Filling the policy gap: Minimum energy performance standards for European buildings
The European Union has committed to a net-zero economy by 2050. To get there, it must decarbonise the building stock, which accounts for 36% of EU carbon emissions. The current rate of renovation, however, is only one-third of that needed. Even the improvements that are being undertaken are delivering meagre savings of 9% to 17% primary energy. Europe therefore needs to significantly increase the rate and depth of building renovations or risk missing its climate targets.
European and national policymakers have the opportunity to lead the charge to more ambitious energy efficiency and decarbonisation strategies. Europe’s proposed strategy, the “renovation wave,” provides the perfect home for ambitious new building policies.
Minimum energy performance standards for buildings can play a pivotal role in generating the necessary momentum. This mechanism sets regulated minimum standards for either energy use in, or carbon emissions from, existing buildings. Building owners must make improvements to meet the target by a specific date or upon reaching a chosen trigger point, such as sale or renovation. By setting out a clear trajectory of improvements for individual buildings, they can support a massive increase in the renovation rate.
A regulated minimum standard alone, however, is not enough. Successful minimum energy performance standards are introduced alongside a framework that comprises funding, finance and incentives, technical and practical support, and measures to ensure the poorest are not directly or indirectly burdened. Implemented within an effective renovation framework, they can overcome the significant barriers that have hindered renovation to date.
The authors draw from successful examples around the world to share key design features for minimum energy performance standards, their supporting framework and the considerations for policymakers just getting started.
A dramatic increase in energy renovations from minimum energy performance standards would not only deliver significant economic, environmental and social benefits across Europe, it is key to the economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.