How can EU Funds encourage condominiums to undertake energy efficiency retrofits? Examples from Belg
This article presents five projects aiming to encourage undertake energy efficiency refurbishing in multi-apartments buildings. It was written based on the presentations made during an UIPI event held in February 2019.
The European Union has fixed an ambitious goal of making buildings carbon-free by 2050. As a consequence, significant amounts of funding dedicated to energy transition are available, in particular in the Invest EU schemes. Undertaking deep renovation work is complex to condominiums who need to understand the legal framework, which complicates their ability to take action. For example, in some European countries, condominiums cannot contract loans. A number of fiscal or financial incentives as well as administrative or technical assistance is available in several countries but condominiums don’t always have the resources to understand and access them.
ABRACADABRA: Assistant Buildings’ addition to Retrofit, Adopt, Cure And Develop the Actual Buildings up to zeRo energy, Activating a market for deep renovation
This research and innovation project has been funded by the European Union. It is a partnership between the University of Bologna and several actors from all over Europe. The aim of the project is to offer an advanced software application to help assess the best option to refurbish a building. It is based on the assumption that the energy renovation of a building can be financed by an increase of its value through the extension and the selling of new or extended apartments. The software takes into consideration all financial and technical aspects, together with very precise knowledge of the local housing and real estate market prices, and evaluates which of the five different scenarios (extension of the building, extension of its width via the addition of a facade, construction of another building on the land of the condominium, etc.) is the most economically viable. This tool was developed after much research was conducted and the scenarios were tested in very different climatic contexts (Latvia and Greece, for example). The software will soon be available on abra-wand.eu and can be used by anyone. The website will also offer a database of projects which have already been evaluated in the software.
ACE Retrofitting is a project coordinated by Energy Cities, the European association of local authorities in energy transition, involving local partners from the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Germany. It gets financial support from the European Union as an Interreg programme. Its goal is to “introduce and promote a governance arrangement that overcomes the legal, human and financial barriers to the energy retrofitting of condominiums.” The online platform CoachCopro, developed by the Paris Climate Agency (Agence Parisienne du Climat) will be adapted for reuse in local contexts or in other countries taking part in the project. It is aimed to help local stakeholders in their energy diagnosis of condominiums and increase their competency. Concrete measures include the production of guides for condominiums (on the demand side), fostering networking and coaching of professionals (on the supply side). The underlying assumption is that there is a big economic market to create for energy retrofitting.
The next three projects aim to create one stop shops for condominiums regarding energy efficiency retrofits, to help them cope with all the technical, legal and financial aspects. These three projects show interesting local partnerships between different institutional, economic and technical stake-holders.
The main objective of the Innovate project is to “develop and roll-out integrated energy efficiency service packages in 11 target territories” and is financed by the Horizon 2020 programme. Its target audience is condominiums and greater attention is given to the heaviest investments. The different stakeholders will benefit from the know-how of their partners from other regions and countries. Energy Cities is also responsible for the coordination of this project and the partners comprise both experienced and novice local authorities regarding the issue of energy efficiency.
Easy-Copro is a joint project of the Environment and Energy Department of the Region of Brussels-Capital Region, A condominium corporation, two engineering consultancies and a cooperative investor. It targets condominiums, with the aim of helping them design and finance an energy refurbishing project. The condominiums must be of 30 or more housing units and work with a central boiler (or use the project to install one). The assistance includes a free audit, provided that the condominium engages in an energy performance contract. Regarding the business model, most of the investment (about 70% of the expenses) is made by the community-owned cooperative Energiris but nevertheless with a cost higher than the market rates because the cooperative takes a commission for its expenses. A smaller part of the expenses should be covered through future energy savings. The business plan of the project involves a local subsidy specific to Brussels, a system of benefits for green energy producers called the green certificates. The project, like Innovate, benefits from subsidies of the European Union through the Horizon 2020 programme.
Bruwatt, a new project created in 2018 with the financial support of FEDER funds, targets a wider audience: all owners, including social landlords. The project is a joint initiative of the ULB University, the consulting firm Energinvest, the social services of the City of Brussels, a trustee and the publicly owned Bank Belfius and is expected to be made a company. The one stop shop services will include auditing as well as monitoring of work. The team helps design the retrofit project according to each condominium’s resources. Bruwatt is working on two pilot projects: an estate of 300 housing units and two rental residencies occupied by seniors.
These different examples show different challenges stakeholders have to face in fostering energy efficiency renovation of privately owned buildings. The first challenge is financial. In reality, there is very little European funding for the energy renovation of private buildings itself. There are some cases with ELENA or the ERDF but especially in the new Member States. A few projects exist, for example Energies Positif in France but the funding is allocated to intermediaries and not directly to the owners.
Owners are not incentivised by the market to invest, as large investments are needed with very long payback periods and little increase in the property value due to a lack of visibility. These examples show that there is political will at both European and national level to to encourage energy efficiency. The challenge is to create a market, with great potential of growth on both demand and offer sides. Despite national and local political voluntarism, the biggest challenge seems to be for owners to understand the different types of help they can benefit from and how to proceed to organise retrofitting work.