European choices (4) Zero energy

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Directive 2010/31/EU on the energy performance of buildings requires that by 31 December 2020 all new buildings are nearly zero-energy buildings, and also mandates that condition for buildings owned and occupied by public authorities by 31 December 2018.

According to the Directive, a near zero energy building “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 the precise, quantified definition (a central matter in such a Directive) is left to each state.

According to the COM/2013/0483final report (covering just some of the states), first in a series of triennial reports on the implementation of the Directive, most of the states have made progress, but only Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark and Lithuania have presented a definition with a quantified goal and a percentage of renewable energies. On the other side, the Netherlands, Denmark, France, Germany and the UK have some rules that go beyond. The numerical definitions oscillate from 0 to 220 kWh/sq m/year, so the report asks whether the goal of the Directive is really that.

The Directive mandates an intermediate goal for new buildings in 2015. So far 15 states have met that mandate, but with diverging measures.

So we have here a policy about climate change (controversial for some) but also about energy independence (will Poles or Baltics be more eager to implement that Directive than, say, Irish, after the Ukraine crisis?). And it is also an urban planning policy, as the buildings add up the energy demand of cities, and renewables are regulated in city planning.

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