The European Commission has published a new set of recommendations and guidelines on the “Energy Efficiency First” (EE1st) principle with a view to converting the concept from a principle into practice. While energy efficiency has been a key element of EU policy on emissions reduction for some time now, the energy efficiency first principle was officially written into EU law with the adoption of the 2019 Governance Regulation. This highlighted the essential role energy efficiency plays and the importance of including it in planning processes and investment decisions, for example, through incorporating it in Member States’ National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs).
Members States are recommended to ensure that the energy efficiency first principle is applied in policy, planning and investment decisions at various decision making levels, when energy demand or supply is affected. Other six recommendations are meant to encourage the public authorities to lead by example and work towards making the EE1st principle a driving force within society. One specific way mentioned in the EC Guidelines is setting specific objectives for public buildings in terms of energy performance or renovation rates: “Public buildings should lead by example by implementing various energy efficiency solutions to demonstrate their feasibility and benefits. In particular, new buildings should link functionality, design and sustainability, inclusion and aesthetics in line with the New European Bauhaus with the best possible energy performance and, if possible, exceed the mandatory nearly zero-energy buildings (NZEB) requirements”. Public authorities should also ensure that a building’s energy performance certificate (EPC) class is clearly communicated to the public. Within EPCs, supplementary information that could promote energy efficiency solutions, e.g. expected wider benefits in terms of GHG emissions reductions should also be considered.
Another way of contributing to making the EE1st reality is strengthening the procurement of energy-efficient products and services. Green public procurement and Article 6 of the Energy Efficiency Directive already encourage public authorities to buy the best energy performing products. However, in line with the EE1st principle, energy performance criteria should become widespread in public tenders and have substantial weight in the assessment and selection of offers. It is also necessary to use energy performance not as one of the auxiliary criteria, but as a central condition and/or award criteria in public tenders. Public buyers should assess how the desirable performance of tendered products can be reached in line with energy performance objectives. Specific consideration of the performance of more energy-efficient options, where they exist, should be analyzed.
Finally, there is using energy services and energy performance contracting, undertaking energy audits and implementing energy management systems. Similarly to specific renovation objectives, public buildings should also be examples of application of available solutions facilitating achievement of energy savings. The benefits of the application of these solutions, in particular on public budget, should be promoted and communicated to the public.