The new EPBD directive does not live up to its challenges [Promoted content]

The new EPBD directive does not live up to its challenges [Promoted content]

The new draft EPBD directive revealed that the Commission discovers the issue of the decarbonisation of buildings. But the priority given to carbon must be reflected in the proposed provisions.

Brice Lalonde is a former French Minister of the Environment. He currently chairs Equilibre des Energies (EdEn), a think-tank mainly made up of companies whose studies and proposals aim to accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the energy, building and and transport.

The “Fit for 55” package is presented by the Commission as the way to focus Member States’ policies on the climate priority and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030. However, in their version Initially, the key texts of this package, relating to energy efficiency (EED) and renewable energies (RED), do not include any provision directly aimed at decarbonization, but even make the use of low-carbon electricity more difficult, yet a preferred substitute for fossil fuels.

On the other hand, the draft recast of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), which appeared later, integrates the decarbonisation dimension by stating that the Union’s objective is to achieve a carbon-neutral building stock in by 2050. This is a very ambitious goal that we should be happy about. But to materialize the good intentions it is necessary to make sure that the tools are with the height. Unfortunately this is not the case as the geopolitical emergency created by the invasion of Ukraine joins the climate emergency to force the Union to get out of fossil fuels.

So what can be done to allow the directive, again amended by the REPowerEU package, to further contribute to the decarbonisation of buildings?

Choose the right energy consumption indicator

What counts is the energy actually consumed, an indisputable physical magnitude, and not a theoretical fiction called primary energy which heavily penalizes carbon-free electricity. However, in the proposed text, the energy performance of buildings is expressed in primary energy, and not in final energy. As a result, gas is considered more economical than carbon-free electricity, despite its CO emissions.2a height!

As long as consumption is not measured in physical units, the efforts made will only partially contribute to the final objective of decarbonization and independence.

Take carbon emissions into account when determining the energy performance of buildings

To make users aware of the environmental performance of their homes, the main tool proposed by the EPBD directive is the energy performance certificate where

greenhouse gas emissions will be mentioned. But whether they are used to determine the performance of buildings will be left to the discretion of the Member States. On the contrary, it should be compulsory to use the level of emissions to identify the performance class of dwellings and encourage households and builders of new dwellings to reduce them.

The introduction of smart metering and energy management systems in homes should also be encouraged. It is easier to change your consumption habits when you have the appropriate tools and you can observe the results of your efforts in real time. As such, the Smart Readiness Indicator (SRI), at least its component linked to flexibility, should be applied from 2028 to residential dwellings of a certain size in order to encourage behaviors of “prosumers”, making it possible to adapt consumption to fluctuations in the network and the supply-demand balance.

Integrate carbon-free energies supplied by the networks

The text proposed by the Commission imagines that zero-emission or nearly zero-emission housing, i.e. all housing in 2050, can be supplied solely with energy from local renewable resources, energy communities or many more clean heating networks. Why then develop solar power plants, wind farms and biomethane to inject the energy produced into the networks?

The vast majority of buildings will remain connected to the networks, if only to ensure energy security and continuity of supply. It must therefore be accepted that the networks contribute to the decarbonization of housing.

Prioritize renovations that quickly reduce the most significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions

When renovating buildings, the best can become the enemy of the good. Global renovation is an ideal that is expensive and difficult to reach for the greatest number. To act as effectively as possible on the climate with a constrained budget, it is necessary to reduce the cumulative quantities of CO2 which will be emitted by 2050, therefore giving priority to renovations presenting the best ratio between each euro invested and the volume of greenhouse gas emissions avoided. This is why we must not rule out renovation in stages, which are more affordable and easier to deploy on a massive scale. It makes it possible to improve the purchasing power of the greatest number more quickly.

In short, we still have efforts to make to be pragmatic, to put climate protection ahead of energy conservation, and to substitute carbon-free energy for fossil fuels rather than just saving the latter.

Less energy, more climate. Less saving, more switching