Nearly Zero Energy Buildings
In 2010, the recast of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive [Directive 2010/31/EU] introduced the concept of and obligation for nearly zero energy buildings (nZEB ), particularly for new buildings. Essentially, the Directive sets out a general framework and gives considerable latitude to Member States to define it. Therefore, nZEB is a very flexible policy requirement with no single, harmonised nZEB definition throughout the EU. Some of the expressions are intentionally vague and it is left to the Member States in their national plans to give some rigour to the definition within the context of their own national efforts.
Article 2 of 2010 EPBD recast described nearly zero energy buildings as buildings that have a very high energy performance with the nearly zero or very low energy use, required to a very significant extent to be covered by energy from renewable sources including from renewable energy produced onsite and nearby.
Article 9 in the Directive states that Member States shall ensure that (a) by 31 December 2020, all new buildings are nearly zero-energy buildings; and (b) after 31 December 2018, new buildings occupied and owned by public authorities are nearly zero-energy buildings.
In June 2014, MS will publish their third National Energy Efficiency Action Plans (NEEAPs) that should give a better indication on what progress has been made and if there will be any problems in meeting the 2019 and 2021 deadlines.
By the end of June 2014 the Commission will assess whether the EU’s 2020 target is likely to be met (Article 3.2). If the Commission concludes that this is not the case, it will make further proposals to ensure the gap is closed (Article 24.7) and this could have an impact on the implementation of nZEBs.
‘Member States shall draw up national plans for increasing the number of nearly zero-energy buildings. These national plans may include targets differentiated according to the category of building.’ The national plans should include a practical application of what nZEB is supposed to consist in:
- a numerical indicator in primary energy expressed in kWh/m2/year;
- intermediate targets for 2015; and
- policy, financial and any other type of measures that will support the implementation of nZEB and including national measures and requirements concerning the use of RES in new and existing buildings undergoing major renovation.
These plans were due to be reviewed by the Commission by the end of 2012. By the time the Commission prepared its report, only eight MS had responded. To date, now 16 MS have provided their plans.
Following initial work undertaken by the Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE), in 2012, a consortium led by the consulting company Ecofys undertook a study for the Commission to provide more guidance to Member States and the Commission regarding the implementation of the requirements for nearly zero-energy buildings under the EPBD. The study built on the initial work undertaken by the BPIE. The study, finalised early in 2013, developed an analytical framework for evaluation the national plans (including a reporting template), identified benchmarks and investigated the convergence between cost optimal levels and nearly zero-energy buildings. The report’s objectives are:
- Give guidance to the MSs on how to interpret the requirements for nearly zero energy buildings as stated in article 2.2 of the recast;
- Develop a common reporting format on nearly zero energy buildings to be used by MS and evaluate the adequacy of measures and activities reported by MS in their national plans on nearly zero energy buildings; and
- Link cost optimality and the nearly zero energy buildings principle in a consistent way and facilitate their convergence until 2021.
Member states have been slow to respond and to date only 16 have sent their plans to the Commission.
The timeline for all reporting is as follows:
The Commission’s progress report provides its findings on the progress, even though very few MS had submitted plans. The Commission used some other sources to supplement what was submitted. The main findings are:
- National plans varied substantially reflecting different levels of development of national policies;
- A few MS mentioned objectives beyond nZEB requirements, including zero energy buildings in the Netherlands, positive energy buildings in Denmark and France, climate neutral new buildings in Germany and zero carbon standards in the UK;
- Where there were numerical indicators, they ranged from 0 kWh/m2 to 220 kWh/m2;
- Only a few MS defined minimum requirements for renewable energy;
- No MS reported legislative regime for not applying the nZEB requirements in specific and justifiable cases where the cost benefit analysis over the economic life cycle of the building in question is negative
- Only 15 of 27 MS had intermediary goals;
- Only 3 MS set intermediate goals for refurbishment; and
- MS reported a wide range of policies and measures to support nZEB as shown in the following graph.
Figure: Main policies and measures in support of nZEBs in Member States
 Source: REPORT FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL Progress by Member States towards Nearly Zero-Energy Buildings, COM(2013) 483 final/2