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The EU plan to increase the energy rating of all buildings could cost up to €1 trillion

The plan is trying to bring most of the buildings in Europe up to an A energy rating by 2050.

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT’S ambitious plan to retrofit all buildings across the continent up to a minimum standard could cost up to €1 trillion, The Journal has learned.

The parliament’s energy performance of buildings directive (EPBD) is working towards upgrading, on a gradual scale, the energy ratings of every building in the European Union to combat the energy use of older buildings. 

Sitting in a carbon-neutral building with triple-glazed windows and LED light fixtures, Dublin MEP and lead negotiator of the directive Ciarán Cuffe told The Journal that the project could cost €1 trillion to retrofit millions of buildings across the EU. 

While it will not be an obligation for all households to upgrade, Cuffe said that the European Union (EU) will ask its 27 member states to prioritise public buildings at first. 

Later, the EU will develop schemes to assist members of the public to upgrade their homes. Cuffe said the directive is trying to “move most of the buildings in Europe up to an A energy rating” by 2050.

The plan has run into resistance in some EU countries, particularly ones with older housing stock like Italy. 

The measure is a part of the EU’s Green Deal which looks to decrease the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere, reaching a carbon neutral status by 2050.

Around one-third of buildings in the EU are over 50 years old, and almost three-quarters of the building stock is energy inefficient. Right now, about 1% of buildings are being retrofitted each year. 

In Ireland, just over 27,000 buildings were retrofitted last year. The government’s National Retrofit Plan aims to have 500,000 homes retrofitted by the end of 2030. 

Asked by The Journal if Ireland’s ‘net contributor’ status in the EU will mean the state will be paying the bill for its upgrades, Cuffe said the status means Ireland has a heavier influence in the division of funds.

img_0308 MEPs Ciaran Cuffe and Grace O'Sullivan talking to journalists in Brussels this week Muiris O'Cearbhaill Muiris O'Cearbhaill

The Green Party’s Cuffe also justified the high price tag of the directive by suggesting it will lead to a boom in the construction industry. 

Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly, who also works on the directive, told journalists in Brussels this week that buildings are the cause 46% of Europe’s emissions, and burn over 40% of fossil fuels. 

The Ireland South MEP labelled the directive as “controversial” due to the cost to retrofit all public, commercial and privately-owned building.

He said the directive is in the final stages, known as trilogue, where the parliament, Commission and Council will work to thrash out their opinions and views to come to an agreement.

Kelly added the facts around the amount of emissions from building are rarely discussed in Ireland which leads to farmers getting the brunt of the blame for the state’s emissions output.

Kelly hinted that this directive could come into law later this year, with the trilogue planned for as early as next month.

Cuffe said: “Hopefully, we will sign off on a greener buildings law. That will really transform people’s lives.”

“We’ve seen a spike in energy poverty over the last winter with the high fuel prices [but]  if we can crack buildings – it’s not easy – but it will mean lower bills and lower emissions in the long run,” he added.

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