Energy Performance of Buildings: a comprehensive approach to buildings’ decarbonization

  • Dinner debate in Strasbourg

Chaired by Jerzy Buzek MEP, Director of the EEF


Alice Franz, Head of EU and International Affairs, French Union of Electricity
Antti Kohopää, Head of EU Affairs, Finnish Energy
Glaura Kartalian, CEO, SHV Energy business unit’s Primagaz
Claudia Canevari, Head of Unit Energy Efficiency, DG ENER, European Commission

In the framework of the revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, the EEF held a dinner in Strasbourg to discuss the decarbonization of the EU’s building stock from diverse angles. The debate explored the possibilities offered by different solutions to lower buildings’ emissions and enhance their role in the energy transition. 

Alice Franz, Head of EU and International Affairs, French Union of Electricity kicked off the discussion by highlighting the unique role that the power sector plays in the energy transition. She then reflected on the definition of a “zero-emission building”. According to her, the focus should not be on energy efficiency only, but on CO2 emissions as well. Phasing fossil fuels out of buildings is key. To make consumers more inclined to switch to cleaner technologies, she suggested adding carbon criteria to the energy performance certificates of the buildings, something that has proved successful in France.  As for the on-site renewable generation requirement set by the Commission’s definition, Ms Franz agreed RES have a key role to play, but warned this requirement risks resulting in buildings being disconnected from the grid, which will lead to a situation where electricity surplus is lost instead of being injected into the grid to flow where needed. In line with the principle of sector integration, on-site RES are to be considered as part of the solution, alongside other low-carbon energy supplied by the grid.

The importance of a system-integration approach and of ensuring a level playing-field for on-site and grid solutions were reiterated by Antti Kohopää, Head of EU Affairs, Finnish Energy.  Mr. Kohopää also discussed the REPowerEU proposal to introduce mandatory targets for solar installations on buildings as a complement to the EPBD. He expressed concerns that by setting targets at building level, the provision fails both to respect the systemic dimension of the buildings and to consider the differences between Member States and buildings. To make his points, he offered insights on the Finnish building sector, where district-heating and electricity – which will be fully carbon-neutral by the end of this decade – are effective solutions to decarbonize buildings. Since in Nordic countries there is a mismatch between sun availability and energy demand, these systemic solutions are also more efficient than solar installations. Letting different technologies compete is thus key, especially in a moment of crisis that does not allow us to exclude any option.

Glaura Kartalian, CEO, SHV Energy’s business unit Primagaz brought in the perspective of rural areas, where 30.6% of the EU population lives. She explained that for these communities located in off-grid areas, liquified gases like liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) – which is produced locally – represent a more efficient solution than electricity. SHV Energy is also investing in renewable liquid gases solutions, such as bioLPG and Renewable Di-Methyl Ether (rDME). These solutions can directly replace more polluting coal and heating oil used for heating in boilers, lowering buildings’ emissions and contributing to their decarbonization. Ms. Kartalian said it is thus important not to hamper their development. In this regard, she suggested revising the conditions allowing for a ban on boilers to be introduced by Member States, as emissions depend on the burnt fuel and not on the boiler itself. She also advocated for an approach recognizing the potential offered by all available solutions.

The presentations from the industries were complemented by an intervention from Claudia Canevari, Head of Unit Energy Efficiency, DG ENER, European Commission.  After mentioning the importance of the EPBD in the EU’s decarbonization path and the role played by buildings in this regard, she clarified the definition of “zero-emission building” as proposed by the European Commission. The EC aim is to align the energy performance requirements for new buildings to the long-term decarbonization objectives and the “energy efficiency first” principle, as well as to promote distributed renewables. This last point does not mean “zero-emission buildings” are to be disconnected from the grid, she underlined. Ms. Canevari also offered insights on the requirements for new and renovated zero-emission buildings, grounded in technical and economic feasibility assessments. She clarified the EC takes care of specific situations: whenever the local conditions do not allow for these requirements to be fully met, exceptions are clearly provided in Annex III to the EPBD. Finally, she remarked the importance of collectively stepping up to the challenges brought by the current situation by increasing the level of ambition and going a step forward and showed appreciation for the EP work in this direction. 

During the Q&A session that followed, the several EEF Associate and Active Members as well as other MEPs present commented on the importance of the EPBD to face current challenges. They also discuss the connection between buildings’ decarbonization and availability of energy-related data and took the opportunity to come back on the solutions presented by the speakers to investigate them more in detail.