Energy Performance of Buildings Directive: Remaining flaws could be detrimental to construction SMEs

Today’s ITRE Committee vote on the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive is a step in the right direction, but the European Builders Confederation (EBC) expresses concerns about the impact of some articles of the report. 

The approved report under the aegis of Rapporteur Bendt Bendtsen (EPP/DK) is an important step to trigger higher innovation rates, especially among the existing building stock. Within this context, EBC appreciates that its input regarding a better dissemination of best practices on successful public and private financing schemes and the aggregation of small-scale energy efficiency renovation projects was taken on board in the report.

EBC also welcomes that the ITRE Committee strengthened the vision for a highly energy efficient and decarbonised building stock, and that public consultation between Member States and relevant stakeholders is encouraged before the drafting of the long-term renovation strategies.

On the other hand, EBC raises the following concerns:

De-risking private energy efficiency operations should take market reality into account

EBC strongly opposes the idea to take certified energy efficiency renovation as a factor for financial collateral in order to decrease the risk weighting for private investors such as banks. “With its proposal the European Parliament in fact excludes the vast majority of building renovations from the possibility of this way of financing, given that only about 1-2 percent of construction companies in the European Union possess certification due to the very high costs involved”, says Ann-Cathrin Rönsch, EBC Energy Policy Officer. “Instead private financing should be linked to the qualification of the enterprise and its workers”. 

Financial incentives are needed before renovation works are completed 

Construction SMEs strongly support the inclusion of alternative measures, such as standard values, for the calculation of achieved energy savings, in order to set Member States’ financial measures for energy efficiency improvements. Nevertheless EBC has doubts about the final formulation of the legislative text. Instead of referring to energy saving measures achieved because of a renovation, the text should relate financial incentives to energy savings to be achieved in order to guarantee building owners at least part of the financial incentive at the beginning of the renovation. “It is important to keep in mind that building owners may neither be willing nor capable to pay the up-front payments for an energy efficiency renovation without any support. A system that only refunds the owners after the renovation is finished strongly increases uncertainties and may result in people shying away from energy efficiency renovations”, remarks Rönsch. 

Regular maintenance of heating and air-conditioning systems is essential to ensure their efficient working

EBC is concerned about the decision of the ITRE Committee to exclude regular maintenance of heating and air-conditioning systems from its report. Regular maintenance of such systems is an effective way to contribute to the correct adjustment of the system and in that way ensures the proper and efficient functioning of the system and the protection of its users (health, well-being and safety). Furthermore a regular maintenance offers the possibility to inform about renovation work and more efficient equipment. In fact regular maintenance has often proved to be more effective and higher accepted than inspections, as the example of France shows where only 2-3% of heat pumps and air-conditioning systems are checked annually (requirement to inspect) in contrast to 60-65% of heating systems like boilers (requirement to regularly maintain). In addition to this, EBC considers that the kW-threshold applying to heating systems is too high. In fact the proposed threshold will exclude the majority of single family homes (approximately 51% of the EU building stock) from a regular check of their heating systems, only focusing on big apartment blocks. “We hope the trilogue meetings will lead to an agreement on the inclusion of regular maintenance of heating and air-conditioning systems as the Council of Ministers rightly considers alternative measures to inspections as an important factor for efficiently working systems”, states Eugenio Quintieri, EBC Secretary General. 

Earmarking part of the European Social Fund to upskill workers is crucial for reaching energy efficient buildings 

The right set of working skills plays an essential part in improving our building stock. Thus continuous vocational trainings, qualification and certification of professionals and skilled technicians are of crucial importance and need to be strengthened and extended, where existent, especially in regard to informal training schemes, keeping in mind that 91.9% of construction enterprises in Europe have less than 10 workers and may hence lack the means and resources for upskilling. Keeping this in mind, EBC is disappointed that the ITRE committee decided to vote against its input on improving skills in the construction sector, including its proposal to prioritise the allocation of part of the European Social Fund to the upskilling of workers in energy efficiency. “I think it is a missed opportunity for construction SMEs. This would have been a great chance to fight the shortage of skills in the sector and to further drive the uptake of energy efficiency renovation in the EU”, expressed Quintieri.

More information on our webpage about energy efficiency legislation