A European framework for minimum energy performance standards

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As part of the Fit for 55 legislative package, the European Commission proposed a recast of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive in December 2021. The proposal introduces a new policy to boost renovation of existing buildings across the European Union: ­minimum energy performance standards (MEPS). MEPS require selected existing buildings to meet a minimum level of energy performance by a future date or trigger point in the building lifecycle, for example at the time of sale or rent. As a next step, EU legislators – the European Parliament and the Council of the EU – have to agree on a common design of the EU framework. Boosting building renovation this decade is vital to meet the EU’s climate goals and to reduce reliance on Russian gas. Renovating the worst-performing buildings is also a key strategy to alleviate energy poverty.

RAP’s Louise Sunderland analysed the negotiations already undertaken on this policy as of 4 May 2023, to assess the key factors in each of the negotiators’ texts: the main design features, the impact and the contribution to the 2030 climate target. She identifies the important issues and options for decision-makers who are looking to introduce a workable MEPS framework, to deliver on the goals of the Renovation Wave Strategy, within the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.

To Save Energy, Cities Turn to Building Performance Standards

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When homes and buildings are first constructed, they must meet the building code in place at the time of construction. The median age of U.S. homes is 39 years, which means that most homes are decades out of date on the most efficient and cost-saving housing technologies. The replacement rate of buildings — demolition and new construction — is less than 2% per year, leaving a vast amount of outdated Building Modernization Legislative Toolkit technologies in current building stock. This makes it clear that to modernize existing buildings, update appliances and mitigate the impacts of climate change, we must implement policy solutions beyond building codes that address the energy and carbon emissions of existing buildings.

Modernizing existing buildings can also save energy, save money and lead to more jobs. More than $279 billion could be invested in existing U.S. building retrofits, according to Deutsche Bank, yielding more than $1 trillion of energy savings over 10 years. The savings potential is equivalent to 30% of the total annual electricity spending in the United States and would create thousands of jobs.

Understanding this landscape, cities and states are increasingly pursuing mandatory policies that require improved energy and emissions performance across their existing building stock. The most comprehensive of these policies is the building performance standard (BPS), in which performance thresholds are set that building owners must meet at a specified time or when a triggering event occurs, such as a major renovation. A BPS can be designed to optimize the energy use in older buildings, as well as protect and conserve water, enhance indoor air quality, reduce waste and air pollution and create jobs. The power of a BPS comes from selecting the right metrics and setting the right targets — ones that align with the goals of a jurisdiction and drive action to ensure that investments achieve long-term compliance and emissions reductions.

Today, seven local jurisdictions (Boston; Chula Vista, California; Denver; the District of Columbia; Montgomery County, Maryland; New York City; and St. Louis) and three states (Colorado, Maryland and Washington) have enacted building performance standards. Capitalizing on this momentum, a growing number of cities and states are considering such standards to meet economic, equity, public health, climate and financial goals.

Considerations in Developing Building Performance Standards

Building performance standards will affect a large number of building owners, tenants and residents, so policymakers need to ensure that compliance is feasible for everyone and addresses broader priorities beyond climate. Key considerations in shaping a BPS include:

  • Alignment with established commitments and long-term goals.
  • Regulatory certainty over time.
  • Consistency of language and terms.
  • Ability to drive early action.
  • Accommodation of building life cycle events.
  • Transparency and ease of implementation and compliance.
  • Social and racial equity.
  • Jobs and economic growth.

The central component of a BPS is the performance standard and associated metric, which must be met to comply with the law. A design may incorporate multiple standards so that all aspects of high-performance buildings are addressed.

One of the first decisions in designing a BPS is the type of primary metric to use. The BPS can measure energy use (site or source energy use) or carbon emissions and can incorporate time of use.

Several metrics are commonly applied in the development of a BPS. Those are summarized in the table below, adapted by New Buildings Institute.

Other key considerations in defining BPS metrics include:

  • Electrification: The BPS can be designed to support electrification of end uses by incorporating carbon metrics or measuring on-site fossil fuel combustion.
  • Grid interactivity: The BPS can incorporate requirements that facilitate grid interactivity, including the installation of a building automation system that supports demand response.
  • Resiliency: The BPS can include components that evaluate a building’s passive survivability during disasters and capacity to serve as a community resource in responding to disasters.
  • Public health: The BPS can include metrics that directly impact the health of building occupants, including indoor air quality and radon mitigation.
  • Solid waste and water: The BPS can incorporate additional non-energy sustainability metrics, including solid waste, recycling and water use.

