The European Union has established clear legislative frameworks to reduce energy demand from buildings. The directives on the Energy Performance of Buildings (EPBD, 2018/844/EU) and on Energy Efficiency (EED, 2018/2002/EU) are being implemented by the EU Member States to this end. Under the EPBD, EU member States have established energy performance certification systems with independent mechanisms for implementing and controlling national pathways towards improving the energy efficiency of buildings.
In this context, Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) are an instrument that contributes to the improvement of the overall buildings’ performance in a transparent and comparable way across Europe. EPCs were first introduced under the EPBD in 2002, and in 2010 the recast EPBD added a set of new requirements to improve the quality, usability and public acceptance of EPCs. Not to be confused with Energy Performance Contracting (which is also commonly abbreviated as EPC), the purpose of an Energy Performance Certificate is to provide information on a building’s energy performance rating and to make recommendations about cost-effective improvements.
Energy certification can also be a means for informing consumers and can influence the building’s property value. This report by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre supports ‘de-risking’ activities by evaluating existing literature about the impact of energy efficiency improvements on the value of property through the impact on operational costs. The contribution of EPCs to so-called green premiums and brown discounts are also analysed.
EPCs may also include information on non-energy parameters, such as comfort. A 2018 report by BPIE puts a spotlight on Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) parameters. It presents national cases and initiatives and provides recommendations on how to integrate IEQ in national and EU policies.
EU Initiatives in support of EPCs
The European Commission supports Concerted Actions that assist Member States to implement EU sustainable energy legislation effectively. The EPBD Concerted Action facilitates the sharing of experiences between national authorities responsible for implementing the EPBD. One of its Core Teams focuses on EPCs, including issues of compliance, use of databases, and training of inspectors. These topics are developed around the idea of feeding into three major pillars linked to EPCs:
- Quality (inputs, outputs, data, methodologies, experts),
- Visibility (awareness, communication, image, perception of EPCs, range, how EPCs call to action, advertising),
- Usability (information, how triggers lead to action, choices made, interoperability).
The EPBD Concerted Action published a report on the status of certification, control systems and quality across the EU’s Member States plus Norway, in 2018. The report discusses the procedural steps to carry out certification and inspections in buildings, as well as measures the countries are taking to ensure the public’s acceptance and awareness of EPCs. Some countries have designed their EPCs to take into account the possibility of carrying out step-by-step renovations to improve energy performance in stages over time. The Concerted Action also publishes factsheets, including one on Member States’ experiences in changing EPC scales and layouts, and another on the EPCs impact on property value.
EU-funded projects studying the use of EPCs
The European Commission funds a number of projects exploring current and future ways to implement certification of buildings’ energy performance. The ENERFUND project developed a tool that rates and scores deep renovation opportunities. The tool is based on a set of parameters including EPCs as well as the number of certified installers, governmental schemes running, etc. This was the subject of a recent webinar hosted by BUILD UP. By providing a rating for deep renovation opportunities, investors can identify customer segments based on their needs, and assess and compare buildings when prioritising deep renovation and deciding on the allocation of funds. A deep renovation opportunity rating can also enable financial institutions to provide targeted loans for building retrofits.
Three more recent projects, funded under the Horizon 2020 Energy efficiency call of 2018, are dealing with the definition of innovative and more comprehensive schemes. The U-CERT project is looking at enhancing the new certification schemes to be more practical, reliable, and clearer for a wide range of users and stakeholders, fostering a wider application by activating EU interest groups and national certifying and standardisation bodies. QualDeEPC will increase the quality and convergence of EPC schemes and accompanying control and verification systems within the EU. The project will also develop a concept for Deep Renovation Network Platforms, providing one-stop-shops for deep renovation linked to EPCs, including administrative, energy advice, financial, and supply-side information to building owners. The X-tendo project aims to support public authorities to transition to next-generation energy performance assessment and certification schemes, including improved compliance, reliability, usability and convergence. A further four projects, selected under the same EPC topic but in Horizon 2020 Energy efficiency call of 2019, are scheduled to start during 2020, and yet more projects will be added following the final 2020 call of Horizon 2020 Energy Efficiency which also includes a topic on EPCs. As such, the European Commission is creating critical mass of projects on Energy Performance Certification that will serve to inform future policymaking as well as improving current implementation of the EPBD.
An interesting approach is pursued by some projects that place EPCs as a means to support energy renovation. In this regard one may refer to the iBROAD project which aims at exploring, designing, developing and demonstrating the concept of individual building renovation roadmaps. This project focuses on an evolution of existing energy audit products and EPCs in order to become a real driver for deep renovations. Building renovation is involves an array of diverse actors such as asset managers, building professionals, manufacturers, public administrations as well as building occupiers. The ALDREN project aims to promote a common language that is understandable by all these actors as a fundamental step towards the effective and large-scale deployment of renovation plans.
The eCENTRAL project, funded under the Interreg programme, addresses poor energy performance of public buildings in central Europe by focusing on financing in these countries. eCentral is supporting key stakeholders to understanding the benefits of a NZEB approach as an optimal and cost-effective solution for the renovation and construction of public buildings. Among the project’s work is an analysis of the penetration of EPCs in central Europe’s construction industry, and a Living EPC Tool aimed at public authorities to help them renovate to the NZEB level.
With the support of these EU-funded projects, Europe’s Member States are implementing and supporting energy efficiency via a combined multilevel set of actions. This is necessary because of the diversity of Europe’s buildings, national legislation, and a varied geographic, climatic, social and technical context. In the pursuit of a building stock that meets Europe’s long-term energy and climate targets, the effective implementation of EPCs is an important element.