Buildings’ energy use: a large and compelling mitigation potential

In the European Union, buildings account for 40 % of the total energy use in the EU and for 36% of EU CO2 emissions, representing Europe’s largest source of GHG emissions.

Therefore, increasing buildings’ energy performance is key to secure the transition to a low-carbon economy and to achieve the EU Climate & Energy objectives.

Among all regions, the EU is the one that can achieve the greatest reduction in energy use (65%) and CO2 emissions (66%) by 2050 compared to 2005 levels despite an increase in floor area (by 27%), population and economic activity. At Least 1 Gt CO2 by 2030 and more than 1.2 Gt CO2 by 2050 can be saved compared to today's carbon emissions. 

The building sector: trends and perspectives  

According to our recent survey Energy efficiency and energy savings: a view from the building sector, energy efficiency efforts in Europe are still mainly focused on new buildings with 57% of European companies surveyed by The Economist Intelligence Unit investing more heavily in energy efficiency for new buildings than in renovation (43%).

As showed in the survey, European building executives also significantly underestimate the benefits and overestimate the costs of low-energy buildings.

European companies are becoming more flexible towards energy efficiency investments, 30% of respondents admit tolerating longer payback periods (over a decade) than in other regions.

The legislative context

The European policy framework for buildings has been evolving since the early 1990s, but did not truly gain momentum until the Directive on Energy Performance of Buildings (EPBD) [Directive 2002/91/EC] was adopted in 2002 to establish a common legal framework for promoting energy efficiency in buildings.

The EPBD was revised in 2010 to set more ambitious goals and to increase implementation rates, and in October 2012, the European Member States acknowledged energy efficiency as a focal point for Europe’s sustainable growth strategy and approved a new piece of legislation also relating to the energy performance of Europe’s building stock (Directive 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency (EED).

Today, the main challenges are ensuring a timely, committed, and efficient implementation of the directive at the Member State level, as well as indentifying and overcome market barriers and political issue. Our recent survey, Energy efficiency and energy savings: a view from the buidling sector, shows that 80% of European respondents view building regulations as beneficial to the building sector. 

Our activities in Europe

Our partner BPIE supports the implementation of the European Union’s Energy Performance in Buildings Directive and the recently adopted Energy Efficiency Directive’s requirements for national - renovation strategies for the existing building stock. Beyond these two Directives, BPIE develops innovative policy proposals and is working closely with stakeholders from policymaking and the private sector.

BPIE worked on the following projects:

  • The EU Data Survey 2013 updated and expanded BPIE’s 2011 survey. The new information enriched the existing Data Portal for the energy performance of buildings and related policies in Europe.
  • The project 'Financing Deep Renovation' allowed the identification, development and promotion of financial solutions that serve to unblock the huge investment potential and untapped business opportunities that exist in the European building stock.
  • BPIE worked with individual Member States to develop national Renovation Strategies. 
  • Country initiatives: BPIE will providedd technical advice to MS governments focusing in particular on Central and East European countries like Romania, Poland and Bulgaria (
  • The Cost Optimality study provided analysis and guidance on how to properly implement the cost-optimality methodology in the EU MS.
  • BPIE was also participating in several EU research and policy implementation projects (FP7 and IEE): EASEE (FP7), Build Up, ENTRANZE, EPISCOPE and COHERENO (IEE).
  • BPIE has been instrumental in creating the EU Building Stock Observatory (Project consortium led by BPIE)

To find out more about the European context, visit BPIE website: and the EU Buildings Stock Observatory

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