Understanding the complexity of designing and implementing these policies and the urgent need to address greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment, RAP has worked together with expert organizations to pull together key resources and information for policymakers looking to implement building performance policies within their jurisdiction.

Legislative Toolkit and Additional Resources

The Building Modernization Toolkit consolidates key considerations for policymakers in designing and implementing a BPS. These include contextual information about the impacts and benefits of building performance policies, legislative pathways for improving the performance of a building, and example policy language from jurisdictions that have already implemented a BPS and other performance policies. The toolkit also includes information on energy codes and other policies for modernizing buildings.

States and cities that are seeking to enact BPS policies have additional resources to draw from on top of the RAP legislative toolkit. New Buildings Institute has published several blogs explaining aspects and application of BPS policy.

  • Laying out the case for investing in existing building efficiency with building performance standards as a policy strategy.
  • Explaining key aspects of BPS policy, including metrics and goals, how to determine the parameters of the standard and which buildings should be covered, as well as compliance considerations.
  • Presenting additional benefits jurisdictions can derive from energy efficiency investments in existing buildings, including measures that are known to also improve the health and safety of residents and create better-paying jobs that fuel local economies.
  • Future-proofing a building or portfolio by designing with the end in mind, including plans to meet future zero-energy and carbon targets in a clearly articulated time frame.

Additionally, New Buildings Institute has co-authored a framework for governments to consider in designing a BPS and a paper on BPS variables and has developed a dashboard to assist jurisdictions in setting targets for a BPS.

Zestaw narzędzi do wdrożenia pomp ciepła globalnie i na masową skalę

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Pompy ciepła to jedna z kluczowych technologii na drodze transformacji energetycznej, już niedługo stanie się najważniejszą technologią dla dekarbonizacji ogrzewnictwa. Obecnie zdecydowana większość ciepła do gospodarstw domowych jest dostarczana przez paliwa kopalne. W celu promowania i zachęcania do instalowania pomp ciepła na całym świecie, w ramach wspólnego projektu Regulatory Assistance Project, CLASP i Global Buildings Performance Network, opracowany został niniejszy poradnik w zakresie pomp ciepła, który zawiera zestaw narzędzi i porad dotyczących ich stosowania, przeznaczonych dla decydentów zainteresowanych promowaniem tej niezbędnej technologii.

Struktura niniejszego poradnika jest luźno oparta na strukturze greckiej świątyni, z fundamentem i filarami, wspierającymi szybko rozwijający się rynek pomp ciepła. Interaktywny zestaw narzędzi (zawierający klikalne linki) zawiera również krótkie filmy wideo, które przedstawiają kluczowe aspekty każdego istotnego elementu.

Niniejszy zestaw narzędzi stanowi syntezę różnych sposobów promowania wdrażania pomp ciepła oraz przewodnik po projektowaniu najlepszych pakietów polityk. Kompletny pakiet polityk musi uwzględniać fundament, ale także brać pod uwagę każdy filar. Przedstawiamy szczegóły, przykłady i potencjalne problemy oraz rozwiązania w ramach różnych omawianych elementów polityk.


Fundament tego zestawu narzędzi to potrzeba koordynacji i komunikacji wokół działań, strategii i polityk dotyczących pomp ciepła.

W filarze 1 rozważane są instrumenty ekonomiczne i rynkowe. Instrumenty te są zasadniczo związane z równoważeniem ekonomiki różnych technologii grzewczych w kierunku czystych opcji, takich jak pompy ciepła, tak, aby ich koszty w całym okresie użytkowania były niższe niż alternatywy oparte na paliwach kopalnych.

Filar 2 dotyczy wsparcia finansowego. W ramach tego filaru identyfikujemy trzy kluczowe elementy wsparcia finansowego dla pomp ciepła – dotacje i ulgi podatkowe, pożyczki oraz rozwiązania typu heat-as-a-service (ciepło jako usługa).

Filar 3 uwzględnia regulacje i standardy. Przyglądamy się kodeksom budowlanym i normom dotyczącym budynków, normom dotyczącym urządzeń oraz planowaniu i strefowaniu ogrzewania.

Aby zbudować skuteczny pakiet polityk dotyczących pomp ciepła, decydenci muszą wziąć pod uwagę tak fundament, jak również każdy z filarów, dostosować je do specyfiki lokalnej, wdrożyć oraz monitorować skuteczność ich funkcjonowania.

