Planning Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi on Wednesday called for an “open discussion” with major stakeholders in the construction sector to move towards more energy-efficient buildings without burdening consumers.

Speaking in parliament, Zrinzo Azzopardi said that the government wanted to introduce a standard for buildings, considering factors including aesthetics.

He said the European Union was moving towards greater energy efficiency in buildings in its efforts towards decarbonisation.

“It is important that there is an open discussion with all professionals and all stakeholders to find solutions on how to strike a balance between achieving greater energy efficiency and economical feasibility too so that people are not burdened in the process,” he said.

On Tuesday, the European Parliament adopted draft measures to increase the rate of renovations and reduce energy consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions.

Maltese MEPs from both Labour and the Nationalist party voted against the proposal.

The proposed revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive aims to substantially reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy consumption in the EU building sector by 2030, and make it climate neutral by 2050. It also aims to increase the rate of renovations of energy-inefficient buildings and improve information-sharing on energy performance.

What is the proposal?

According to the plan, all new buildings should be zero-emission from 2028, with the deadline for new buildings occupied, operated or owned by public authorities in 2026. All new buildings should be equipped with solar technologies by 2028, where technically suitable and economically feasible, while residential buildings undergoing major renovation have until 2032.

Residential buildings would have to achieve, at a minimum, energy performance class E by 2030, and D by 2033 - on a scale going from A to G, the latter corresponding to the 15 per cent worst-performing buildings in the national stock of a member state.

Non-residential and public buildings would have to achieve the same ratings by 2027 and 2030 respectively.

The upgrade in energy performance can take the form of insulation works or improvement in the heating system.

The EP left it up to member states to the measures needed to achieve these targets in their national renovation plans.

Zrinzo Azzopardi said the creation of measures for more energy-efficient buildings was another measure following the launch earlier this week of a public consultation for the licensing of building contractors.

He said the proposed licencing scheme will improve the quality of the construction sector and lead to better enforcement.

According to the plan, applications for a license will open on 1 June and close on October 31. But the final cut-off date for all contractors to be licensed has been set at January 1, 2025. The public consultation period will run until April 21.

The reform was fuelled by a spate of construction deaths over the past years. It was announced amid calls for a public inquiry into the death of a 20-year-old man at a building site in Corradino in December. 

Promises about introducing a licencing scheme date back to 2019. 

According to the plan, applicants will have to have insurance policies in place, safeguarding and protecting both third parties and their employees.

Contractors who apply by the October 31 deadline will need provisional clearance from the building regulator, the Building and Construction Authority, to continue working until their license application is approved.

The minister stressed that the new regime cannot be imposed on the sector overnight. Prior to the final cut-off date, the building regulator will be able to suspend license applications if any violations are found, meaning that the contractor in question will not be able to carry out any work.

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