The current iteration of the European Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) was approved in 2010, and set out a roadmap to a requirement for all new buildings to be nearly-zero energy buildings (nZEBs) by 2020, starting with public buildings in 2018. This was to be implemented via a process of aligning various member state building codes with a loose set of nZEB-compatible criteria that each member state had the freedom to draw up themselves. These criteria; essentially that a building should use very little energy and where possible produce this energy from renewable sources nearby, were designed to allow each member state to develop a tailored definition of what an nZEB was, with a monitoring system to be adopted in order to collate market data and inform further decision-making regarding nZEBs.
However, many problems have so far been encountered with this system, and it seems that real-world application of the EPBD within the nZEB framework criteria may be some way off the 2020 target date. The Dutch consultancy tasked with monitoring nZEB framework uptake; Ecofys; provide further reports on the nZEB-framework application of the EPBD, with support from industry groups such as EuroACE who promote the framework and wish to see the introduction of clarified legislation and higher renovation rates throughout Europe towards the strategy of overall decarbonisation by 2050; as well as other groups promoting the directive such as Concerted Action EPBD, and the EU Portal ‘Build Up‘ which serves as an online networking platform for a large number of NGOs associated with building performance throughout Europe.
The Ecofys report highlights some of the constraints inherent to the goal of Europe-wide adoption of nearly-zero energy building standards, and together with the ZEBRA2020 monitoring program and strategies report, provide data on EPBD implementation across Europe, as well as recommendations for policy development, awareness campaigns and knowledge-building within the construction industry, fostering the growth of skill development.
Buildings make up 40% of Europes’ energy demand, and measures to reduce this demand usually involve insulation and air-tightness, mechanical ventilation with heat recovery, heat pumps, on-site renewable energy, on-site CHP and district heating as layed out within the initial EPBD Annex 1, 2002. In order to implement these measures, the ZEBRA2020 report outlines specific recommendations; including policy measures (financing instruments, energy performance certificates, energy audits) and advancement of trades expertise, with harmonised nZEB standards at EU level as well as monitoring seen as aiding further uptake.
In preparation for the upcoming review of the EPBD, and in looking out to 2050 for a more ambitious nZEB policy environment, the report notes a number of key recommendations; including
• Building codes for new buildings and building renovation;
• Financial and fiscal support policies/programmes;
• Increase of renovation rate in public buildings;
• Obligation to install renewable heating systems;
• Compliance with regulatory policies;
• Other instruments like CO2 taxes, mandatory thermal retrofitting in case of
façade maintenance or/and during real estate transaction, prohibition of oil
boilers or in general all fossil fuel boilers.
Although these policies are being implemented in some member states, reports highlight the lack of data and inconsistant methods of monitoring real-world implementation of the EPBD. From the data, effective energy reduction strategies are most comprehensive and ultimately more successful in France, Austria, Norway and Italy, with higher rates of new nZEBs and higher overall renovation rates. Lower energy demands and ambitious district heating programs have contributed to these figures in France and Italy, as well as the extensive use of heat pumps, mechanical ventilation with heat recovery, solar PV and solar thermal.
As well as introducing building codes to new buildings to achieve the ambitious objective of over 80% emissions savings within the building sector by 2050, a 2016 briefing to the EU Parliament notes that renovation rates would need to increase to between 2-3% per year, up from an EU-wide rate of between 0.5% and 1.2%. While higher renovation rates and further rollout of building codes will need policy intervention to implement between now and 2050, it is apparent that nZEBs are unlikely to see widespread adoption before 2020 – despite continued incremental change occuring throughout the construction industry.