EU countries must set up ‘one-stop shops’ to help homeowners renovate –

In order to double the rate of building renovation, the European Commission has asked EU member states to provide technical assistance to homeowners by setting up one-stop shops that will guide consumers through the renovation process.

The building stock is responsible for 36% of the block’s emissions and improving the energy efficiency of buildings has long been on the EU’s agenda.

Last year, the European Commission’s Renovation Wave strategy aimed to double the rate of energy renovations and now the proposed overhaul of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) offers concerted action at European and national levels. to achieve this.

The revised EPBD seeks to stimulate the renovation of the 15% of worst performing buildings, which would be rated ‘G’ on a revised EU scale to assess their energy performance.

“The focus on the least efficient buildings prioritizes the most cost-effective renovations and helps tackle energy poverty,” said EU chief climate officer Frans Timmermans, who presented the proposal the most. last week.

Up to € 150 billion in public funding will be made available to help poorer households renovate their buildings and save on their energy bills, EU officials said.

But “the financing alone will not meet the renovation needs”, reads the revised EPBD proposal presented by the European Commission last Wednesday (December 15).

“The establishment of accessible and transparent advice and assistance tools, such as one-stop shops offering integrated energy renovation services or facilitators …

One-stop shops

And while billions a year are already available for renovation, it can be difficult to ensure that the money is absorbed into government programs and the market at the national level.

“What we need for more renovations to happen is not just funding and funding, but practical support for building owners,” says Louise Sunderland, senior advisor at the Regulatory Assistance Project, an independent NGO. dedicated to accelerating the transition to clean energy.

What owners need is a “one-stop-shop”, offering a smooth customer journey – “a grip throughout the renovation process” to ensure that they get an efficient result on the job. end, she told EURACTIV.

Practical support would come down to determining “what is needed for their building, getting the assessment done, determining what actions they need, then helping them find the right funding and funding, then engaging with tradespeople. to get the job done, ”she said. .

The establishment of one-stop shops seems to be gaining consensus within the European Commission, researchers and business groups.

“One-stop shops could play a crucial role in supporting households by offering a complete and integrated renovation service including the design, optioneering, grants, financing and implementation of projects” said Katarzyna Wardal, Head of European Public Affairs at Knauf Insulation.

“We businesses are more likely to invest where there are good customer support programs for using our products,” she explained.

The issue has become so central in EU renewal efforts that EU states are now called upon to ‘provide technical assistance, including through one-stop shops’ in the EPBD overhaul proposal.

No more half-measures in renovation

In times of climate crisis, it is no longer acceptable for our buildings to swallow up so many finite energy resources and leave our citizens so vulnerable to rising energy prices, writes Adrian Joyce.

The toolbox for renovation facilitators

The idea of ​​one-stop-shops is not new, but this is the first time that the concept has been enshrined in EU law. Article 9 of the recast of the EPBD directive deals with ‘Minimum energy performance standards’ and indicates that EU Member States should support compliance by:

  • provide appropriate financial measures, in particular those targeting vulnerable households, people affected by fuel poverty or living in social housing,
  • provide technical assistance, including through one-stop shops;
  • design integrated financing programs;
  • eliminate non-economic barriers, including split incentives; and
  • monitoring of social impacts, in particular on the most vulnerable

As for the one-stop shops, only a handful of them have opened across the EU while hundreds are expected to be made available in order to coordinate between owners, financial institutions and SMEs involved in carrying out the works. renovation.

A 2018 report by the European Commission noted that only 2 or 3 one-stop shops were set up in each of the Nordic countries as well as in France and the Benelux. And an EU funded project recently released a step-by-step guide on how to set up a one-stop shop for building renovations and what kind of business model they could adopt.

To kick off the renovations, one-stop shops should aim to “unleash the natural power of capitalism” and develop the construction industry, said Brook Riley, head of European affairs at Rockwool, the Danish manufacturer of insulation materials.

But one-stop shops do not work well because they are built on consumer confidence and local expertise. “Although the one-stop-shop is very beneficial for owners, they are very careful when accepting its offers,” said Frederikshavn, project partner of the EU’s INNOVATE program.

While in practice one-stop shops could be managed entirely online, two aspects are considered critical to their success: whether they are physically located close to the customer and whether they can be trusted to give unbiased advice. .

“In practice, true physical and regional hubs are the most efficient,” Sunderland explained.

And when it comes to fairness, it’s crucial that one-stop shops are “not purely private,” Riley insists. Local technical assistance providers “need to be as independent as possible” to make sure people trust the advice, he said.

To do this, some countries have opted for organizations entirely financed by public funds. France, for example, plans to “set up a nationwide network of one-stop shops, which will be funded by the government,” Riley said.

Yet while most players agree on the need for one-stop shops, the question of who should manage them is still a matter of debate.

“To increase consumer confidence, only certified one-stop-shops should be eligible to provide publicly funded services,” explained Wardal.

Wave of EU building renovations hits administrative pitfall

Diverging views within the European Commission on how the EU’s unprecedented stimulus fund can be spent and the rush to translate national spending plans into their original language risk slowing the wave of renovation of the EU. EU buildings, according to experts.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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