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Buildings are central to the EU's energy efficiency policy, as nearly 40% of final energy consumption and 36% of greenhouse gas emissions is in houses, offices, shops and other buildings. Improving the energy performance of Europe's building stock is crucial, not only to achieve the EU's 2020 targets but also to meet the longer term objectives of our climate strategy as laid down in the low carbon economy roadmap 2050.
Directive 2010/31/EU on the energy performance of buildings (hereafter called the 'EPBD') is the main legislative instrument at EU level for improving the energy efficiency of European buildings. A key element of the EPBD, especially for achieving these longer term objectives, is its requirements regarding Nearly Zero-Energy Buildings (hereafter called 'NZEBs').
This first report is largely based on the information contained in the national plans for NZEBs submitted by 8 Member States (BE, DK, CY, FI, LT, NL, SE and UK) as of the end of November 2012. In the meantime, six other Member States (BG, DE, FR, HU, IE and SK) have sent in their plans but these have not been taken into account in the analysis. In addition, for the Member States that did not provide an official national plan, information on their progress was drawn from their second National Energy Efficiency Action Plans (NEEAPs), where such information was available. Thirteen of the second NEEAPs (BG, EE, FI, FR, HU, IE, IT, LU, MT, PL, ES, NL and UK) refer to the NZEB objectives. This report also draws on information contained in National Renewable Energy Action Plans (NREAPs) and a specific study on NZEBs.
As a general observation it has to be noted that the national plans vary substantially as regards presentation and content. This reflects different levels of development of national policies for NZEBs, as well as the lack of a template for the plans. Nevertheless, the national plans all contain considerably more information than what was included in the second NEEAPs.
Application of the NZEB definition in practice
According to Article 2(2) of the EPBD an NZEB “means a building that has a very high energy performance, as determined in accordance with Annex I. The nearly zero or very low amount of energy required should be covered to a very significant extent by energy from renewable sources, including energy from renewable sources produced on-site or nearby;”
So while the EPBD sets the framework for the definition of NZEBs, the final detailed application in practice of that definition (e.g. what is a "very high energy performance") is the responsibility of the Member States.
An analysis of the available information (see annex 1 for a more detailed overview) shows that, although most Member States report progress in defining NZEBs, only 4 Member States (BE, CY, DK and LT) provided a definition that comprises both a numerical target and a share of renewable energy sources. In other Member States the work on the definition has reached different stages of development (see graph on pdf document: ¨Figure 1: Status of development of the NZEB definition in Member States¨).
A few Member States mentioned objectives that go beyond NZEB requirements, including zero energy buildings in the Netherlands, positive energy buildings in Denmark and France, climate neutral new buildings in Germany and the zero carbon standards in the UK.
Where a numerical indicator is set, the requirements range rather widely from 0 kWh/m2/y to 220 kWh/m2/y. It may be questioned whether the higher levels of energy consumption are compatible with the definition of NZEBs as given by the EPBD.
As regards the share of renewable energy the reporting is equally diverse, with only a few countries defining a specific minimum percentage (BE, CY, DK and LT). Other Member States make only qualitative statements (BE, DE, EL, IE, LT, NL, SE and UK). Finally, a few Member States (EE, NL) state that the renewable energy share will be defined once the national definition on NZEBs has been further developed (see also section 4.1).
No Member State has yet reported any 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, as permitted under Article 9(6) of the EPBD.
Footnotes referenced above:
 In 2010. See "Energy, transport and environment indicators, 2012 edition", European Commission. For the purpose of this estimate the final energy consumption for the household and services sectors has been combined. It has to be noted that this includes, for example, electricity consumption for appliances but excludes energy consumption in industrial buildings.
 COM (2011) 112
 OJ L153 of 18.6.2010, p.13
 The NREAPs are an obligation under Directive 2009/28/EC and can be found on http://ec.europa.eu/energy/renewables/action_plan_en.htm
 Towards nearly zero-energy buildings - Definition of common principles under the EPBD. Ecofys, January 2013
For the full document in all languages and formats COM (2013) 483 final of 28 June 2013.
Source: buildup.eu. October 9, 2013.
For the original article please click here.