The EPBD recast draws a new European trajectory for Real Estate

On March 12, MEPs adopted the revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. This vote is one of the final stages in a long revision process that began in 2021. The version adopted by Parliament still has to be approved by the Council.


The building sector: a pillar of EU new energy ambitions

In 2021, the European Union announced its new ambitions regarding climate change with the Fit for 55 plans. The main target introduced by it, is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% in 2030 when compared to 1990 levels. But the current national strategies implemented in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions do not seem to be sufficient to reach that goal. Indeed, last year, the European commission considered that if current policies are fully implemented, the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 would be around 45% compared to 1990 levels.

The building sector accounts for 36% of EU’s greenhouse gas emissions, making it a key leverage when it comes to the new European targets. The recast of the main regulation regarding buildings in Europe, the Energy Performance Building Directive, was announced in December 2021.


A double target

To reach its energy goals, Europe intends to walk up two paths.

The first ambition is to reduce energy consumption. This intention has only been strengthened by the new geopolitical context which pleads for a stronger energy independence. In this regard, the building sector remains a main target as it represents 40% of the final energy consumption of the EU. High standards for new buildings and renovations would be the main tools to temper the real estate’s hunger for energy.

The second ambition is the decarbonization of the EU’s energy mix. Here again the building sector has something to offer, as the building stock constitutes a brand-new field to be equipped with sustainable energy sources.

The initial proposition of the European Commission of the EPBD recast intended to fully harness the reduction potential of the building sector. But the discussions and debates reach to a more mitigated agreement.


The new EPBD: what expectations?

That newly revised EPBD, was finally adopted on March the 12th.

Its sets the course for a global renovation wave at European scale. The EU aims to reduce energy consumption in residential buildings by 16% by 2030 and by 20-22% by 2035. 55% of this reduction is to come from the 43% least energy-efficient buildings. Non-residential buildings remain subject to stricter rules. By 2030, the bottom 16% of buildings will have to be renovated, and a further 26% by 2033. Minimum energy performance requirements are also laid down.

The law also sets out decarbonization requirements for the building sector. These include an end to subsidies for carbon-based heating systems from 2025, and a non-binding agreement to phase them out by 2040. The installation of solar panels will also be made compulsory on the roofs of public and non-residential buildings, whether new-build or renovated, provided this is « technically and economically suitable ». By 2030, this should also be the case on all new residential buildings.


The forgotten challenge of harmonization

Despite the common ambitions set out in the successive versions of the EPBD, harmonization remains a challenge at European scale. The implementation of the targets at national scales highlights differences in method and in level of ambition.

This can be illustrated with the example of the NZEB (Nearly Zero Energy Building). Introduced by the EPBD, this standard, designed for new buildings, has been implemented in national regulations but with different parameters form one country to another. However, the same indicator is now used by the EU Taxonomy as a common denominator. This harmonization of definitions and thresholds the condition for equitable deployment of the European legislations.

What’s to come?

The directive has not yet reached the end of its road, however, as it still has to be approved by the Council, where it could be blocked, given recent trends towards last-minute blockages in Brussels.

This almost final version of the EPBD recast draws the trajectory for sustainable real estate in Europe. Although it has been watered down, it stills remains a considerable challenge for the sector : the European Commission estimates that 275 billion euros a year will be needed to renovate buildings by 2030, 152 billion euros more than at present.

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