BRUSSELS- After lengthy negotiations the European Parliament and EU Member States late last month came to an agreement over new rules regulating energy performance in buildings. Though significantly watered down from the European Commission’s initial legislative proposal, and far from meeting Bellona’s vision, the new directive mandates the installation of at least one charge point in larger, new non-residential buildings. While symbolically important for both consumers and industry, in practical terms, the new directive will have marginal implications for electro-mobility infrastructure roll-out.
Thanks to rapid battery advancements, many studies expect that within the next few years EVs will reach price parity with their conventionally fueled counterparts. In some parts of the world, EVs are already the preferred choice for consumers. In 2017 pure battery-electric- and plug-in hybrid vehicles accounted for 52% of new car sales in Norway, for the first time outpacing fossil vehicles.
Getting this trend replicated Europe-wide will, however, necessitate the ramping up of charging infrastructure to address persisting consumer anxieties regarding range and interoperability.
Buildings are central to satisfying EV user needs. In fact, nearly all (90%) of the electricity charged by an EV during its lifetime actually takes place in buildings: at home overnight or daily at the workplace. This points to the obvious necessity of accordingly pre-equipping the European building stock with EV charging possibilities to render EVs the preferred choice for families and commuters.
The recently revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) provided us with this unique opportunity to ensure the adequate and future-proof pre-equipping of buildings in line with the needs of ever growing numbers of EV users.
Not surprisingly though, the newly proposed ‘electro-mobility’ obligations in the European Commission’s EPBD proposal encountered strong resistance from national governments, concerned about cost implications and potentially negative impacts on renovation incentives.
After turbulent negotiations between the European Parliament and Member States, a tentative agreement was arrived at late last month. Though significantly watered down, the revised EPBD puts in place some minimal requirements for the pre-equipment of commercial and residential buildings in hope of boosting consumer confidence and accelerating the EV market’s growth.
Charge points required in larger new and renovated commercial buildings
For new and renovated non-residential buildings (i.e. shopping malls, commercial centers) with more than 10 parking spaces, the new directive will require the installation of one charge point. Such larger commercial buildings are often more frequented than residential buildings, and provide publicly accessible parking spaces. Ensuring high visibility of installed charging points will be key to raising public awareness and can aid a rapid normalisation of EV transport options. In fact, data from a US department of Energy survey suggests that employees having a charging point installed at work are 20 times more likely to buy an EV.
Regrettably, the new law fails to clarify crucial elements relating to the charge points, namely their ‘smartness’ and compatibility with EU charging connector standards. The ability of charging infrastructure to control the charging process is crucial for integrating high numbers of EVs into the electricity system and contributes to optimising the energy use of buildings, while reducing energy bills for consumers. Charge points’ interoperability, needless to say is key to addressing consumer anxieties.
In addition, the new law will require that at least one in five parking spaces in these commercial buildings be pre-equipped with ducting infrastructure, i.e. a simple plastic tubes that will enable the effortless installation of EV charging points in the future. Pre-tubing offers a promising solution, while its installation cost is minimal when compared to the total cost of constructing or renovating a building.
Larger new and renovated residential buildings to guarantee pre-tubing for EV charge points
In new and renovated residential buildings with more than 10 parking spaces, on the other hand, every parking space should be equipped with ducting infrastructure.
While welcome, one should note that these provisions will have marginal implications in practice. Firstly, only roughly 1% of the EU’s total building stock gets renovated each year. What is more, the new directive allows for a number of exemptions (i.e. building types or circumstances where the new rules would not apply) which act to further narrow down the scope.
One such example is the exemption of SMEs from applying electro-mobility provisions. As per EU definition, SMEs cover enterprises of <250 staff and < EUR 50 m turnover, which means that roughly 99.8% of all enterprises will be rendered exempt from electro-mobility obligations.
What about ‘existing’ buildings?
Electro-mobility provisions are also envisaged for all existing buildings (i.e. those not being renovated), but only as of 2025, and these are left up to Member States to determine and will only apply when a building has more than 20 parking spaces.
In addition, and more immediately, Member States will have to ensure the simplification of permitting and approval procedures for the installation of charge points in all residential and non-residential buildings. Today, long and uncertain approval procedures act as a major barrier for owners and tenants to install charge points in existing multi-tenant residential and commercial buildings. Such ‘right to the plug’ building codes have already been successfully implemented in various EU countries including Spain, France and Portugal.
The directive is now pending final endorsement by both the European Parliament and Council of EU, which is expected in the coming months. It is then expected for the directive to enter into force in 2020.
This happens as EU countries are in the process of implementing the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive, which, among other things, mandates minimum numbers of charge points to be installed in the public domain (urban areas and along highways) and sets uniform European charging plug standards.
Putting in place an EU legislative framework is certainly key to kick-starting the EV market, but it will need to be accompanied by adequate EU funding. The review of the EU multiannual financial framework and upcoming consultations on EU spending will therefore be decisive to ensure sufficient funds are allocated to electro-mobility.
A recent paper coordinated by Bellona on behalf of the Platform for Electro-Mobility suggests how the European Commission and Member States can play a key role in stirring investments towards the deployment of future-proof recharging infrastructure.
 European Commission Recommendation 2003/361/EC, EU definition of SME http://ec.europa.eu/growth/smes/business-friendly-environment/sme-definition_en