Becoming the first climate-neutral continent will require a variety of climate-friendly solutions to ensure a cost-effective energy transition, combined with citizens’ engagement and economic competitiveness. Buildings of all kinds (residential, commercial and public) can play a positive role in delivering the objectives of the EU Green Deal whilst reducing Europe’s dependence on energy imports from Russia and tackling the challenge of high energy prices.

The European Commission’s proposal for a new Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) (published in December 2021) aims to accelerate building stock decarbonisation by enhancing energy efficiency, encouraging the increased use of renewable energy, and empowering consumers to produce and consume their own clean distributed energy.

Why it is so important? According to the European Commission, buildings are responsible for approximately 40% of EU energy consumption and 36% of the energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. Heating, cooling and domestic hot water account for 80% of the energy that is consumed by households. In addition, almost 75% of the building stock is classed as being energy inefficient. Buildings are therefore the single largest energy-consuming sector in Europe, and they also present some of the most difficult challenges when it comes to reducing emissions.

Due to the diverse nature of the building stock and climatic conditions in Europe, a one-solution-fits-all approach would be neither feasible nor appropriate. A range of solutions will be needed to supply efficient and increasingly renewable energy and heat to buildings. A comprehensive approach to building renovation consists of targeting and optimising on a case-by-case basis energy demand, direct electrification, district heating, high efficiency combined heat and power (CHP), waste heat, solar thermal, and geothermal.

Ensuring an inclusive and decarbonised transformation of the buildings sector will require a combination of measures that relate to enhancing energy efficiency, increasing the uptake of renewable energy sources (including renewable gases and clean hydrogen), providing a level playing field for all smart and energy efficient technologies and promoting a decentralised approach that fosters 'prosumers' - so households and businesses can produce their own energy. The aim should be to put buildings at the heart of a more integrated, flexible and resilient energy system.

COGEN Europe believes that the new EPBD should also open-up opportunities for the use of high-efficiency cogeneration in efficient district heating systems and micro-cogeneration (micro-CHP), including fuel cells. Cogeneration will be key to meeting the demand for electricity in a cost-effective way1, whilst displacing less efficient and more carbon-intensive methods of power and heat generation. By giving priority to cogeneration, the EU and its member states can ensure that renewable energy sources such as bioenergy and green hydrogen are utilised as efficiently as possible2.

As part of our commitment to make a positive contribution to the ongoing debate on the revision of the EPBD, COGEN Europe has contributed to the European Commission’s public consultation and participated in the European Parliament hearing organised by Seán Kelly MEP.

See our Position Paper on the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD).

1 See the Artelys study 'Towards an efficient, integrated and cost-effective net-zero energy system in 2050 - The role of cogeneration' - commissioned by COGEN Europe.

2 See the example of Stadtwerke Hassfurt in Germany, which is using 100% green hydrogen to generate heat and electricity for households and businesses in the local area.

Published on 7 April 2022

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