Green houses, the European directive: what it provides and what changes

Green houses, the European directive: what it provides and what changes

BRUSSELS. Sustainable homes, full speed ahead. The Chamber of the European Parliament approves the text which requires the renovation of public and private buildings to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions. The vote ends like this: 343 in favour, 78 abstentions, 216 against. The main parliamentary group, the EPP, splits, like the Italian alignments. The majority parties, Brothers of Italy, Lega and Forza Italia, speak out against the proposal, while Pd and M5S support it. The Parliament is therefore ready to start inter-institutional negotiations with the Council, with an even more ambitious position than the Commission's original proposal.

Parliament's proposals
With its green light, the plenary decrees that all new buildings should be carbon neutral from 2028, while new buildings occupied, managed or owned by public authorities should already be 2026 (the Commission has proposed 2030 and 2027 respectively ). Furthermore, all new buildings should be equipped with solar technologies by 2028, where technically suitable and economically feasible, while residential buildings undergoing renovation have until 2032 to comply. Again, residential buildings should achieve at least energy performance class E by 2030 and D by 2033. Non-residential and public buildings should achieve the same classes by 2027 and 2030 respectively (the Commission proposed F and E) . Here, therefore, more time is allowed to make the properties respond to the green agenda of the European Union.

The regulatory framework
The proposal for a directive on energy efficiency in buildings, presented by the EU Commission on 15 December 2021, is part of the broader package known as "Fit for 55", the set of legislative initiatives intended to set the EU on the road to achieving climate neutrality by 2050. The proposal therefore responds to the sustainability needs envisaged by the Green Deal and the green transition that the European Union has decided to pursue.

In this sense, the directive is particularly important given that in the EU buildings are responsible for 40% of energy consumption and 36% of direct and indirect emissions of greenhouse gases related to energy. Hence the need to establish minimum requirements for the energy performance of new buildings and existing buildings undergoing renovation.

Energy classes and heating systems, what can change
Everything revolves around the classification system in use for buildings based on energy consumption, which provides for a descending scale from category A to category G. Each letter corresponds to an average annual consumption of kilowatt hours per square metre. Following the alphabetical order, the sooner you are in the order and the less you consume to keep the property at the right temperature. In a nutshell: almost zero consumption (A), very low consumption (B), almost good consumption (C), consumption to be improved (D), inadequate consumption (E), high consumption (F), unsustainable consumption (G) .

Parliament recognizes governments' freedom in defining plans to achieve the required objectives, but calls on all EU Member States to ban the use of fossil fuels in heating systems, for new buildings and buildings undergoing to major renovations, major renovations or renovations of the heating system. They should be completely phased out by 2035, "unless the European Commission allows their use until 2040".

Aid to families
Renovating a house has a cost, MEPs are aware of this. For this reason, the position dismissed by the House underlines the need for governments to provide "support schemes to facilitate access to subsidies and funding" within the national building renovation plans. Cost-neutral information points and restructuring programs will have to be set up. Financing schemes will have to include 'a large premium' for so-called deep renovations, particularly in the case of the worst performing buildings, and targeted grants and subsidies targeting vulnerable households.

The new legislation does not affect every single building. It does not apply to monuments, and the States will have the faculty to also exclude buildings protected by virtue of their particular architectural or historical value, technical buildings, those used temporarily, churches and places of worship. Member States will also be able to extend the exemptions to public social housing buildings where renovations would lead to rent increases not offset by higher savings on energy bills. Member States will be allowed, 'for a limited percentage' of buildings, to adjust the new targets according to the economic and technical feasibility of the renovations and the availability of skilled labour.

The position of the Council
In the position adopted on 25 October 2022, the Council established that by 2033 "the average primary energy consumption" of the entire residential building stock should be at least equivalent to energy performance class D. This does not mean intervening on all houses existing. Furthermore, more flexibility is left to governments, which will be able to set a "national trajectory in line with the progressive restructuring of their building stock to make it carbon-neutral by 2050".

No major changes regarding penalties. The request to provide energy performance certificates at the time of sale and purchase remains unaffected, leaving the discretion to the individual States for any sanctions in the event of discrepancies or omissions.

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