EU directives are prepared by the European Commission. EU directives lay down certain end results that must be achieved in every Member State. National authorities have to adapt their laws to meet these goals, but are free to decide how to do so. Directives may concern one or more Member States, or all of them. The directives have to be approved by both the European the European parliament and the The European Council. The main forms of EU law are directives and regulations. Standards are not legal documents unless they are referred in the directives, regulations or decisions or in national legislation.
The European Commission
The European Commission (EC or Commission) is responsible for drawing up proposals for new European legislation, which it presents to Parliament and the Council.The European Commission is organized into 20 departments (Directorate General - DG). Each department in the commission is lead by the Commissioner appointed by member states with help of permanent staff lead by Director-General.
The term ‘Commission’ is used in two senses. First, it refers to the team of men and women – one from each EU country – appointed to run the institution and take its decisions. Secondly, the term ‘Commission’ refers to the institution itself and to its staff.
The day-to-day running of the Commission is done by its administrative officials, experts, translators, interpreters and secretarial staff. There are approximately 23 000 of these European civil servants. These EU officers prepare all legislation and balance the opinions of all interest groups (stakeholders).
The most common procedure for adopting (i.e. passing) EU legislation is “co-decision”. This procedure places the European Parliament (785 members) and the The European Council (27 member countries) on an equal footing and it applies to legislation in a wide range of fields.
After this preparatory work in the committees, the proposals are handled in the Plenary meeting of the parliament. Simultaneously with the process in the parliament, the proposals are discussed by the Council of European Union. If the Council and the Parliament cannot agree on a piece of propose
Most important Directorates related to building industry are:
- Energy (DG ENER) – energy issues like Energy policy, Energy efficiency of buildings directive (EPBD), Eco-design of energy related products (ErP), district heating, renewable energies etc.
- Enterprise and industry (DG ENTR) – all general business related issues,
- Environment (DG ENV) – all environmental issues like building labeling
- Health and consumers (DG SANCO) – indoor air climate and health, radon etc.
- Research and innovation (DG RESEARCH) – funding of research projects and developing the research programmes
- Climate action (DG Clima) –F-gas regulations etc.
- ICT – Information society – Thematic network
Policy areas by department are described in detail at the websites of the commission.
The European Parliament
Elections of the the parliament are held every five years. The latest elections were in June 2009. Parliament expresses the democratic will of the Union's citizens (more than 490 million people), and represents their interests. The present parliament has 736 members from all 27 EU countries. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) do not sit in national blocks, but in seven Europe-wide political groups. The parliament meets in Brussels or Strasbourg according to fixed calendar of the Parliament.
In the parliament the proposals from the commission are first discussed in political groups (totaling seven groups), then in parliamentary committees (totaling 20 committees) each specialise in particular areas of EU activity. The most important related to the buildings is Industry Research and Energy Committee. The handling of legislation in the committees are prepared by an appointed MEP, called rapportuer. The rapporteur has an important role in process trying to integrate opinions of all interest groups (stakeholders) in the proposal.
The Council of the European Union
The Council of the European Union (Council) is the main decision-making body of the European Union. The ministers of the Member States meet within the Council. Depending on the issue on the agenda, each country will be represented by the minister responsible for that subject, e.g. energy.
What are the EU regulations?
Regulations are the most direct form of EU law - as soon as they are approved, they have binding legal force throughout every Member State, on a par with national laws. National governments do not have to take action themselves to implement EU regulations. Regulations are approved jointly by the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission.
What are the EU directives?
EU directives lay down certain end results that must be achieved in every Member State. National authorities have to adapt their laws to meet these goals, but are free to decide how to do so. Directives may concern one or more Member States, or all of them. Each directive specifies the date by which the national laws must be adapted - giving national authorities the room for manoeuvre within the deadlines necessary to take account of differing national situations.
Directives are used to bring different national laws into line with each other, and are particularly common in matters affecting the operation of the single market (e.g. product safety standards).
What are the EU decisions?
Decisions are EU laws relating to specific cases. They can come from the EU Council (sometimes jointly with the European Parliament) or the Commission. They can require authorities and individuals in Member States either do something or stop doing something, and can also confer rights on them. EU decisions are fully binding.
The Commission has excellent websites dealing with energy efficiency specially in buildings.
What is the European standard?
European standards are prepared by European standardization organization CEN in its working groups working under technical committees. Standards are typically documents describing in current practice. They are consensus documents of industry, and not legally binding if not referred in legislation. More in standards section.
Some long-term policy documents towards energy efficiency and climate policies:
1. EU roadmap towards low carbon economy
A roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050 was adopted on March 8 th, 2011 with the goal of EU GHG emissions towards an 80% domestic reduction (100% =1990).
The roadmap is available in all EU languages. See also a summary article.
2. Energy efficiency plan 2011 (EEP)
Background: EU will achieve only half of 20-20-20 targets by 2020 if it continues current policy and actions. Substantial steps have been taken towards this objective – notably in the appliances and buildings markets. The EU needs to act now to get on track to achieve its target. Responding to the call of the European Council of 4 February 2011 to take 'determined action to tap the considerable potential for higher energy savings of buildings, transport and products and processes', the Commission has therefore developed this comprehensive new Energy Efficiency Plan. See also a summary article.
Some new actions in the EEP
- Exemplary role of the public sector
- Accelerate the refurbishment rate of the building stock
- Public authorities should be required to refurbish at least 3% of their buildings each year
- Energy efficiency criteria to be included in public procurement
- Improve the energy performance of appliances
- Improve the efficiency of power and heat generation
- More smart grids and smart meters
3. Clean Energy for all Europeans (2017)
The package includes 8 different legislative proposals (each with a linked impact assessment) covering:
Energy Performance in Buildings
Electricity Market Design (the Electricity Directive, Electricity Regulation, and Risk-Preparedness Regulation)
Rules for the regulator ACER
Other parts of the package include:
Communication on an Ecodesign working plan 2016-2019
Communication on accelerating clean energy innovation
Communication on a European strategy on cooperative, intelligent transport systems
Separate reports on Energy prices and costs in Europe and the implementation of the European Energy Programme for Recovery (EEPR) and the European Energy Efficiency Fund.
Impact Assessment Energy Efficiency Plan 2011 http://ec.europa.eu/energy/efficiency/action_plan/doc/20110308_efficiency_plan_impact_assesment_en.pdf
Study on the Energy Savings Potentials in EU Member States, Candidate Countries and EEA Countries
Progress report of the Energy Efficiency Action Plan 2006
Action Plan for Energy Efficiency: Realising the potential
Clean Energy for all Europeans 2016:
Important directives related to buildings:
Energy Performance of Buildings 2010 Directive
Eco-design of energy related products directive
Use of renewable energies directive
Directive 2010/30/EU on by labelling and standard product information of the consumption of energy and other resources by energy-related products - REHVA labelling page
Directive on the energy end-use efficiency and energy services
Construction products directive