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EU energy efficiency plan targets public buildings

(09 Mar 11) Public authorities could be required to refurbish at least 3% of their buildings by floor area every year. The European Commission proposed this in its long-awaited European energy efficiency plan, presented Tuesday in Strasbourg.

The plan sets out a range of measures to increase the pace of energy efficiency improvements. More effort is required because Europe is not on track to meet its objective of a 20% improvement by 2020, the commission warns.

Public sector bodies should play an “exemplary role”, the commission believes. The 3% annual refurbishment target has even been increased by a percentage point from the level in a draft of the plan leaked in February.

Each refurbishment should bring the building up to the level of the best 10% of the national building stock, according to the plan. When public bodies rent or buy existing buildings, these should always be in the best available energy performance class.

However, the final plan no longer contains a provision requiring the EU executive to bring its own buildings up to the highest energy efficiency standard by 2015. The commission says it deleted this to avoid overlap since its buildings are also public buildings, mostly rented from Belgium. But Green groups pointed out the requirement would have been more stringent than that for public buildings.

The Council for European Municipalities and Regions said the new requirements could be challenging at a time when public authorities are financially constrained. They said a proper cost analysis of the extra burden at the local and regional level has to be conducted, and more financial support should be considered.

The plan confirms the commission’s intention to propose a requirement for member states to adopt national "white certificate" schemes. Energy suppliers would have to meet savings targets and would be issued tradable certificates for each unit of energy saved. The plan points to several successful schemes in countries such as France and Italy.

But the plan does not call for the EU's 20% energy efficiency by 2020 goal to be made binding, as called for by NGOs and businesses. EU leaders have rejected calls for binding targets. But the plan threatens that mandatory national targets may be proposed in 2013 if the voluntary approach has not worked.

The EU's low-carbon roadmap to 2050, also issued on Tuesday, says the EU is unlikely to meet its emission reduction goals without meeting the 20% by 2020 efficiency target. But member states are not on track to meet this goal. At the current rate the EU will only improve its energy efficiency by 9% by 2020.

The commission will also consider requiring power plants to have put in place a certain level of best available technology (BAT) before authorisation for new capacity can be granted by member states. Power plants would have to upgrade BAT levels as part of their permit updates as well.

Read more:

eceee on the Energy Efficiency Plan 2011: “New concrete measures needed to meet the 2020 savings target”

Follow-up: European Commission press release, memo and energy efficiency plan. See also reaction from EEB, European Aluminium Association, the Greens and building efficiency association EuroACE.

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