Originally published on EURACTIV on Monday 6th December 2021.

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) have immense, as-yet untapped potential to help Europe decarbonise. But the methodology that underpins them must be revamped first, argues Adrian Joyce, who is calling for reform as part of the upcoming revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD).

Adrian Joyce is the director of the Renovate Europe Campaign.

The European Green Deal has achievable, necessary goals that aim to curb greenhouse gases, boost the number of green jobs and preserve economic growth. But some of the Green Deal’s benchmarks and – admittedly admirable – policies rely on assumptions and datasets that are too often based on diverse and sometimes divergent methodologies.

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) fall into this category.  EPCs can be instrumental in gathering the accurate, up-to-date numbers and metrics so desperately needed for the decarbonisation of our buildings.

With more and better data, public authorities will be better placed to track their progress on set targets, plan future renovation strategies based on identified gaps, and develop the needed social support schemes for those in need.

Homeowners and businesses will also be rewarded with a clearer picture of what needs to be done to future-proof their building to climate-neutral standards.

But for this to happen, the EPC framework must be seriously updated and improved with the EPBD review at the end of this year.

United in diversity

Conceived initially as a market instrument to influence building owners and occupiers’ purchase and leasing decisions, these colourful documents can do so much more if they are designed correctly and include the right set of data.

The current EPC framework, set up to give maximum flexibility to the Member States, has resulted in a huge diversity of national methodologies, how the gathered information is presented, and the cost to building owners across the 27 Member States.

The revision of the EPBD is the opportunity to get the EPC methodology right. The European Commission must ensure a better convergence of national methods, otherwise, the patchwork of energy performance we currently see will only worsen.

This will significantly boost the role and potential of EPCs not only as an information tool for building occupiers but also as an instrument to link preferential financing conditions to quality renovations.

Better, more reliable data will help bring the financial sector on board. A higher energy grade equates to lower energy bills and, as a result, a better risk rating. Banks should be encouraged to require EPCs during mortgage applications, a practice that already happens but which could be deployed by more lenders.

Real data for our buildings

Instead of relying on assessments that often use outdated data, certificates should always be produced via on-site visits. Issuing an EPC by drawing on real-world performance data and behaviours is the only way accurate recommendations for future energy-saving gains can be produced.

Technological advances also mean installing sensors in buildings to feed readings back to central databases. This improves the quality of the data used, it builds trust among building owners that certificates accurately reflect renovation works carried out.

Finally, each EPC must present a full renovation pathway for each building to achieve its full energy performance potential by 2050. Linking each EPC to the more complete Building Renovation Passport and Digital Building Logbooks will help in that respect.

Well-designed EPCs, nestled in a robust regulatory framework, can unlock our buildings’ untapped potential and support our way to a climate-neutral future.

Aiming for an EPC for every building by 2030 and mandating it after every energy renovation can help us reach this goal.

EPCs are a powerful tool, the potential of which is currently underused and undervalued. This must change. Now is the chance to set the EPC right in the upcoming EPBD proposal. It is a prerequisite if the EU is to meet its 2050 goals.