Irish Building Exclusive Interview: Rod Janssen, consultant to the European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy talks about the Recast EPBD, low energy buildings and the need for strong leadership on energy efficiency


What was eceee’s involvement in the EPBD and the Recast EPBD?

Firstly, eceee closely followed the approval process of the EPBD through the European Parliament and Council and its subsequent implementation. It was heavily involved in the Recast EPBD—providing briefings and updates on technical issues to members and the wider energy efficiency community via the eceee website. This increased involvement in the Recast saw eceee helping out in the negotiation and approval process. For example, no formal definition of deep renovation existed so, the eceee commissioned ECOFYS todefine deep retrofit. And at the eceee summer study peer-reviewed papers on energy efficiency are presented and discussed in panel sessions. At the 2009 summer study the issue of cost optimality was clarified—one participant commented ‘now I understand, clearly how to apply the principle of cost optimality’.


Within the Recast EPBD there are no binding targets, how does this affect EU Member States?

On DG Energy’s websiteenergy efficiency targets for 2020 are listed for each member state. If a member state estimates that it will meet this target then there is no pressure on local governments to be more ambitious than building codes or the targets set out by central government.eceee was particularly concerned that no specific targets were set for existing buildings, which represent the bulk of the building stock and the potential energy savings for this sector. However, the Recast EPBD was implemented when Europe was in the middle of an economic crisis. Put simply there were no resources in member states. Deep retrofit—factor 4 or 5—can be complex and very costly. Even if it is cost effective over life cycle analysis, upfront capital is still required to fund the works. Financing retrofit works and nearly zero energy design is major challenge.

Under the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), a public buildings renovation target of 15 % (3 % per annum) was outlined. The directive further states that member states should start with least energy efficient buildings. However, most member states do not have an inventory of public building stock—so how can they target the worst performing stock?

How can the low energy building market be stimulated?

There is little new construction in Europe as member states are still going through economic upheaval, so it is difficult to say how we can stimulate the market, let alone encourage low energy design. The building inventory in Europe is increasing by approximately 1 % per annum; in London this is approximately 0.5 % per annum.

The introduction of cost optimality and nearly zero energy buildings in the Recast EPBD forms the building blocks for future low energy design. Local governments and actors need to take a more holistic viewbecause boosting the low energy building market will create thousands of jobs—money saved on fuel bills can be spent elsewhere in the economy, creating a resilient local economy. Energy efficient buildings are key to solving the economic crisis.

What is needed at a European level to ensure an increase in the low energy building market?

Transparency and strong leadership from the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council is needed. But, things are set to change because a new Commissioner for Energy will come into office in 2014. The energy efficiency community are following the implementation of the Recast EPBD and the EED. It is fundamental that these directives be implemented with commitment and effectiveness. In years gone by this it was left to concerted action—which is a necessary and invaluable resource—but it is not enough. There is too much vested interest—an independent voice is needed. The Coalition for Energy Savings, for example, are a body of industry associations and NGOs who put pressure on the Commission and raise awareness about implementation of directives.

At a local level in domestic and non-domestic retrofit, there is scope for an expert energy advisor—who is knowledgeable on European and national legislation, and energy efficiency—to de-mystify retrofit and ensure that upon refurbishing we do not lock in problems for the future. Retrofit is a big investment for an individual or commercial entity. However, the technical solutions offered are often complex. A building owner needs to know how long a project will take, what disruptions will occur, if it can be done step-by-step and what alternatives are available. Trade organisations and NGOs advocate a one-time deep retrofit but the reality is that building owners often cannot afford this upfront investment.

How can we ensure a more coordinated approach?

National energy agencies have an important role to play—for example, SEAI (Ireland) and ADEME (France)—to raise awareness about retrofit. These agencies have the expertise to ensure collaborative work with the financial community and the building professional community, especially on innovative financial mechanisms. The future is uncertain, we do not know if a nearly zero energy hospital will be more expensive to build than an ordinary hospital in 2019?

At a local level, local government, local authorities and energy agencies need to learn how to bundle money. For example, using resources from energy efficiency obligations together with government funding, loans from financial institutes and private savings.

In conversation with Sadhbh Ní Hógáin (PRACSIS)