One very important step towards energy efficiency

By Bendt Bendtsen, MEP, (pictured)
Winter 2017

Bendt Bendtsen, MEPWith the European Parliament's adopted position on the revision of the Directive for Energy Performance of Buildings (EPBD), we have paved the way for improving the energy efficiency of our buildings in Europe.

We spend roughly 90 per cent of our time indoors, however, according to a recent study1, 97.5 per cent of our building stock in Europe can be considered energy inefficient. Keeping in mind that buildings consume 40 per cent of the total energy consumption in the EU, it does not take much attention to realise that buildings hold the key to delivering cost-efficiently on our international climate commitments. And it comes with many added benefits such as lower energy bills, better living and working conditions, improved health, and jobs creation and growth in the building sector.

As rapporteur for the EPBD revision, I am thankful that my colleagues in Parliament share the ambitions to fulfil this potential. I am very satisfied that we agree to focus on tools to boost renovations, supporting infrastructure for electrical vehicles, and improved monitoring of buildings’ energy performance. Delivering on our promises to the European public and achieving a real boost in renovation is now in the hands of the Member States, as the result on the ongoing negotiations depends on the Member States’ willingness to commit. From Parliament’s side we are ready to make progress.

Since new buildings are constructed at a rate of roughly one per cent a year, the revision of the EPBD mainly focuses on improvements to existing buildings. Member States simply must show that priority is given to addressing market failures that today hamper renovations.

The tool for this is the long-term renovation strategies, giving a clear political signal that we prioritise a better building stock, and it providing investor certainty. Security for investors is decisive, since public money cannot deliver solely on their own. Public money is a good tool to gear private financing for renovations and can take off part of the risk for investors. Energy efficiency is a sure investment, the interest rate is low and private investors are looking for long-term stable investments, so we must strike now to allow the available capital to reach the market.

Another cornerstone of the EPBD, is the proposal to use the directive to drive the roll out of infrastructure for electro-mobility. While one could - with good reason - question the relation between transport requirements and buildings, there are two reasons for linking electro-mobility with energy efficiency in buildings: Clearly, for cost-efficiency, it is profitable to incorporate expansion of infrastructure for electro-mobility when renovating buildings. Secondly, buildings must be seen as a part of urban planning and infrastructure in general. Citizens generally pay little attention to whether their parking spaces are considered buildings policy or transport policy.

From Parliament’s side, we have focused on fine-tuning the Commission’s proposal - with the aim at safeguarding the incentives to renovation by requiring mainly affordable basic such as pre-cabling and pre-tubing. Since electricity companies have a vested interest in rolling out recharging points, I trust the market to meet the expected demand in this regard - including by providing a future-proof approach to the technological development. I believe that we have found the right balance between costs, ambitions and incentives to renovate this way.

Another way to improve our building stock is through improved monitoring and use of smart technologies. This is a low-hanging fruit in the energy efficiency efforts. Therefore, we in Parliament propose that Member States realise this potential by requiring building automation and control systems in larger nonresidential buildings. This simple tool would enable significant savings, while holding short payback periods.

The Parliament stands broadly united behind the position adopted by the committee in early October, and with the significant support expressed by stakeholders, it provides a clear signal for improving the energy efficiency in buildings. I truly hope that Member States are ready to show a similar level of commitment to provide healthier, safer homes, and lower energy bills for Europeans, while cutting CO2 emissions and ensuring a sustainable and reliable energy supply for the future.

1. Carried out by BPIE -