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OVERVIEW | Getting our homes future ready

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Essential skills and innovative solutions needed for a fair energy transition


by Ralf Tinga (PRACSIS)



BUILD UP partner Housing Europe and the PROF/TRAC project, presented concrete examples of energy efficiency in social housing at the workshop ‘Getting our homes ready: Essentials skills and innovative solutions for a fair energy transition’, which took place on 8 March 2017 at the House of Dutch Provinces, in Brussels, Belgium.


Moderator Yamina Saheb, author of the Energy Transition of the EU Building Stock report, reminded the audience that residential buildings are an essential part of the energy transition. Housing Europe’s Secretary-General, Sorcha Edwards, stressed the economic and climatic benefits of adequate housing that underscore considerations about comfort, health and quality of life.


Transition Zero, the subject of the workshop’s keynote presentation, demonstrated how it overcame barriers such as user reluctance in France. The scheme builds on the success of EnergieSprong in the Netherlands and suggests that initiating a shift in people’s mindsets is essential to driving cultural change.


The workshop continued with a description by Annarita Ferrante of innovative business experiences developed by the ABRACADABRA project, highlighting how add-ons can trigger financing for deep renovation.


In Belgium, the Association of Flemish Social Housing Companies (VVH) set up their Renovation 2020 plan. The plan aims at building an additional 50 000 new dwellings and improving the energy efficiency of existing ones, while keeping rents at a similar level.


In Wallonia, the Constructiv initiative —a member of BUILD UP partner FIEC— managed to create synergies among partners, demonstrating the importance of adapting skills and training to meet the new needs.


After discussing the examples from the world of business, the workshop focused on residents. Change starts at home. The TRIME Project explores ways to support social-housing residents in saving energy by developing an exchange of information and good practices with energy ambassadors.


The Swedish Association of Public Housing Companies (SABO) also developed a successful collaborative approach to involve tenants in saving energy.


Atze Boerstra, from BUILD UP partner REHVA, spoke about how important it is to remember that people expect more than just a lower energy bill from energy renovation.


The third session dealt with access to finance through procurement, performance, contracts and skills. It showcased the LEMON project, which provides technical assistance to public and private entities preparing tenders for the energy retrofitting of social housing in Northern Italy. As such, it aggregates sustainable energy investment schemes and projects to supplement regional and national funding, and fosters efficient cooperation.


In France, Grand Est Métropole has deployed fair and effective cooperation by creating a team of general contractors, architects, engineers and manufacturers to speed up the decision-making process and attain energy performance improvements.


Sonia Dunlop of SolarPower Europe gave an overview of four business models for solar PV for social housing: leasing, onsite direct wire mini power purchase agreements (PPAs), collective self-consumption, and crowdfunding. She showed several examples of how this is implemented in Austria, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.


Ingrid Vogler of the Federal Union of German Housing and Real Estate Associations (GdW) presented the ‘Mieterstrom’ model. Mieterstrom differs from self-consumption because the producer and consumer are not the same legal entity. Regulation and taxation have not yet been adapted to this and hamper the further roll-out of this model.


Ecopower is a Belgian cooperative that delivers electricity from PV, hydropower and wind power, and heat from wood pellets. In 2003 Ecopower reached the status of supplier and since then has delivered electricity at cost price. This tariff encourages citizens to join the cooperative, which already has 50 000 members. Ecopower has expanded its activities; offering advice on energy efficiency through quick online assessments.


Neil Clapperton continued, with a presentation about Our Power, a Scottish energy provider that was established as an affordable and consumer friendly alternative to the larger energy providers. Alleviating fuel poverty, which affects 31 % of Scottish citizens (840 000 homes), is Our Power’s major objective.


Paula Rey Garcia of DG Energy set out how the package outlined in the Clean energy for all Europeans communication will achieve a 30 % energy efficiency target through Directive 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency, Directive 2010/31/EU on the energy performance of buildings, and the Eco-Design Working Plan 2016-2019.


Theresa Griffin, MEP for North West England, gave her take on energy efficiency in social housing. Having worked in the poorest boroughs of Liverpool, she argued that energy efficiency measures benefit those faced with fuel poverty. She made a case for ‘trustable information points for communities’.


Jens Laustsen presented the Concerted Action EPBD, a forum that brings together the EU Member States and Norway to discuss and better implement the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. Mr. Laustsen explained how different stages of innovation need different policies. For example, funding is needed for testing technologies and for pilot projects, while regulation and enforcement are necessary to ensure the correct implementation of the technologies.


Speaker Charles Hussels replaced Tjisse Stelpstra, Dutch Regional Housing Minister, Province of Drenthe and member of the Committee of the Regions. Hussels outlined the efforts being made by the Province of Drenthe and gave the example of a renovation project in the municipality of Emmen, involving over 20 stakeholders, including a DSO.


Pieter Op ‘t Veld introduced the Horizon 2020 project PROF/TRAC, which encourages the training and education of employees across the construction sector. The project has mapped skills gaps and has developed an app and a database of training opportunities and educational materials.


Julien Dijol, Deputy Secretary-General and Policy Coordinator of Housing Europe, closed the meeting with the conclusion that achieving energy efficiency in social housing requires a holistic approach covering skills, regulation, information and finance.


Please find the PDF files of the presentations in the sidebar (right column, top).