The Primary Energy Factor does not promote the EU goal of a low carbon economy

It is not enough to re-evaluate the Primary Energy Factor (PEF) calculations in the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), which are neither harmonized, transparent or adjusted to higher shares of large-scale renewable electricity. The PEF should simply be removed completely and competition in smart grid technologies should drive the development.

Within the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive the PEF is used when calculating the energy performance. The PEF accounts for the energy losses of electricity generation and transport when comparing electricity use with other types of energy use in the building. But in a recent study, the global energy consulting firm Ecofys warns that the PEF calculation methods are not transparent, harmonised and consistent and that they are furthermore not always adjusted to higher shares of large-scale renewable electricity.

Ecofys recommends re-evaluating the PEF calculations at regular and timely intervals and adapting them to changing needs and circumstances. But this does not solve the problem says Richard Schalburg, chief consultant at the Danish Energy Association. Competing on the efficiency of technologies will be the only solution which will sufficiently drive the transformation of the energy system.

- To use a primary energy factor, which aims to provide knowledge of the energy efficiency of the system is a good thing. But right now we are trying to ensure a European transformation of the energy system using a historical primary energy factor as a means to regulate buildings in the future, and this is in my view equivalent asking car producers to use wooden wheels on cars. The European politicians must instead create incentives for promoting our independence of fossil fuels and reducing our carbon emissions by integrating larger shares of renewable energy. So if the EU wants to stimulate development towards independence from fossil fuels, the primary energy conversion factor should be removed, and the transformation must instead be driven by pure competition on the technologies’ effectiveness taking a future conversion to a flexible and smart energy system into account, says Chief Consultant of the Danish Energy, Richard Schalburg.

PEF was originally designed to compare the burning of fossil fuels in a local burner with electrical energy generated in fossil-fired power plants. But as soon as a significant portion of electricity is generated by renewable energy, the concept of primary energy loses value, says Ecofys. In the same line Ecofys underscores that the PEF calculations should not be taken as an unambiguous scientific value, but only as a political instrument aiming to maximize the contribution of buildings to a sustainable energy economy. Ecofys studied the extent to which the PEF can stimulate energy efficient buildings, the use of local renewables, and centralized renewable power.

Read the full report here.