Local authorities are increasingly taking action on climate change and working on the transition to a low carbon future. A growing number of cities and municipalities (as Climate Alliance members or the Covenant of Mayors signatories) are committed to the path of sustainable development not only because of climate change mitigation, but also due to positive economic and social impacts. Covenant of Mayors indicators show that the residential buildings sector accounts for one third of the overall CO₂ emissions generated by the Covenant signatories. Residential and service sector buildings together account for more than half of CO₂ emissions. Learn more about local actions towards EU’s 2020 climate & energy objectives – and beyond.
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Towards energy independence through the building sector
Whilst Beckerich (Luxembourg) is making the most from wind, solar and biomass, its sustainable energy action plan (SEAP) emphasises energy saving. The municipality provides energy audits, grants, interest-free loans to low-income households and retrofits municipal buildings via contracting. In 2004, the total investment amounted to EUR 5 million, 50% funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and 50% financed by a loan. Nineteen farmers also contributed with an investment of EUR 4 000 each. Today Beckerich produces enough energy to meet 90% of its low-tension electricity needs and 30% of heating demand.
Since 1989, the funding scheme in Munich (Germany) for promoting energy efficiency in private and commercial buildings has targeted home owners and the building and construction industry. The City of Munich gives EUR 13.8 million to the fund yearly. Subsidies out of the fund cover a wide range of measures such as building insulation, heat generation and solar thermal systems. Subsidies range from EUR 500 to EUR 50 000, and in exceptional cases even EUR 1 million for large-scale housing developments. 700 000 tonnes of CO2 has been saved since the start of the programme.
Watt-Busters in Cascais (Portugal), help the residents to improve energy efficiency and save costs. Technical reports help the citizens of Cascais to identify how and where to save energy. ‘Caça Watts’ (‘Watt Hunting’) is a public initiative offering householders an energy audit worth up to EUR 350 for as low as EUR 25, with further discounts depending on income.
Warm houses, full wallets
The city of Ghent (Belgium) estimates that a shift to sustainable housing would reduce the city’s CO₂ emissions by 26%. One step towards this is to supply construction advice for free. REGent is an office giving advice about energy efficiency for households with a focus on low income households. Activities include:
- REGent offers energy scans for free. This allows a full scan of the household to assess where energy can be saved.
- When the householder plans to refurbish, REGent offers the most sustainable and affordable solutions including tax information, financial advice, and guidance during works.
- REGent offers low cost loans (2% interest rate) for investment needed to achieve the energy savings. These offers are targeted to all the inhabitants of the city, but low-income neighbourhoods take priority.
During 2009-2012, 5 313 scans have been executed with an estimated energy reduction of 8-10% per energy scan. 25% of the scans targeted rented apartments or houses and 32% social housing.
Green social housing for all
In Vienna (Austria) around 85% of new homes constructed are social housing projects, and therefore eligible to compete for subsidies to encourage innovative architectural techniques and the preservation of the environment. Since 2007 the environmental standards and legal regulations for constructing new social housing have been raised as well as the level of grants and subsidies for environmentally friendly buildings. As a result low energy consumption (max. 30 kWh/m2/year for heating) has become the rule in new houses, with more and more reaching passive house standards (less than 15 kWh/m2/year for heating). In 2010, 20% to 30% of new homes were built to passive house standards.
The city of Modena (Italy) with the support of the Foundation of the Cassa di Risparmio di Modena has developed an ambitious programme of energy efficiency and local energy generation in sports, social and recreational buildings. From November 2010 to December 2012 some 10 sports and recreational complexes underwent an energy audit followed by installation of photovoltaic systems and retrofitting for energy efficiency. A total of EUR 2.6 million has been invested.
For other actions taken by local authorities on public buildings, join the BUILD UP Community ‘Leading examples of public buildings’.