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MEPs back new measures towards 'near zero-energy buildings'

Proposed new EU legislation backed by MEPs earlier this week highlight "the importance of energy efficiency improvements in the efforts to decarbonise our economy", a specialist in commercial contracts in the energy market has said.

Lindsay Edwards of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said the plans to modernise the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive have the potential to "boost the market for energy efficiency improvements", provided the new laws are "implemented robustly" across EU member states.

The market for energy efficiency improvements is "currently lagging behind other efforts to decarbonise, such as the integration of renewable energy and the development of electric vehicles", she said

Edwards was commenting after the European Parliament voted to endorse a new the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. MEPs and representatives from the EU's other official law-making body, the Council of Ministers, previously reached political agreement over the nature of the reforms. For the new Directive to be finalised, the Council must also formally vote in favour of the text.

The proposed new Directive's measures are aimed at reducing emissions in the EU by 80-85% compared to 1990 levels, according to the European Parliament, and envisage the renovation of existing buildings with energy-efficiency measures, and the installation of energy-efficient measures into new buildings being constructed.

The European Parliament said that the new Directive, if finalised as currently drafted, would require governments across the EU to "prepare national long-term strategies to support the renovation of buildings".

"The national strategies will provide roadmaps to a highly decarbonised national building stock by 2050, with indicative milestones for 2030 and 2040, and measurable progress indicators will have to be put in place to monitor the implementation of the national strategies," it said.

Further measures would require at least one recharging point for electric vehicles to be installed in buildings with more than ten parking spaces, and for "cabling infrastructure" to support that recharging also to be installed.

The rules also provide for greater use of automation in regulating the temperature of buildings.

"New buildings and existing ones, where heat generators are replaced, must have automated devices to regulate temperature levels, while rules on inspection of heating and air conditioning systems and building automation were tightened up," the European Parliament said.

According to MEPs, three quarters of buildings across the EU are "energy-inefficient", and 40% of all the energy consumed in the EU is used for heating and cooling buildings.

The existing the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive requires all new buildings to be near zero-energy buildings from 2021 onwards. That requirement would continue to apply under the new Directive planned.

The term 'nearly zero-energy building’ is defined under the existing Directive. It refers to a building that "has a very high energy performance".

The energy performance of a building is assessed, for the purposes of EU law, by taking into account its thermal characteristics, as well as other factors such as heating and air-conditioning installations, application of energy from renewable sources, passive heating and cooling elements, shading, indoor air-quality, adequate natural light and the design of the building.

A system of certification already exists which serves to denote the energy performance of individual buildings.

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