From 2018 onwards, new buildings must cover their own energy requirements

Since 2002, the "Directive on the Energy Performance of Buildings" (2002/91/EC), which is applicable throughout Europe, has been the basis of national legislation in the EU. Now, the European Parliament has ratified a new version of the directive. According to this new version, EU member states must ensure by 31 December 2018 that all newly constructed buildings generate as much energy as they consume – for example by means of solar collectors or heat pumps. Even now, the member states are to develop national plans for increasing the number of "net zero-energy buildings". In addition, according to the will of the European Parliament, governments are to specify how high the proportion of zero-energy houses among existing buildings is to be for the years 2015 to 2020. In this context, public institutions are to take the lead in implementing the changes.

Provisional buildings with a useful life of up to 18 months as well as religious institutions and buildings that are valuable historically or architecturally and for which renovation to improve their energy balance would constitute an "unacceptable change" are not affected by the new energy efficiency regulations.

Until the middle of 2011, the EU member states have time to present national plans for implementing the directive. According to the EU Parliament, the primary aim is to remove legal obstacles and market barriers and to introduce new tax-related and financial instruments. One proposal for example is to reduce value added tax on goods and services that are purchased for energy saving purposes.

On top of all this, the European Parliament has asked the European Commission to create a shared method of calculating the overall energy efficiency of buildings. This is to be done by 31 March 2010.

The EU hopes that the amendment to the directive will result in overall energy consumption being reduced by 5 to 6% and CO2 emissions being lowered by 5% by the year 2020. There are also economic reasons for this: throughout the EU, the electricity prices for consumers have risen by 15%, heating oil prices by 21% and natural gas prices by 28% in the past two years

Shortly before the European elections, the European Parliament decided on the direction that building is to take in the future in Europe. Accordingly, all new buildings in the EU from 2018 onwards are to cover their own energy requirements. Moreover, a method of calculating the overall energy efficiency of buildings is to be developed by March 2010 and is to be uniform throughout Europe.
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