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Brussels proposes energy efficiency requirements for renting or selling homes in the EU

Brussels is proposing plans to prohibit owners from renting or selling homes that are not energy-efficient enough, which could exclude many homes from the market unless owners invest in energy performance improvements like insulation.

The revision of the EU’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), published today as part of the EU’s ‘Fit for 55’ plan for a European Green Deal, proposes that all residential buildings must have an energy certificate of at least F by 2030. The Spanish press also reports that homes will require an E rating by 2033, though I found no mention of that in the European Commission’s press release today. 

According to the new rules being proposed, all homes will need an Energy Performance Certificate with the correct rating by 2030 to be rented or sold, which must be stated in all advertisements. That means that homes that don’t make the grade will be excluded from the market.

Commenting on today’s proposals, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans said: “Stimulating renovation of homes and other buildings supports economic recovery and creates new job opportunities. Moreover, energy renovation leads to lower energy bills, and in the end the investment pays for itself.” 

The Commission is proposing that, by 2030, all new buildings “must consume little energy, be powered by renewables as far as possible, emit no on-site carbon emissions from fossil fuels and must indicate their global warming potential based on their whole-life cycle emissions on their Energy Performance Certificate.” If I understand that correctly, “emit no on-site carbon emissions from fossil fuels” means no gas or oil-powered boilers. 

Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, said: “Buildings are the single largest energy consumer in Europe, using 40% of our energy, and creating 36% of our greenhouse gas emissions. That is because most buildings in the EU are not energy efficient and are still mostly powered by fossil fuels. We need to do something about this urgently, as over 85% of today’s buildings will still be standing in 2050, when Europe must be climate neutral.”

Fortunately Spain is rich in renewables like wind and sunshine, but the investment in bringing homes up to standard is likely to be considerable in many cases, especially old homes and those in rural areas, will have an energy rating of F or G, and so could be excluded from the market by 2033. 

EU Energy Performance Certificate in Spain rules
Many older Spanish homes will need a considerable investment to make the grade

Timmermans said that there will be “financial support for the necessary upfront investment,” of upgrading the energy efficiency of residential homes in the EU, but the devil will be in the details. What I can say for sure is that buyers need to start paying more attention to the rating on EU Energy Performance Certificates when buying a home in Spain, as in a few years time expensive upgrades in home energy efficiency might be necessary to rent or sell the least efficient homes.

17th December update

Since the European Commission first announced its proposals in a press release published at Europa.eu on the 15th of December (upon which the article above is based), there appear have been some changes made to the proposal, and the Commission’s position on excluding the least efficient homes from the market.

Unless I am much mistaken, the original press release has been edited to remove all talk of minimum performance grades required to rent or sell homes in the EU. And in a subsequent press conference Timmermans has clarified that “Brussels will not tell anyone they cannot sell their home if they don’t renovate, and no ‘Brussels bureaucrat’ is going to confiscate your home if it is not renovated,” obviously responding to a backlash in member states towards the idea of Brussels using Energy Performance Certificates to limit private property rights. “The cultural heritage is protected, and second homes could be excluded, our proposal does not contain any prohibition of the sale or rental of buildings with the letter G, in other words, the 15% of buildings identified as having the worst energy efficiency in each country.”

At least I think that’s what he said, because in the English press release his comments are inexplicably written in Italian, which I had to do my best to translate to English. In the latest press release the timeframe for getting rid of on-site fossil-fuel heating and cooling appears to have been extended from 2030 to 2040. The whole thing is very odd, but it appears that the Commission has rowed back from its original plans to restrict private property rights based on energy efficiency ratings, probably in response to an outcry in the press of member states. Even so, my advice still stands. Buyers should pay more attention to energy certificates when purchasing property in Spain as Brussels clearly has low efficiency buildings in its sights.

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