Motivation for introducing the Directive was two-fold. First, there is the necessity to introduce measures which will help the EU meet its obligation, under the Kyoto Protocol, to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 8%. Secondly, there is the need to improve long term security of energy supply; reducing energy demand is seen as a key component of that objective. As buildings use over 40% of Europe's energy, a Directive which will make our buildings use it more efficiently was regarded as imperative.
The Directive will require Member States to introduce legislation which will affect both new and existing buildings. In particular the Directive will mean that
Member States must review and update their Building Regulations at least once every five years.
Member States must introduce legislation which will require existing buildings over 1000m2, when undergoing major renovation, to have the best available energy efficiency measures incorporated at the same time.
Member States must ensure that, when a building is constructed, or whenever there is a change of owner or tenant, an Energy Performance Certificate is issued. The Certificate must include references to current legal minimum standards of energy performance, and must include recommendations for how the building can be improved to meet these standards.
Member States must ensure that all publicly owned or publicly accessible buildings over 1000m2 possess an Energy Performance Certificate, and that it is prominently displayed.
There is also a provision in the Directive requiring it to be reviewed in due course, with a view to strengthening it in the light of progress. In particular the Commission will decide whether to extend the renovation obligation (second bullet point above) to buildings smaller than 1000m2.
The Directive, when fully effective, is expected to deliver savings of 45 million tonnes CO2 a year, a significant part of the EU's Kyoto commitment. But whether this potential is achieved depends crucially on the speed and effectiveness with which the Member States enact it into national legislation. Commenting on this point, Rick Wilberforce (Pilkington Market Development Manager, Europe) said "Most EU Member States have fallen behind the level of CO2 reductions they should have achieved by now if they are to meet their Kyoto targets by 2010. In most cases their track records on policies and measures for energy efficiency in buildings are poor. We now have to move to a phase where campaigning groups, trade associations and NGOs apply pressure to national governments to make sure the new Directive is rapidly and fully implemented".
Why it metters?
The majority of EU countries have fallen short of the CO2 emissions savings they should have achieved by now if they are to meet their Kyoto commitments by the target date 2008-2012. On the basis of trends to 1999, only four of the fifteen Member States will meet their targets.
Clearly the majority of countries have got to increase their efforts. But what is the scope for doing so in the buildings field?
In every EU Member State, the energy demand of buildings accounts for between 40% and 50% of total national energy consumption. In other words, the buildings sector uses as much energy (and generates as much CO2) as transport and industry combined. Therefore, you would expect that national plans for CO2 reduction would achieve at least 40% of their savings from the buildings sector.
This is, however, far from the case. An analysis of Member States' plans, conducted by EuroACE, shows that in only UK and Austria do the planned savings from buildings approach 40% of the total planned savings. In all other countries, buildings are under-represented in national plans.
Yet the technologies and products needed to improve the energy-efficiency of buildings are developed, proven and widely available. They can achieve significant energy and CO2 savings at zero lifetime cost. Independent research has shown that installing cost-effective energy efficiency improvements in all EU buildings would reduce CO2 emissions by 450 million tonnes per year – which alone would exceed the EU's Kyoto target.
Therefore buildings must increasingly become the focus of national plans to reduce CO2 emissions. That is why the new Directive is so essential and so welcome.