Standards for EV smart charging: A guide for local authorities

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The electrification of road transport is happening – and it is already having a profound impact on the energy system and our cities. As more and more people drive electric, smart charging can ease the integration of the newcomers into the grid.

Smart charging enables charging to automatically happen at times when electricity costs are lowest – without compromising the needs of vehicle owners. As a result, smart charging creates a powerful opportunity to use more renewable energy and better utilise existing grids, accelerating the energy transition while reducing costs for all.

Cities are essential actors in making smart charging happen at a large scale. Every time they publish a public procurement procedure and every time they issue permits for EV infrastructure, it is in their hands to make smart charging work better — now and in the years to come.

But how can local authorities deploy a future-proof, robust smart charging network, with technology rapidly evolving?

Important standards supporting smart charging – such as vehicle-to-grid (V2G) – are not yet available for charging stations built today. To avoid becoming obsolete before the end of its expected lifetime, infrastructure must be ready for future upgrades.

Authors Luka De Bruyckere of ECOS and Jaap Burger from RAP offer a guide for local authorities to help ensure that cities can take these standardisation developments into account when procuring charging infrastructure.

A policy toolkit for global mass heat pump deployment

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Heat pumps, a critical technology for clean energy systems, are poised to become the most important technology for heating decarbonisation. Currently, the vast majority of heat is provided by fossil fuels. In order to promote and encourage heat pump installations across the globe, the Regulatory Assistance Project, CLASP and the Global Buildings Performance Network have developed this heat pump policy toolkit, which provides a suite of tools, and advice on how to use them, for policymakers interested in promoting this critical technology.

The structure of the toolkit is loosely based on that of a Greek temple, with foundations and pillars, supporting a rapidly growing heat pump market. The interactive toolkit (which includes clickable links throughout) also features short videos that give an overview of each relevant element of the toolkit. These videos make up a short series which complements this document.

This toolkit works as a synthesis of policy approaches to heat pump deployment and a guide to designing the best packages of policies. As you’ll see in the toolkit (and in the graphic below), a complete policy package needs to consider foundational elements and must also take account of each pillar. We provide details, examples and potential issues, and solutions within the various policy elements discussed.

Heat Pump Toolkit temple

Foundational elements of this toolkit recognise the need for coordination and communication around heat pump policy efforts and strategies.

Pillar 1 considers economic and market-based instruments. These instruments are fundamentally associated with balancing the economics of heat use towards clean options, such as heat pumps, so that their lifetime costs are cheaper than fossil-based alternatives.

Pillar 2 considers financial support. Within this pillar, we identify three key elements of financial support for heat pumps — grants and tax rebates, loans and heat-as-a-service packages.

Pillar 3 considers regulations and standards. We look at buildings codes and standards, appliance standards and heat planning and zoning.

To build an effective heat pump policy package, policymakers must consider foundational elements as well as each of the pillars. And even within each pillar, combinations of elements may be appropriate.

How much insulation is needed? A low-consumption, smart comfort standard for existing buildings

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National and local governments are increasingly turning to regulated minimum standards for the energy performance of buildings to kick-start the renovation of the stock. But how can these standards be used to define the most efficient pathway for buildings to fully decarbonise? RAP outlines a standard that defines the minimum insulation, airtightness and ventilation levels needed to enable a building to be heated efficiently with renewable sources, via lower flow temperature water.

The zero-emissions heat solution for the majority of buildings will be either a heat pump, district heating or shared heating. Heat pumps run much more efficiently when they deliver lower flow temperature water. Running district heating at lower flow temperature could result in cost reductions of 14 billion euros a year across Europe. Buildings meeting the standard can also have their heating schedules operated flexibly at different times of the day to provide flexibility benefits to the electricity grid and cost savings to the occupiers.

This briefing draws on the recently developed Dutch home insulation standard that is designed to support households to adapt their homes in advance of the area-based phaseout of the fossil gas system, and transition to sustainable heat sources, by 2050.

EU can stop Russian gas imports by 2025

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The Russian government’s decision to invade Ukraine puts into sharp contrast the deep entanglement between energy, security and geopolitics. Now more than ever, the European Union needs unity and resolve in its response and a focus on resilience in the face of interlinking crises.

Authors from Ember, E3G, Bellona and RAP have collaborated to identify the indispensable role clean energy solutions play in rapidly ending the EU’s reliance on fossil gas imports from Russia.

