The building sector: a pillar of EU new energy ambitions

On July 25, the Council of the European Union adopted the recast of the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED). This text marks a significant increase in the EU’s ambitions for 2030, in line with the announcements made as part of the RePowerEU plan, and already prefigures the level of requirement of the forthcoming publication of the EPBD directive.


An expected and necessary update

The previous version of the EED directive, established in 2018, ambitioned to reduce both primary and final energy consumption of 32.5 %, at European scale, when compared to 2007 levels. In its most recent version, adopted in July 2023 by the Council, the European Union has decided to strengthen its ambition, enhancing these reductions to 38 % for final energy, and to 40.6% for primary energy.

This new final energy target is 11,7% lower than the previous one, established 5 years ago, which represents a significant raise of the EU ambitions in the matter. This would appear to be straight in the line of reasoning that promoted the RePowerEU plan last year and the Fit for 55 plan issued in 2021. The first one is promoting energy savings in order to achieve a better energy independence for Europe. The second one has set the target in terms of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions to a 55% reduction between 1990 levels and 2030’s. Both objectives of energy independence and GHG reduction deeply rely on energy savings and energy efficiency problematics, and it is consequently so that the EU updated the EED directive.

This new assessment of EU targets is vital since the current emissions reduction are not sufficient to reach the objective set by the Fit for 55 plan. As mentioned in the new directive: “if current policies are fully implemented, the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 would be around 45% compared to 1990 levels”. This EED update was necessary to maintain a coherence between all the green targets set by the EU.

Source: OID, 2023


An ambitious step up

These ambitions must now be converted in national strategies and legislations. So far, the contributions off the member states added to a 29.4 % saving in final energy in 2030, compared to 2007 levels: failing to reach the initial objective of the EED of 32.5 %.

The directive highlights that some countries have already made “sufficient” efforts to achieve the EU goals, or even show some early progress compared to the EU timeline. Yet it is not enough to compensate for the current disharmony existing between European countries, regarding energy savings and efficiency. This issue is actually quite well highlighted in the country fact sheet published by ESREI on our resource center.

The relatively sudden decrease in energy consumption due to the COVID crisis, closely followed by the energy crisis due to the Russian aggression in Ukraine, maintain still hope that Europe will be able to reach its goals, if it can contain the potential bounce effect.

Source: European Council, 2023


The public real estate sector as a main target

Willing to guide the Member States towards these ambitious targets, the EU has pointed out three sectors as high priorities: industry, transport and building sectors.

In order to reach its green targets, the building sector is often quoted as a priority and this for two main reasons:

  • The building sector carries a large responsibility when it comes to both energy consumption and GHG emissions. It accounts for 36% of GHG emissions in Europe, for instance.
  • The progression margin remains really high since the sector is currently late to achieve its energy transition. The EED directive stresses out that 75% of buildings in Europe show a low energy performance.

Moreover, in order to deploy an efficient transition, the building and construction sector does not rely on an eventual technological breakthrough. It will yet require a significant raise of investment towards that goal, as pointed out by the IPCC in its 2023 synthesis report.

The new Energy Efficiency Directive expects the public building sectors to act as a leader towards green ambitions and requires that 3% of public buildings are renovated each year in order to enhance their energy performances.


Waiting for the new EPBD

Although the building sector is already highlighted in this new directive as a main target to achieve energy consumption reductions, the objective set for public buildings will not be the only one regarding the building and construction sector, at EU scale.

Indeed, to address all three targets on this spectrum of action, the recommendations made in the upcoming version of the Energy Performance Building Directive, should be more detailed. The challenge in terms of energy and environmental goals are high for Europe, and it will need to activate every last leverage in order to reach it.


The EU is raising its ambition to maintain its ecological and environmental ambitions. Although it constitutes solely concrete expectations for the public sector so far, it announces a raise in all applied objectives, which should be confirmed by the imminent release of the EPBD directive.  

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