European Council has agreed on rules to create energy-efficient buildings

The European Council has agreed on stricter rules to develop energy-efficient buildings, which are important for achieving the EU’s climate objectives. 

The European Council has reached an agreement on a proposal to revise the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. The revision aims to ensure that all buildings are energy efficient, requiring that all new buildings should be zero-emission buildings by 2030, and that by 2050, existing buildings should be converted into zero-emission buildings. 

The agreement will enable negotiations to be initiated with the European Parliament. Once a consensus is reached between the Council and the Parliament, the final text will be formally adopted by both institutions.  

Jozef Síkela, Czech Minister of Industry and Trade, outlined the importance of energy-efficient buildings, stating: “The building sector is crucial for achieving the EU’s energy and climate objectives for 2030 and 2050. But more than that, the agreement reached will help citizens make substantial energy savings. Better and more energy-efficient buildings will improve citizens’ quality of life, while bringing down their energy bills and alleviating energy poverty.” 

The Council’s agreements on energy-efficient buildings

In regard to new buildings, the Council agreed that from 2028, new buildings owned by public bodies would be zero-emission buildings, and from 2030, all new buildings would be zero-emission buildings. 

There may be some exceptions for certain buildings, such as historical buildings, places of worship, and buildings used for defence purposes. 

Member States agreed to introduce minimum energy performance standards for existing buildings. These would correspond to the maximum amount of primary energy that buildings can use per metre squared annually. By introducing these standards, the Council hopes to initiate renovations and gradually phase-out worst-performing buildings to improve the national building stock.  

For existing non-residential buildings, Member States agreed to establish maximum energy performance thresholds, based on primary energy use. A first threshold would cut off below the primary energy use of 15% of the worst-performing non-residential buildings in a Member State, and a second threshold would be set below 25%. It was agreed that non-residential buildings should be brought below the 15% threshold by 2030 and below the 25% threshold by 2034. 

The thresholds would be decided based on the energy use of the national building stock on 1 January 2020, and may be differentiated between different building categories. 

Member States agreed that for existing residential buildings, minimum energy performance standards based on a national trajectory should be set. These will be in line with the progressive renovation of their building stock into a zero-emission building stock by 2050, as outlined in their national building renovation plans. 

Monitoring energy performance

Between 2025 and 2050, the national trajectory of energy performance standards would correspond to a decrease in the average primary energy use in the whole residential building stock. This will ensure that the primary energy use of the whole residential building stock is at least equivalent to the D energy performance class level by 2033, and by 2040, a nationally determined value obtained from a gradual decrease of the average primary energy use from 2033 to 2050. This will be in line with the conversion of the residential building stock into a zero-emission building stock. 

Member States agreed to add a new category ‘A0’ to the energy performance certificates that would be consistent with zero-emission buildings. Another new category, ‘A+,’ could also be added to correspond to zero-emissions, energy-efficient buildings that contribute on-site renewable energy to the energy grid.  

Currently, the energy performance certification for buildings set by the directive ranks buildings on a scale from A (best performing) to G (worst performing) based on their energy performance. 

Optimising new buildings to reach national energy targets

© iStock/Asia-Pacific Images Studio

Requirements are being set to ensure that all new buildings are designed to optimise their solar energy generation potential. The deployment of suitable solar energy installations was also agreed upon by Member States.  

Sustainable mobility infrastructure should also be made readily available. These include charging points for electric cars and bikes in or next to buildings, cabling to foresee future infrastructure, and parking spaces for bicycles. The agreement also introduced voluntary renovation passports for buildings. 

Building renovation plans should also be issued, with the first plans to be issued by 30 June 2026. These will contain a roadmap with national targets for 2030, 2040, and 2050 regarding the annual energy renovation rate, the primary and final energy consumption of the national building stock, and its operational greenhouse gas emission reductions. 

Background to the agreement

In December 2021, the Commission submitted a proposal, as part of the Fit for 55 package, for a revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. The proposal has great significance as buildings are responsible for 40% of the energy consumed and 36% of energy-related direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions in the EU. To reach green energy goals, it is necessary, therefore, to ensure that buildings are energy efficient.  

The proposal also constitutes one of the levers necessary for delivering on the Renovation Wave Strategy, published in October 2020. This aims to double the annual energy renovation rate of buildings by 2030 and foster deep renovations. 

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