Accepted Paper:

'Cost-optimality' in the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive: policy controversies  


Johan Niskanen (Linkopings University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyses governance of socio-technical change through the translation of the 2010 Energy Performance of Buildings Directive into Swedish policy conditions. It follows and unpacks the seemingly neutral concept of 'cost-optimality' and so highlights controversies and political strategies.

Paper long abstract:

This paper analyses how 'cost-optimality', a seemingly neutral calculation device in the recast of the 2010 EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, highlights controversies and political strategies when translated into Swedish policy conditions. This ongoing translation is far from straight-forward and affects the governance of transformational change to zero energy buildings in Sweden. Different positions of how a definition of cost-optimality could be adapted to existing Swedish policies and regulations is taken by parts of industry, NGOs, and public authorities. This paper unpacks the making of such a definition of cost-optimality by following the concept as it gets re-defined through policy documents in EU and Sweden. Further, the paper discusses how cost-optimality changes over time; how particular interests of stakeholder groups becomes articulated in a seemingly 'techno-economic' definition; and, how this calculation devise is used to solicit certain political aims and interests around zero energy buildings. Empirically, the paper is based on an analysis of documents produced in the policy process on both the EU- and national level. Of special interest are supporting documents, such as guidelines for calculating cost-optimal levels, and public comments on national policies. Results show that cost-optimality is initially taken for granted as common knowledge which leads to problems further down in the policy process. As the concept gets re-defined over time for specific purposes by EU, national, and industry actors this leads to a redefinition of the zero energy building concept in Swedish legislation.

Panel T050
Conceptualizing transformational change in energy systems and the built environment