Key findings of our analysis:

  • Clean energy and energy efficiency can replace two-thirds of Russian gas imports by 2025. Europe can cut Russian gas imports by 66% by delivering the EU’s Fit for 55 package and accelerating the deployment of renewable electricity, energy efficiency and electrification. This is equivalent to a total reduction by 101 billion cubic meters. An urgent uplift in policy is now required to achieve the necessary level of implementation.
  • New gas import infrastructure is not required. Security of supply and reduction of Russian gas dependence does not require the construction of new EU gas import infrastructure such as liquified natural gas terminals. Alternatively sourcing 51 billion cubic meters of gas imports via existing assets is sufficient.
  • Coal power does not need to be extended. The above measures would enable the EU to achieve the necessary decrease in fossil gas demand without slowing the decline of coal-fired electricity generation.

To achieve urgent reductions in the use of fossil gas in Europe, it is important for decision-makers to identify and tackle counterproductive policies. The authors recommend 10 key measures to realise the additional potential for reducing gas use identified in this analysis:

  • Increase ambition and fast track adoption of the “Fit for 55” package. This is relevant in particular for the Renewables Directive, Energy Efficiency Directive, Emissions Trading System and the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive.
  • Clarify financial resources to support clean energy solutions. Ensure that allocated funding under the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility is used to that effect. Establish a facility for early, front-loaded release of Multiannual Financial Framework funds where the delivery of gas savings can be accelerated.
  • Make energy efficiency an energy security priority and scale action. Energy efficiency has the largest potential to reduce cost impacts on consumers. Consider opening existing funding resources such as the Connecting Europe Facility for scaling national energy efficiency programmes.
  • Remove any incentives that currently deepen or perpetuate gas consumption. Examples include financial support for gas heating systems and special tax regimes or exemptions for industry. Replace them with investment support for clean heating, in particular for low- and middle-income families. Innovative schemes such as on-bill financing, tax credits or heating appliance lease schemes should be supported.
  • Support the rollout of renewables and heat pumps. Establish concrete investment programmes, reduce administrative burdens and accelerate support for critical enablers such as grid infrastructure, demand-side flexibility and better use of transmission networks and storage. Integrated regional markets can buffer fluctuating renewable resources across larger regions.
  • Make low-carbon supply chains an energy security priority. A skilled workforce and input materials to the low-carbon supply chain are critical to delivering this vision. The EU can enhance and scale Member States’ efforts and can establish a cooperative approach with the United States and other partners on scaling supply chains.
  • Ensure equity in the energy response. Governments must ensure the costs and benefits of the transition are shared fairly among consumers. Increased carbon revenues or windfall profit taxes can be earmarked for investments in renewables and efficiency, as well as bill support for vulnerable customers. Enabling access to energy services can unlock bill savings for low-income families. Regulators should address energy poverty by designing fair network tariffs and ensuring suppliers of last resort are properly financed.
  • Put in place a European Commission task force. This could drive and monitor a whole economy approach so that supply chain bottlenecks can be anticipated and efforts streamlined across different parts of the Commission.
  • Conduct analysis to identify latent potential that can be fast tracked. In particular, analysis should be identified for industrial end use of gas, or inefficiencies in gas use (transformation losses, methane leakage) to line up even higher gas savings post 2025.
  • Avoid gas infrastructure or contractual gas lock-in. The “substitution” effect from Russian gas to other sources is expected to decline sharply after 2025, meaning that additional import or other gas infrastructure will face rapidly declining utilisation.

Are EU homes ready for full electrification?

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To achieve climate and energy goals, decarbonising Europe’s building stock is critical. As part of the ‘renovation wave,’ solar photovoltaic power systems, heat pumps, electricity storage and electric vehicles chargers will become prevalent in our homes. This raises the question whether the EU dwelling stock is ready for this transition. Around 50% of domestic buildings were built before 1990 without anticipating the needs of today and tomorrow.

The deployment of safe, efficient and smart electrical installations on a large scale requires a long-term vision grounded in a strong foundation of policy, tools and standards.

The Electrification Academy welcomed Prof. Angelo Baggini from the University of Bergamo to share his analysis of electrical installations in Europe and proposes solutions on the path towards zero-emissions buildings by:

  • Showing the difference between an electrical installation from 1990 and the needs of today and tomorrow
  • Analysing the implications of far-reaching electrification from a technical, policy and consumer point of view.
  • Presenting two case studies of home renovations in typical EU dwellings: an apartment and a single-family house.
  • Recommending improvements to legislation and standards.