As energy prices skyrocket in Europe, people are struggling to pay their bills. As a result, more and more people are living in energy poverty. This means they struggle to heat, cool, or light their homes. Greens/EFA MEP, Ciarán Cuffe, is leading the negotiations on the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) in the European Parliament. Here he explains why we need energy-efficient buildings for warmer homes and lower bills.
Around 54 million people or 11% of the EU population is affected by energy poverty. And these numbers have been increasing since the beginning of the energy crisis. Rising rents and house prices make this problem even worse.
Meanwhile, seven out of every 10 buildings in Europe are energy inefficient. They leak energy out of badly insulated windows, doors, walls, and roofs. People and organisations in Europe – households, businesses, and public services – are spending millions every month on energy that goes to waste.
We cannot allow this situation to continue. Now is the time to make Europe’s buildings more efficient, to protect people from energy poverty and bring down bills. Thankfully, right now the EU is negotiating a new law to renovate our buildings. We call it the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD).
The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) is a new EU law under negotiation that will bring down energy bills and tackle energy poverty. How? By launching an action plan to renovate Europe’s buildings. It aims for the EU’s building stock to be highly energy efficient and climate neutral by 2050.
Every EU country is different (for one, the weather in Finland is not the same as in Italy), so this is a flexible plan. Each EU country has to develop a national renovation plan that suits their specific needs. Their plans will include renovation targets that are also established nationally.
EU countries will be able to apply exemptions within their national renovation plans for historic buildings, religious buildings, small buildings, and vacation homes. And renovation requirements targeted at the buildings that waste the most energy will kick in progressively and protect people, including renters, from high energy bills.
A Europe full of newly renovated, energy efficient buildings will be great for people and for the planet. And what’s more, the EPBD will create hundreds of thousands of good quality, local jobs and help us reach our climate targets.
The EPBD confronts the problem of energy poverty in two ways. Firstly, by renovating buildings that waste the most energy first. And secondly, by bringing in financing measures, social protections, and information services.
By starting renovations with the buildings that waste the most energy (‘worst-performing buildings’), we prioritise people living in energy poverty. It is often the poorest people who live in these buildings, and who are most impacted by high energy bills. Renovation requirements are introduced and building owners will have to comply with these by set dates to ensure that buildings that waste the most energy are improved. This will apply to private landlords, the public sector, owners of hospitals, schools, and other buildings.
Social protections will protect those who cannot afford renovations or rent increases. Some of the social protections in the EPBD include rent support or caps, priority for renovation grants and priority for schemes that replace fossil-fuel based heating and cooling systems in homes. We’ll also see the rollout of thousands of One-Stop-Shops that will provide free and impartial information and advice on renovating and access to financing.
Renters will benefit from the EPBD because they often pay the energy bills but have no influence over the energy performance of their homes. The EPBD introduces renovation requirements and provides support to owners, while protecting tenants against arbitrary rent increases or evictions.
Learn more about the fight against energy poverty in Europe in the Greens/EFA Energy Poverty Handbook, produced with the Right to Energy Coalition.
Renovation clearly has a positive impact on energy bills. The less energy we use, the less we will pay. Climate neutral buildings use very little energy. They are highly energy efficient; they are well-insulated; they’re powered by renewable energy, and they can store energy on site. They can even feed energy back into the grid that other people can use.
The EPBD makes sure that citizens do not have to shoulder the financial cost of renovation alone. It has a clear financial framework that directs public and private money to renovations. What’s more, governments can tap into a number of funding streams from the EU to support renovations. Financial support is available. And even more – we have to make it available at national and European level.
EU countries can also lighten the burden on residential property owners, who could benefit from additional time to abide by the new rules. They can also provide for exemptions – for example, if there is not enough workforce available to carry out renovations.
The EPBD is a job machine for the EU. It will create jobs in the construction, renovation, and renewable energy industries, as the public and private sectors will need to invest. Small businesses will stand to gain, as well as the economy as a whole.
Buildings are the EU’s most valuable financial asset, worth tens of trillions of euros. The construction sector employs 10% of the EU workforce. More than 95% of companies are small and medium sized businesses. Higher renovation rates and higher standards for new buildings will have a multiplier effect on jobs and growth across industries.
Buildings represent approximately 40% of Europe’s energy consumption and 36% of carbon emissions. If we renovate Europe’s buildings to be highly energy efficient and climate-neutral by 2050, we can expect a significant reduction in energy consumption. We’ll also slash carbon emissions, making us more likely to reach the EU’s 2050 climate neutrality target.
Not only that, but the EPBD will promote a healthier environment inside new buildings, improving air quality, pollutants, and noise.
Homeowners can break free from high energy bills and fossil fuel dependency by producing their own renewable energy. The EPBD empowers homeowners to keep their energy bills in check through renewable energy production (either individually or as part of an energy community) and renewable energy use. It also enables companies and citizens to adapt their energy consumption by storing and releasing energy at appropriate times, a practice known as ‘demand-response’. We can achieve this by installing devices in renovated buildings, including building automation and control systems, or electric vehicle batteries.
More modern and efficient buildings with solar panels, heat pumps or other renewables will allow building users to profit from the energy for free.