The European Parliament yesterday (23 April) called for all new buildings to produce at least as much renewable energy as they consume by 2019.
EU co-legislators amended the Commission’s proposals for the revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, in line with the Parliament’s industry committee’s suggestions last month (EURACTIV 01/04/09).
They also called on member states to set percentages for a minimum share of existing buildings to be energy neutral in 2015 and 2020.
The Parliament supported a Commission proposal to lift the 1000 m2 threshold for subjecting existing buildings to minimum energy performance requirements (EURACTIV 14/11/08).
Therefore, all buildings undergoing renovations which cost more than 25% of their value or cover over a quarter of its surface would have to meet national energy efficiency requirements.
Smart meters should be installed by default in all new buildings, as well as when renovating older ones, MEPs stated.
And they deleted a Commission proposal to exempt holiday homes which are used for less than four months a year from the rules.
The Parliament also urged the Commission to propose an array of new financial instruments to support efficiency improvements by 20 June 2010.
According to the lawmakers, the EU should set up an ‘energy efficiency fund’ by 2014 and step up financing from regional development monies. They also floated the idea of reducing VAT rates for goods and services that reduce the energy consumption of buildings or increase the use of renewable energy.
‘Good day for energy efficiency’
The construction industry and green groups welcomed the results of the vote.
EuroACE, the industry association representing energy-saving buildings, said the Parliament had sent a strong signal to member states to move swiftly on a final agreement, which it hoped would be achieved by the end of the year.
“This is a good day for energy efficiency,” Andrew Warren, a senior adviser at EuroACE, said after the vote. He added that backing from all the major parties, by a majority of ten-to-one, in favour of the new legislation was “a striking endorsement from the European Parliament”.
Eurima, representing insulation manufacturers, welcomed in particular the Parliament’s focus on improving education and training mechanisms throughout the building chain.
Indeed, knowledge gaps were identified as a key obstacle to better performing buildings by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), which will launch the final report of its Energy Efficiency in Buildings project on Monday.
Constant Van Aerschot, co-chair of the project, said lack of knowledge posed a particular problem for people consulting architects, designers and engineers about retrofitting poorly-performing buildings. “There is a big knowledge gap by professionals. We did a worldwide survey, and found out that architects are not the best people to ask what to do, because they don’t necessarily have the right level of training.”
Van Aerschot argued, however, that the new legislation is not ambitious enough because it only properly addresses new buildings, which make up just 1% of buildings in Europe. “When you retrofit your building, you need to bring the building to a certain level of performance. But if they have to do this, people will not do it, because then they will have to invest more,” he said.
The conservation organisation WWF said the Parliament was on the right track by making zero-energy buildings the cornerstone of the revised directive. However, it had hoped for an earlier date than 2019.
“Technically and economically there is nothing standing in the way of an earlier deadline for all new constructions, which could help the EU achieve the 2020 emissions reduction targets,” said Arianna Vitali Roscini, a WWF policy officer.
EU member states will now start working to adopt a common position on the dossier. The Czech EU Presidency is planning to present a progress report in June, but the finalisation of the first-reading position will be left to Sweden, which takes over the EU’s six-month presidency in July.