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Why EPBD is important

EU Directives don’t tend to be attention grabbing, but we believe that the latest goings on with the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) are worthy of sharing.

In broad terms, the current EPBD (recast in 2010) promotes action on energy efficiency through building regulations when a home or commercial property is built or goes through a major renovation. The EPBD also requires the information about these energy efficiency measures, particularly at the point of sale or rental of the property, to be advertised so the customer can understand how much the property will cost to run.

We are principally concerned with energy saving in homes and the big success of EPBD in the UK has been the introduction of Energy Performance Certificates: the handy little documents that everyone should be shown when buying or renting a home.

Although EPCs may not seem like a ground-breaking development their implementation has been really important, not only to boost awareness of energy usage and saving but also to gain an insight into the condition of the UK housing stock. The Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) rating (e.g. ‘A’ for highly energy efficient homes down to ‘G’ for poorly insulated homes) is also used by policy makers to address fuel poverty – for example: a minimum EPC “E” standard will be introduced in 2018 for private rented properties in England and Wales.

The EPBD also sets out a requirement for all member states to have Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (NZEBs) by 2019. A nearly zero energy building is a building with a very high energy performance –which comes from being very well insulated and also using on-site renewable energy sources to reduce the amount of electricity you need to purchase. Requirements for nearly zero-energy homes were in place in the UK from 2008 and takes effect from 2016. Unfortunately, this 2016 “Zero Carbon Homes” policy in England was recently scrapped by the Government[1]. We think the EPBD is therefore crucial to keep zero carbon homes on the agenda in the UK.

 

So why is all this being talked about now?

The European Commission is reviewing the EPBD and is asking for input from organisations across Europe. The aim is to consult stakeholders on the review of the EPBD and understand whether the directive has met its goals. The consultation is the start of the review process which is due by the end of 2016.

With houses and buildings in the EU accounting for approximately 40 per cent of total EU energy consumption and around 36 per cent of the EU’s total CO2 emissions it’s obvious that getting it right for buildings in the UK and across Europe is crucial to decarbonise and tackle climate change. It’s for these reasons that the EPBD is needed and that it’s so important to get it right – hence the current consultation.

 

What we want from the EPBD

To really get the most out of the EPBD we feel that more needs to be done on a number of fronts, such as:

  • Focus on compliance and quality assurance for Energy Performance Certificates
  • A stronger definition of Nearly Zero Energy Buildings so that we see these homes mandated through building regulations across Europe by 2020
  • Encourage member states to make maximum use of data from EPCs for policy making and energy saving programmes
  • Encouraging greater use of regulation to promote energy saving refurbishment and stimulate more rapid rates of energy-efficient refurbishment
  • Greater harmonisation between EU Directives  – EPBD,  the Energy Efficiency Directive and the Renewable Energy Directive

EPCs: As mentioned, EPCs have been a common feature of homes sales and rentals since 2008 however there have been concerns about quality assurance and proper displaying (especially for home rental). This kind of thing restricts the positive impact EPCs can have and does a lot of damage to consumer trust and confidence in them. EST would like to see EPC compliance looked at in greater detail as part of the EPBD review.

NZEBs: For the UK, affordability under the Nearly Zero Energy Buildings requirement means that the EPBD has not delivered improvements in buildings standards for new builds. This is understandably disappointing for us because we see strong action on new builds as crucial to reducing buildings emissions and ensuring householders live in ‘future-proofed’ homes that are warm, comfortable and cheap to run. As such, we hope the government to take stronger action on new builds.

EPC database: EPCs were first introduced in 2007, a number of European countries have stored data from EPCs in national or regional databases. In the UK this database contains information on 40 per cent of homes – a uniquely rich record of our national progress on energy efficiency.

We believe EPBD should encourage the effective use of this information to make action on refurbishment easier.  Across Europe the information in EPC databases is used in very different ways with it being openly available in some countries and very restricted in others. EPBD should encourage member states to open up EPC databases to:

  • Track the progress of energy improvements across Europe’s buildings
  • Identify the buildings that most need energy upgrades – data that can be used not just by governments but also by legitimate commercial providers of retrofit services
  • Enable building owners and occupiers themselves and housing market actors to see the energy performance of entire communities
  • Monitor the quality of Energy Performance Certificates and assessments

 

Greater harmonisation between EU Directives: We believe more needs to be done to streamline implementation of EPBD where there is overlap with other directives. There are three key EU directives that relate – with varying degrees – to the energy performance of buildings: the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) and the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.

One issue around this is, for instance, in 10 Member States out of 22 Member States (43 per cent), the decision makers and officials responsible for implementing the building regulation aspects of the RES Directive and EPBD were employed in different ministries. Understandably this is not conducive for smooth, coordinated implementation and more should be done to address this.

 

What next?

We are currently finalising our response to this consultation and once we have done this we will also make it public by publishing it on our website here, along with our other recent consultation responses.

 

[1] HM Treasury - Fixing the foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation. July 2015. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/443897/Productivity_Plan_print.pdf

Our Head of Policy, David Weatherall, is one of the Energy Saving Trust’s most experienced spokespeople and has worked on the policy issues around energy efficiency for more than ten years. Follow David on Twitter: @Atrapalhado
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