job creation, improved air quality, indoor comfort, and reduced fuel poverty, among others.

Energy savings advocates say that technologies applied to heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, and heat pumps have the potential to recoup all money invested in less than a decade.

'Cost-optimal' buildings

The cost-optimal methodology requires EU countries to consider the lifetime costs of buildings to shape their future energy performance requirements, an unprecedented EU-level rule.

The Commission introduced the methodology to strengthen a previous version of the directive and level the energy-efficiency ambitions of member states. 

But the BPIE contends the new rules are still not strict enough, saying they give EU states wiggle room when calculating energy savings.

The energy performance rules further oblige EU countries to prove that their minimum energy performance requirements are not more than 15% lower than the calculated cost-optimal level.

“In the event that the cost-optimal comparative analysis shows that the national requirements in force are much less ambitious than the cost-optimal level [member states] need to justify this gap to the Commission,” the report says.

“If the gap cannot be justified, a plan should be developed to outline steps on how to reduce the gap significantly. In that case, the Commission will publish a report on the progress of [the member state].”