primary energy

Change is coming...

For new developments, the focus of compliance is changing.

The EU’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) requires the UK to build Nearly Zero Energy Buildings from the 31st December 2020. To comply with this target, government is using the approaching update to Approved Documents L and F of the Building Regulations to enforce the terms of the EPBD, and the consultations for this update will be released later this year.

This change in UK law has the potential to dramatically alter the way we design and build new developments before the end of 2020, but the exact details are still uncertain.

Will a primary energy requirement sit alongside a carbon emissions target? Or replace it? Will a renewable energy strategy be directly or indirectly enforced? The answers are currently unknown, but the potential impacts on industry could be enormous.

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Want to stay updated on Primary Energy?

Contact us to find out the latest information about these changes and what they might mean for your business.


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What is primary energy?

Primary energy is a reflection of how much raw fuel is used to generate a unit of final energy. This includes the power used to create, transform and transport the energy from its raw form to where it is used. Currently, the UK primary energy factors are listed as 1.122 for natural gas and 1.738 for electricity. These factors are likely to be updated multiple times before the NZEB target becomes law, but will likely to be used to calculate a building’s overall primary energy use, with a target which must be achieved before construction can commence.


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What is meant by NZEB?

In 2010 the EU presented their Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) to all member states, including the UK, who transposed it into their own individual laws. Part of this directive was the requirement for all new buildings to be nearly zero energy (NZEB) after the 31st December 2020, which must be measured in primary energy (kWh/m2y).


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What if the UK leaves the EU?

Article 2 of the EPBD defines a NZEB as a building that has a very high energy performance, where the very low amount of energy that is required is covered to a very significant extent by energy from renewable sources, including energy from renewable sources produced on-site or nearby.

Decisions to be made...

UK government is currently updating legislation to incorporate the requirements set out by the EPBD, and the results will be legally binding. What is not yet finalised is what compliance shall be measured against going forward.

The UK needs to decide:

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The primary energy-based kWh/m2y target for each building type

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Which energy users will be included in this new energy performance target

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Whether supporting compliance indicators will sit alongside primary energy as additional metrics for buildings designers to build to

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A renewable energy strategy which, directly or indirectly, supports the NZEB definition for meeting energy requirements with a NZEB

These decisions, although they will have a vast impact on industry, are largely unknown and difficult to predict until the Part L and Part F consultations are released later this year.

This is why we have distilled the information within the EPBD to create two reports: one on the scope of the NZEB definition within the UK and a second using the draft SAP10 methodology and software to work out what this could mean for HVAC specification beyond 2020.

primary energy


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Staying on target

Combining nearly zero energy buildings and low carbon HVAC solutions. The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) sets a target for all new buildings within member states to be Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (NZEBs) by the 31st December 2020.

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Nearly Zero Energy Buildings

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) was introduced in 2010 by the European Union. One of the directive’s main initiatives was to ensure that all member states only build nearly zero energy buildings (NZEBs) after the 31st December 2020.

an overhaul for building compliance report PDF cover

2020 | An overhaul for Building Compliance

With a primary energy-based performance target and a requirement for renewable energy to contribute to a development’s HVAC requirements; the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) requires all new buildings in the UK to meet its nearly zero energy building (NZEB) criteria by the end of 2020.

Our Recommendations

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To deliver on climate change, primary energy should be combined with another carbon-based factor

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Houses and apartments need different targets to ensure that low-energy and low-carbon solutions are encouraged for both

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Government needs to set a clear trajectory for 2030 and 2050

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Clarity needs to be provided regarding the approach to different energy sources

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Collaboration between government and industry is essential

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The SAP software should definitely be pre-released ahead of the 2019 Part L consultation 


What do industry experts think?

Read the results of our roundtable, where a range of industry experts discussed the application of primary energy and its potential implications.

In Conclusion...

The inclusion of primary energy compliance is a dramatic change which could have huge ramifications across the industry. We will continue to engage with government to make our recommendations, ensuring that they consider all the potential impacts in order make decisions that are right for the industry as well as the environment.