building sector energy efficiency

The European Commission is promoting smart buildings and building sector energy efficiency as part of its recently announced 2030 strategy

The recent adoption of the European Commission’s ‘Clean Energy for All Europeans package, at the end of November 2016, has been greatly publicised and has broadly confirmed the EU’s leading role in the fight against climate change.

This unprecedented initiative – in Europe and worldwide – encompasses various aspects of energy policy, from energy efficiency to renewables, from energy market design to governance. It has, in particular, made clear that energy efficiency should be the main driver towards a sustainable society. Only by ensuring that the potential for energy efficiency is effectively tapped in coming decades will we achieve the ambitious objectives set by the European Union’s energy policy for 2030 and 2050, as well as ensuring that future generations live in a sustainable and safe society.

Building sector energy efficiency has big potential

When it comes to energy efficiency, one of the most promising areas of improvement has been, and remains, the building sector. Figures speak for themselves: Final energy consumption in buildings represents 40% of the total consumption and 36% of total CO2 emissions in the EU. In addition, it is estimated that around 75% of the EU building stock is still energy inefficient. This is a figure which, considering the low rate of renovation (around 1% per year on average), is not likely to improve much in the coming years if no additional action is undertaken.

The good news, however, is that EU energy policies have proven extremely successful in promoting energy efficiency in the building sector. To mention only one example, new dwellings constructed today in the EU consume on average 40% less energy than those newly built 20 years ago, while meeting higher standards of comfort.

Building on this success, and in recognition of untapped energy efficiency potential, the time has now come to show even greater ambition. To address this challenge, the European Commission has proposed substantial enhancements to the EU energy legislative framework. This particularly applies to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), which has been refocused and streamlined in order to foster cost-effective renovation of the EU building stock and to encourage the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and smart technologies in buildings.

Smartness matters

These enhancements have been long studied, assessed and analysed and are the result of intensive, open consultations involving interested stakeholders from the entire EU, with one main objective: Ensuring that building users and energy consumers will reap some benefits.

In this respect, ICT and smart technologies are particularly promising. They can give building users more visibility of their energy consumption and more control on buildings. They can monitor building energy and adapt to varying conditions, ensuring that optimal conditions in terms of comfort and energy efficiency are guaranteed at all times. They allow for the effective participation of buildings in smart energy grids, ensuring an optimal return on investment from buildings’ energy assets. They enable remote monitoring maintenance procedures, which are a lot more cost-effective than periodic in situ inspections.

The list could be further elaborated, but the main point is that building smartness essentially translates into enhanced living conditions, decreased costs of operation and maintenance of buildings, and lower energy bills.

Combined with adequate support for wide-scale renovations, this would be beneficial to all citizens and could, in particular, alleviate energy poverty, which affects a significant number of households in the EU. On these grounds, the European Commission has set a high priority on promoting the deployment of ICT and smart technologies in buildings. In its proposal for amending the EPBD, the European Commission advocates, in particular, for the creation of a Smartness Indicator for buildings. This indicator will provide focused and synthetic information about building readiness for smart monitoring and management. Along with the energy performance certificate of buildings, already available EU-wide, the Smartness Indicator will also ensure that prospective new tenants or buyers can assess the real value of buildings and make the most informed choices.


Sylvain Robert

Directorate-General for Energy

Energy Efficiency Unit – European Commission


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