All new homes, shops and offices built in the European Union could have to meet tough "zero carbon" building standards from 2019 after the European Parliament voted to strengthen rules designed to ensure buildings generate renewable energy onsite.
The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of proposals to strengthen the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, which would require all new buildings to produce the same amount of energy they consume.
The proposals, which echo similar zero carbon building targets pioneered in the UK, would also set a tighter 2016 deadline for compliance with the rules for public buildings, and impose new energy efficiency standards for all major building renovation projects.
Speaking to BusinessGreen.com, Arianna Vitali Roscini, policy officer for energy conservation in buildings at WWF, explained that the rules would not force buildings to go off grid, but would require them to generate as much energy as they consume overall, taking energy from the grid at peak times, but feeding energy back from on-site generation technologies at other times.
The proposals also set out the principle that the buildings should generate the energy they need to comply with the rules on site using technologies such as solar panels, micro wind turbines and biomass systems.
However, Vitali Roscini said that the final version of the legislation was likely to be watered down and, as with the proposed UK rules, building firms could ultimately be allowed to comply by funding local renewable energy projects.
"We are expecting big opposition from some of the member states when this goes before the European Council later in the year," she admitted. "I would expect it to be watered down, but what is encouraging is that the principle is there and there is an acceptance that the technology and knowledge are out there to deliver genuinely zero carbon buildings."
She added that there was also optimism that the new rules could be fast-tracked, after the Swedish government said it was keen to see the revised directive finalised and adopted during its six-month occupation of the European Presidency later this year.
In related news, the European Parliament announced yesterday that it would set new targets to cut the institutions carbon footprint 30 per cent by 2020.
The target was adopted by MEPs as the Parliament released a new study detailing how it could cut emissions through improved building energy efficiency, greater purchasing of renewable power and wider use of carbon offsets for unavoidable travel.
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