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European Parliament gets tough on energy efficiency

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The European Parliament is to force through a sharp increase in the number of new and rennovated buildings that will have to comply with EU rules on energy efficiency. It has decided to lower the size threshold from a minimum of 1,000m 2.MEP's stressed that the previous limit would exclude the bulk of residential buildings, dramatically weakening the directive's effect on saving energy and cutting pollution. Labour MEP Eryl McNally even claimed that 'this directive is insufficiently ambitious and that it should also apply to much smaller areas'.

However, the European Commission opposes the amendments. European Commissioner for the internal market Frits Bolkestein said that the amendments went too far. 'For many member States it represents a new area of endeavour which will require new performance standards, new resources and substantial investment.We feel that the proposed threshold of 1,000m 2is the best possible compromise attainable at this early stage.'

Bolkestein was enthusiastic about other amendments agreed by MEPs, though. A tighter system of checks is proposed. It will use numeric formulae matching energy consumption with projected needs and will cover heating, water heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting. MEPs also voted for these inspections to be carried out under a common European certification system.

And the parliament also voted to insist that regular inspections of both boiler and central air conditioning systems would have to take place every five years, while the original proposal included no deadlines.

lThe 'Low Energy Housing 2002' conference will be held at the JJB Stadium in Wigan on 14 March. It will examine government policy on energy use and will include seminars on 'Achieving Affordable Warmth: Reducing Fuel Poverty' and 'Real Live Solutions' which will cover the new Part L regulations. The one day conference costs £110+VAT. For further details call 01603 700999.

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