Approximately 40% of Europe's total energy is consumed in the buildings sector, generating around 36% of the EU's carbon dioxide emissions. The Directive on Energy Performance in Buildings (2002/91/EC) (EPBD), adopted in 2002 and currently undergoing a recast, is the main legislative instrument affecting energy use and efficiency in this sector.
The Directive addresses both new buildings and the existing building stock. It is designed to ensure that Member States apply minimum requirements as regards the energy performance of new buildings and those undergoing major renovation. The existing Directive sets a common methodology for calculating the integrated energy performance of buildings, requires the certification of building energy performance, and requires the regular inspection of boilers and air conditioning systems in buildings.
Because of the complexity of the building sector, transposing the Directive into national legislation has been slow, and full implementation of the Directive has yet to be achieved. In 2008 the European Commission proposed a recast of the Directive, which sought to expand the Directive's coverage, increase its impact and improve implementation.
The recast process has progressed during 2009, with the European Parliament delivering a strong first reading which would have considerably improved the Commission's proposal. The European Council, however, has been much less ambitious and the political agreement eventually arrived at in November falls a long way short of providing for full delivery of the potential energy savings in the sector. This is mostly because of the weakness of provisions on existing buildings, which represent the vast bulk of the sector; and the lack of urgency in the dates and targets.
  • On the positive side, as of 31 December 2020 all new buildings in the EU will have to consume 'nearly zero' energy and the energy will be to a very large extent' from renewable sources. For buildings owned and occupied by public authorities the deadline is 31 December 2018. This is of course rather late for contributing to the 2020 targets.
  • Less positively, there is no specific target for existing buildings to be brought up to this standard: only a weak and non-legally binding reference.
  • For renovation which are taking place 'anyway' (in the absence of any targets for Member States to ensure the renovation of their full existing building stock in a specific time frame), there is a positive development in that minimum energy requirements will now apply to both the replacement of components (e.g. roofs, windows), and when a major renovation is taking place. the renovation clause will now also apply to residential buildings smaller than 1000m2, which was not previously the case. However these requirements will not apply to all buildings until at least 2013.
  • There are only very weak measures on financing. The European Commission will put forward an 'analysis' by 2011 to see whether any fresh EU money could later be provided to the building sector.
  • The Energy Performance Certificate of buildings will only be made obligatory for a limited number of buildings that are occupied by public authorities and frequently visited by the public, from 2013 or later depending on size. This is actually weaker than the existing EPBD.
The agreement now needs to be approved by Energy Ministers, which is expected to happen on 7 December. It then needs to be adopted by the European Parliament, which will vote on it in January.
See the website of the European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (eceee) for more information on the Directive, its implementation and the legislative process.

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