Energy efficiency laws could prove costly

By NATASHA SMITH

natasha@portugalresident.com

PROPERTY OWNERS face heavy fines if they fail to follow energy efficiency measures introduced under new government regulations.

In an effort to lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and improve energy efficiency, all property owners are now obliged to insulate buildings, maintain good indoor air quality and efficiency standards on air conditioning units.

The Regulamento dos Sistemas Energéticos de Climatização em Edifícios (RSECE), applies to new and existing public buildings, as well as large residential buildings with the aim of maintaining thermal and indoor air quality standards.

There will be maximum limits for energy consumption and systems must be maintained on a regular basis.

Another part of the new law, the Regulamento das Características de Comportamento Térmico dos Edifícios (RCCTE), concerns the thermal conduct characteristics of residential buildings and small public buildings without air conditioning.

It is hoped property owners will turn to alternative sources of energy, such as solar panels to heat water and homes, with the resultant better quality and energy efficient buildings leading to higher commercial values.

Each building will be awarded a grade for energy efficiency and the quality of indoor air supplies, with A the highest and G the lowest. People are being urged to spend money on insulating their roofs as well as installing PVC windows and doors. Properties that use alternative energy, such as solar panels will be awarded higher grades.

Certificate applications

Project managers are required to send all the relevant information to the local câmara, where it will be analysed and either a certificate will be awarded or the form returned with instructions to modify works. If the latter occurs, the project manager must ensure these changes have been made and technical information resubmitted for approval.

The national government could potentially fine câmaras and charges could be applied via the Impostos Municipais sobre Immoveis, or council tax bills, to property owners with high CO2 emissions and poor quality air supplies.

By next year, there will be 1,000 inspectors across the country assessing the energy efficiency of buildings and air quality, with even more planned for the coming years, with the Agência para a Energia, ADENE, as the regulatory body ensuring the laws are abided by.

The laws state that all new building constructions must apply for an energy certificate in 2007. In 2008, all existing large public buildings must be certified and, in 2009, all buildings in Portugal must have a certificate of energy performance. Inspectors could visit properties at any time to ensure changes have been made and the information submitted is correct.

The new laws aim to define the conditions of thermal comfort and hygiene that will be required in buildings from now on, as well as improve energy efficiency and air quality across the board. It will also monitor and regulate these standards for an overall reduction in CO2 emissions in Portugal.