Energy Efficiency in Buildings

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30 November 2016, the European Commission presented a package of policy initiatives that impact energy efficiency policies to 2030 (see policy areas and the 2030 policy framework pages). The Commission proposes a binding EU-wide target of 30% for energy efficiency by 2030, emphasising the EU's commitment to put energy efficiency first. The discussions regarding the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive are entering a crucial stage (autumn 2017), and eceee has produced a number of documents related to the EPBD process.

eceee believes EPBD must focus on energy needs

eceee believes that energy efficiency first means that energy needs should be reduced as far as possible in order to avoid wasting energy from any source, including precious renewables. This principle is necessary to secure long-term sustainable building, avoid disappointment by users of nZEB and to save energy, resources, land impact and money. eceee now publishes an updated technical note on the EPBD Annex I, where these issues are defined. Read more.


  • eceee explanatory note on the definition of energy needs (revised 1 December, see subpage).
  • eceee press release 25 September 2017: EPBD must focus on reducing energy needs and avoid double-counting of renewables (pdf).
  • Steering through the maze on the Commission's Winter Package, 11 September 2017. Press release. Maze Guide (pdf).

The Commission proposes changes to the 2010 Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, which is set to be:

  • Smart, by encouraging the use of ICT and modern technologies, including building automation and charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, to ensure buildings operate efficiently;
  • Simple, by streamlining or deleting provisions that have not delivered the expected output;
  • Supportive of building renovation, by strengthening the links between achieving higher renovation rates, funding and energy performance certificates as well as by reinforcing provisions on national long-term building renovation strategies, with a view to decarbonising the building stock by mid-century.

Improving the energy performance of Europe’s buildings is one of the priority areas for energy efficiency policy in the EU. Nearly 40% of final energy consumption is in houses, public and private offices, shops and other buildings. As the Commission’s March 2011 Energy Efficiency Plan stated, “The greatest energy saving potential lies in buildings.” The Plan further states: “A large energy saving potential remains untapped. Techniques exist to cut existing buildings' consumption by half or three quarters and to halve the energy consumption of typical appliances. But the renovation rate of buildings is too low, as is the uptake of the most efficient appliances. The barriers to energy efficiency buildings need to be overcome. The Commission invites Member States to establish promotion systems for private sector buildings.”


Public consultation on EPBD revision

  • See eceee’s response on the public consultation on the evaluation of the EPBD (pdf of online questionnaire).
  • eceee memo on NZEB definitions submitted to the Commission (EPBD consultation, review, possible revision and NZEB: a methodological discussion and proposals by eceee).
  • Final synthesis report of the EPBD public consultation (by Ecofys on behalf of the Commission).


The principle approach taken is through the EU setting a legislative framework that is implemented at the Member State level. In 2002 the first Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (2002/91/EC) was approved (even though there were earlier attempts that were less comprehensive). After several years of implementation, on 19 May 2010, a recast of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (Directive 2010/31/EU) was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union in order to strengthen the energy performance requirements and to clarify and streamline some of the provisions from the 2002 Directive. The new Directive confirmed the importance of effective implementation at the Member State level, the importance of Community-wide co-operation and the strong long-term commitment and role of the Commission itself to support such effective implementation.

Under this Directive, Member States must establish and apply minimum energy performance requirements for new and existing buildings, ensure the certification of building energy performance and require the regular inspection of boilers and air conditioning systems in buildings. Moreover, the Directive requires Member States to ensure that by 2021 all new buildings are so-called 'nearly zero-energy buildings'. It also introduced the concept of cost optimality, requesting that Member States ensure that minimum energy performance requirements for buildings are set “with a view to achieving cost-optimal levels”. The cost optimum level shall be calculated in accordance with a comparative methodology. The calculation methodology was provided by the Commission. More information is available on the cost optimality page.

The Directive also expresses the importance of providing appropriate financing and other instruments to catalyse the energy performance of buildings and the transition to nearly zero- energy buildings and required Member States to draw up a list of existing and, if appropriate, proposed measures and instruments including those of a financial nature, other than those required by this Directive, which promote the objectives of this Directive. On 18 April 2013, the Commission published a report on financial support for energy efficiency in buildings stressing that the EU needs to improve the financial support in this sector if it wants to meet its 2020 and 2050 targets.

The energy performance of buildings was also supported by elements of the Energy Efficiency Directive that promoted the renovation of public buildings and the development of long-term renovations strategies. Information on the EED is available on the dedicated eceee page.

    Download the official recast of the Directive approved 19 May 2010 (pdf).

    Major Highlights of the Recast Directive include:

    • As of 31 December 2020 all new buildings in the EU will have to consume 'nearly zero' energy and the energy will be 'to a very large extent' from renewable sources.
    • Public authorities that own or occupy a new building should set an example by building, buying or renting such 'nearly zero energy building' as of 31 December 2018.
    • The definition of very low energy building was agreed to: "nearly zero energy building means a building that has a very high energy performance, determined in accordance with Annex I of the Directive. The nearly zero or very low amount of energy required should to a very significant level be covered by energy from renewable source, including renewable energy produced on-site or nearby".
    • There is no specific target be set for the renovation of existing building, but Member States shall following the leading example of the public sector by developing policies and take measures such as targets in order to stimulate the transformation of buildings that are refurbished into very low energy buildings, and inform the Commission thereof in their national plans referred to in paragraph 1.
    • The 1000m2 threshold for major renovation from the 2002 Directive has been deleted.
    • Minimum requirements for components are introduced for all replacements and renovations, although for major renovations, the holistic calculation methodology is the preferred method with performance calculations based on component requirements allowed as a complement or alternatively.
    • A harmonised calculation methodology to push-up MS minimum energy performance requirements towards a cost-optimal level is set out in the Directive in a definition and an annex. See separate eceee page on cost optimality.
    • A more detailed and rigorous procedure for issuing energy performance certificates will be required in MS.
    • Control systems will be required by MS to check the correctness of performance certification.
    • MS will be required to introduce penalties for non-compliance. Member States shall lay down the rules on penalties applicable to infringements of the national provisions adopted pursuant to this Directive and shall take all measures necessary to ensure that they are implemented. The penalties provided for must be effective, proportionate and dissuasive. Member States shall communicate those provisions to the Commission.
    • The Commission shall evaluate the Directive by 1 January 2017 at the latest, in the light of the experience gained and progress made during its application, and, if necessary, make proposals.

    Back to the FAQs on the EPBD start page.

    eceee resources

    • eceee’s response on the public consultation on the evaluation of the EPBD (Oct 2015).
    • eceee memo on NZEB definitions submitted to the Commission (Dec 2015).
    • Steering through the Maze #2 (revised) - Understanding (the very European concept of) Nearly Zero-Energy Buildings (11 April 2014) (pdf).
    • Steering through the Maze #4 - Capturing the collective knowledge base on building retrofit (6 May 2011) (pdf).
    • Steering through the Maze #1 - The recast of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). (Updated 9 March 2010) (pdf).

      EU documents

      eceee columns

      Fiona Hall: Buildings are key to meeting our targets
      Rod Janssen: Delivering Energy Efficiency
      Rod Janssen: To the point: The EPBD countdown
      Rod Janssen: (Interview in BUILD UP) Leadership for Energy Efficiency

      Other links