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"Need for improvement": Is the Ministry of Construction now stopping the EU obligation to renovate buildings?


Highlights: The trilogue on the controversial Buildings Directive is scheduled to begin next week. Construction Minister Klara Geywitz (SPD) is calling for changes to the long-decided position of the member states. The ministry criticizes the standard for zero-emission buildings – i.e. the EU's long-term goal for the renovation of the entire building stock towards climate neutrality. The Green-led Ministry of Economic Affairs is apparently resisting the aim to create real-life regulations that "do not overwhelm" at the same time.

Minister of Construction Klara Geywitz (SPD) © M. Popow/IMAGO

The trilogue on the controversial Buildings Directive is scheduled to begin next week. Now Construction Minister Klara Geywitz (SPD) is calling for changes to the long-decided position of the member states.

This article is IPPEN. MEDIA in the course of a cooperation with the Europe.Table Professional Briefing – it was first published by Europe.Table on 02 June 2023.

Shortly before the start of the trilogue on the Buildings Directive next Tuesday, the German government does not yet have a coordinated negotiating position. However, Construction Minister Klara Geywitz (SPD) is pushing ahead with the demand to change the mandate compared to the general orientation of the Council in October.

There is a "need for improvement," a spokeswoman said on request. On the one hand, this concerns the minimum requirements for energy performance (MEPS), i.e. the details of the controversial "renovation obligation". In addition, the ministry criticizes the standard for zero-emission buildings – i.e. the EU's long-term goal for the renovation of the entire building stock towards climate neutrality.

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Door opener for hydrogen for heating

"This applies, for example, to the main requirement of primary energy demand. From the point of view of the Federal Government, it would be desirable to open up to other criteria, as it has set itself the goal of aligning the system of requirements more closely with greenhouse gas emissions with the coalition agreement," Geywitz's spokeswoman continued. However, if CO₂ emissions are to become the decisive factor, this can also be seen as a door opener for heating with hydrogen or synthetic methane – after all, 30 to 40 percent of primary energy is lost during production, according to the Oeko-Institut.

In mid-May, the Minister of Construction had completely questioned stricter efficiency targets. If Germany introduces a ban on the installation of fossil heating systems in the short term, a lot has already been achieved for decarbonisation. "I'm not convinced that we have to do everything we can at the same time to make every building as energy-efficient as possible," the FAZ quoted the minister as saying in a speech to real estate managers.

Geywitz thinks about neighbourhood approach

In doing so, the SPD politician went beyond critical statements made a few weeks earlier. A guest article for Die Welt could be interpreted in such a way that it may not want to apply energy standards to individual buildings, as the Commission and Parliament demand, nor to the national building stock, as the Council wants, but to neighbourhoods.


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Brussels Union and FDP politicians had already spoken out in favour of the neighbourhood approach. Several MEPs had introduced a corresponding amendment before the EU Parliament's positioning, including the liberal Andreas Glück, who generally considers the pace of restructuring from the directive to be excessive. "In ten years, 55 percent of Europe's building stock would have to be renovated," says the MEP. "But not only do we have a shortage of skilled workers, it is also difficult to get building materials."

Greens: Neighbourhood approach socially unbalanced

The Parliament's Green rapporteur, Ciarán Cuffe, continues to be a staunch opponent of energy standards at the level of entire neighbourhoods. "I am opposed to the application of a neighbourhood approach to minimum energy performance standards because it would be disastrous for vulnerable households," says the Irish MEP. "This would prevent targeted measures for the buildings with the worst energy standards in a neighbourhood and condemn vulnerable households to energy poverty."

However, the FDP insists on weakening the goals of Parliament and the Commission in the trialogue. "This must be changed if the federal government is to agree," party leader and Finance Minister Christian Lindner recently told Wirtschaftswoche. His credo: "Further increases" in energy requirements are not sustainable. However, the Green-led Ministry of Economic Affairs is apparently resisting entrenching the status quo. The aim is to create real-life regulations that "do not overwhelm anyone" and at the same time ensure climate neutrality, says a spokeswoman.

FDP deputy: Other states should rehabilitate first

The Liberals, on the other hand, are worried that the EU's Buildings Directive could meet requirements that they are laboriously negotiating out of the Building Energy Act for the Greens at the national level. In Berlin, the FDP is pushing for an agreement before the EU elections in mid-2024. Hardly any EU member state wants to carry the dispute over billion-dollar renovations into the election campaign, several liberals are convinced.

The Brussels FDP MP is lucky to have concrete change requests. The Liberal would prefer climate protection in the building sector to be left to ETS 2. In detail, he is bothered by the Commission's approach of not defining efficiency classes uniformly throughout Europe, but of demanding greater renovation efforts from countries with better energy-efficient building stock — and generally wealthier citizens.

Numerous exemptions from the obligation to renovate

Green MEP Cuffe, on the other hand, points to the numerous exceptions provided for in Parliament's position. Even if the classification of efficiency classes at German and European level is not comparable one-to-one, a good half of the residential buildings in Germany already correspond to efficiency class D or better. This means that even according to Parliament's supposedly strict requirements, they would not be affected by stricter restructuring obligations until 2033.

In addition, member states can exempt up to 2036 percent of residential buildings from the renovation obligation by the end of 22. Another exception applies to listed buildings. Cuffe's entourage therefore says: "The minimum standards do not apply to all buildings, but only to a very limited percentage of the existing building." (By Manuel Berkel with Daniel Schmidthäussler)

Source: merkur

All news articles on 2023-06-05

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