European Commission wants zero-emission buildings and no more natural gas heating

In order to have zero-emission buildings, the European Commission plans to ban natural gas heating from households.

Bosco verticale, a low carbon emission building in Milan
The European Commission plans that any new building will be zero-emission by 2030 | Bosco verticale, Milan. © Mattia Spotti

On December 15, the European Commission released plans tackling gas consumption in order to become carbon neutral by 2050.

The proposal requires that all new buildings must be zero-emission as of 2030, and as early as 2027 for new public buildings. The initiative aligns with the Fit to 55 program, in which the European Commission pledged to have a 55% net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

That way, the Commission aims at achieving a zero-emission building stock by 2050.

No financial incentives for installation of fossil-fuel boilers by 2027

In Europe, buildings account for 40% of the energy consumed and 36% of energy-related direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions.

Buildings are the single largest energy consumer in Europe because most buildings in the EU are not energy efficient and are still mostly powered by fossil fuels“, commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, said. And “it’s often the most vulnerable who live in the least efficient houses and therefore struggle to pay the bills“, she added.

A zero-emission building requires a low amount of energy and needs are covered by renewable sources, which can include heating from household waste.

Heating, cooling, and domestic hot water account for 80% of the energy consumed by households in the European Union. The framework will need member states to have a roadmap for phasing out fossil fuels in heating and cooling by 2040.

As such, countries should not provide financial incentives for the installation of fossil fuel boilers, which includes natural gas boilers, as of 2027.

Natural gas the second source of energy in the European Union behind petroleum products

At the same time, the Commission also proposed a framework to decarbonize gas markets, shift to “renewable and low-carbon gases, in particular biomethane and hydrogen” and create a hydrogen market.

Natural gas accounted for 22% of the European Union energy mix in 2019 and can account for more than 30% of the energy consumed in countries like Italy or the Netherlands.

Natural gas is considered a transition energy between crude oil or coal and cleaner energy sources. The European Commission considers natural gas should dramatically be reduced in the energy mix to meet its climate-neutral goal by 2050. It proposed that long-term contracts for fossil natural gas should not be extended beyond 2049.

In a country like the Czech Republic, more than 30% of Czech households use natural gas as their main source of heating, iRhozlas reports. For the Czech prime minister Andrej Babiš, such legislation is nonsense and disconnected from reality.

The proposals will be discussed by member states and European Parliament next year. The Czech Republic will take the presidency of the Council of the European Union in July 2022 after France’s 6-month tenure.

Read more about the Czech Republic

Commission proposes new EU framework to decarbonise gas markets, promote hydrogen and reduce methane emissions, European Commission, December 2021, Free accessEuropean Green Deal: Commission proposes to boost renovation and decarbonisation of buildings, European Commission, December 2021, Free access

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