Last November, alongside a raft of measures designed to fulfil the EU's plans for Energy Union, the Commission launched a new Observatory to keep track of the characteristics and energy performance of Europe's buildings.
The EU Building Stock Observatory contains a treasure trove of information. It shows that the vast majority of buildings across Europe are used for residential purposes, and that many of them were built before energy performance regulations (which regulate buildings' energy efficiency) started to be put in place in the 1970s. As a result, they are less energy efficient.
However, in a handful of countries – including Cyprus, Spain and Ireland – the energy performance of the building stock is relatively high. This is because here a greater proportion of buildings were constructed after energy performance regulations were introduced. The Observatory also provides detailed information about what makes a building energy efficient.
Moreover, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive states that, when buildings undergo major renovations, they must be upgraded if possible to meet minimum energy performance requirements. While relevant information is not available for all countries, the Observatory shows that major renovations are happening slowly. In Spain, Poland, Italy and Sweden, the proportion of building stock undergoing major renovations each year is below 1%, rising to above 1.5% in Germany, France and Austria.
Overall, buildings account for some 40% of the energy consumed in Europe. In addition to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, the Energy Efficiency Directive also aims to reduce energy consumption in buildings. In November, the Commission published plans to update these Directives.