Action plan for energy efficiency

Begonia Filgueira | 13 years ago

The European Commission launched on 8 June a public consultation on the ‘Evaluation and Revision of the 2006 Action Plan for Energy Efficiency’. The 2006 Action Plan should have taken us to 2012. However, the Commission has admitted that ‘there are strong indications that with [current] ongoing action the EU will not reach its [energy] saving objective for 2020’.

The objective is to save 20 per cent of total energy consumption by 2020. At current rates, and even if current measures were properly implemented by Member States (MS), the EU would only reach a 13 per cent saving by 2020.

One of the main pillars of this revised Action Plan is the recasting of the Directive on Energy Performance of Buildings (EPBD). Why is the recast EPBD so important? Because buildings account for 40 per cent of total energy consumption in the EU, and the proposals contained in the recast EPBD could reduce 5–6 per cent of our energy consumption in the EU by 2020, resulting in a reduction of 4–5 per cent of CO2 emissions within the EU. There is also potential to create up to 450,000 jobs across the EU and a £24 billion a year energy-cost saving.

The EPBD passed its first reading in the European Parliament on 23 April 2009, with MEPs voting for a strengthening of the measures proposed by the Commission. The Council’s report on the amended EPBD, dated 30 June 2009, confirms that many Member States (MS) see these proposals as ‘unrealistic and overambitious’. In fact, there was no reported consensus at MS level on the proposed measures.


1 As from 30 June 2012, MSs cannot provide incentives for the construction or renovation of buildings that do not comply with minimum energy requirements

Several MS were opposed to this measure, alleging that it infringed their budgetary requirements.

2 The Commission will create by 31 March 2010a standard methodology for calculating energy performance requirements

This did not go down well, either, and several MSs gave a veiled no or indicated that more information was needed.

3 An extension of the obligation to consider alternative systems (such as renewables, co-generation and heat pumps) to all buildings

Several MS thought that harmonisation of this measure might not be appropriate, given the varying climatic conditions of different MSs. There was also a complaint that the measure imposed an unnecessary administrative burden.

4 Deletion of the 1,000 sq/m threshold for meeting minimum energy performance requirement during refurbishment of buildings

This measure would mean that all buildings to undergo major refurbishment, regardless of size, need to meet minimum energy performance standards. The reasoning is that the greatest efficiency potential is in buildings under 200sq/m. The refurbishment would have to be a ‘major renovation’, defined as costing more than 20 per cent of the value of the property, excluding any land, or affecting more than 25 per cent of the building envelope. Still, many MSs opposed the measure, though others approved. We know that Austria included deletion of the threshold in its National Energy Efficiency Plan, so there is at least one supporter.

5 MSs are required to actively promote in their National Action Plans, by setting clear policies and targets, buildings that use as much energy as they consume

This is what is called a net-zero-energy building: a building so energy-efficient that not only is overall energy consumption reduced, by today’s standards, but that the building creates enough energy from renewables to cover its own energy needs. Further, by 2016, all new buildings must be net-zero-energy, and targets for net-zero-energy buildings for all buildings (old and new) are to be set for 2015 and 2020. MSs thought these timescales to be unrealistic.

6 Financial incentives and removal of market barriers

MS are required to include in their National Action Plans by 30 June 2011 financial measures to promote energy-efficient buildings, in accordance with the Directive. Annex IIIb of the EPBD lists those measures: VAT reductions, tax incentives, direct subsidies, low-interest loans or subsidised loan schemes, grants, loan guarantees and requirements for agreements with energy suppliers to offer financial assistance to consumers. The Commission is also to promote measures though institutions such as the EBRD and EIB.

7 Greater use and transparency in Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs)

EPCs are to be issued every time there is a sale or lease, at an early stage, in order to inform buyers/tenants upfront of the energy efficiency of the property. National EPCs will be recognised across MSs and, by 2011, a voluntary common EU EPC for non-residential buildings will be developed. This EU EPC will be introduced in MSs by 2012 to run alongside their national EPCs.

There is a requirement for the recommendations made by the EPC inspector to be part of the certificate itself, with public authorities leading by example and having to implement such recommendations within the EPC’s validity period. EPCs will be displayed in all buildings occupied by public authorities, and those visited by the public with a total useful area of 250sq/m.

8 Inspections for heating, air conditioning, ventilation and reversible heating pumps

Such inspections are to be comparable, mandatory for some systems, and regular.

9 Independence and harmonised skills for EPCcertifiers and inspectors

MSs will ensure mutual recognition and national qualifications and accreditation, and will set up a public register. The Commission undertakes to establish guidelines for regular training of experts by 2011.

What the EU really needs now is for MSs to support these measures; after all, they are not draconian, and in line for meeting the 2020 target. Alas, the measures that have been greeted with the greatest objections are those that offer the greatest opportunities. Net-zero-energy building requirements would drive innovation in the building sectors, boost renewables, help our energy security situation and assist with energy independence. Financial incentives would help with those (recoupable) high initial investment costs. Training certifiers, inspectors, builders, architects and designer would ensure much needed job creation across the EU.

On 23 July energy ministers will meet to give a clearer position on where they stand on the above proposals. The Swedish presidency has then until the end of November to reach agreement with the EP on the recast EPBR, prior to the Energy Council meeting on the 7 December. Good luck – your planned transposition deadline of 12 December 2010 is a tough one. However, I don’t think you are asking for anything unreasonable given the environmental crisis that we face, simply preparing the building sector, so often criticised for its inefficiencies, for a greener and brighter future.

About the author

Begonia Filgueira

Begonia is a specialist in Environmental Law, governance and negotiation. Her career now spans 20 years having started as an environmental lawyer in the City. She is a dually qualified UK Solicitor and Spanish Abogada who provides legal advice, trains professionals and carries out complex research in the areas of International and EU environmental law. She also advises on treaty negotiations and implementation of EU law. Begonia has advised UNEP, UNDP, the European Commission, DEFRA and DOENI. She also advises industry and NGOs on environmental policy and regulation. BREXIT negotiations is her current area of specialism.