Brussels conference brings Transition Zero project to a close

Representatives from over 20 organisations attended the Transition Zero Conference in Brussels on 29th November. The event, titled Energiesprong model and long-term renovation strategies in the EU, marked the close of the Transition Zero project of 2016-2018.

Speakers reported on progress, successes and challenges related to the growth of Energiesprong retrofits. Market Development Team members provided detailed progress updates from the UK, France and the Netherlands. In the afternoon there was an opportunity to quiz policymakers.

Towards industrialisation

European Union carbon emissions targets for 2050 suggest the need for renovation on a huge scale. Industrialisation is needed. Energiesprong is a good fit for the ambition to improve Europe’s hard to heat housing stock, but challenges remain.

The right thing for the long term is net zero energy. So, Energiesprong Co-founder Ron van Erck concluded his presentation by encouraging participants to stay the course: “I know we all want to go fast because we’re working against a clock that is ticking. Let’s make sure we keep on doing the things that will take us where we need to go. Direction is more important than speed.”

Fortunately social housing providers are committing to larger numbers of retrofits. Transition Zero has provided the opportunity to scale. During the last two years Energiesprong was able to spread from the Netherlands to the UK and France, two markets which can increase the demand for an industrialised solution. Market development in these countries included building demand pipelines, finding suitable solution providers and tackling regulatory challenges and financial barriers.

The main outcomes for each country were:

The movement in the Netherlands is still growing

The Dutch government has made the decision to take the country off mains gas over the coming years. Energiesprong retrofit already achieves this, so it is a logical first choice. The business case stands up well and borrowing remains very cheap in the Netherlands. The movement is still growing and, with 45+ social housing companies involved and 20 builders who can now do these retrofits, there are current plans for 14,500 Energiesprong homes in the Netherlands.

Big collective agreement in France

Sebastien Delpont, Associate Director of GreenFlex, explained how the French have targeted social housing providers. A volume deal was the focus. In 2017 the French team succeeded in getting agreement from housing associations, solutions providers and other stakeholders to retrofit 3,600 homes to the Energiesprong standard. This year a second wave of stakeholders brought the total collective commitment to over 6500 retrofits in the next five years!

The hardest challenges weren’t technological, but rather had to do with changing working culture and practices. As a long-term solution Energiesprong is gaining traction, but the additional support of a trusted intermediary like GreenFlex to liaise between contractors and housing providers remains essential. As Delpont says: “We have to align the interests of the most innovative stakeholders of the value chain to make it work”.

The price of the solution is currently too high and subsidy stays important cost need to come down to a point where costs are so low it is not needed. Transition Zero has supported outreach to the right target audiences and has helped create a receptive audience of around 40 housing providers and 30 construction companies.

More and more Energiesprong homes planned In the UK

Transition Zero has provided the UK team with the opportunity to streamline stock analysis and procurement processes, contracts and protocols whilst reaching out to and supporting social housing and solution providers.

In her presentation, Kore Mason of Energiesprong UK showed how Transition Zero has helped Energiesprong to capture the attention of social housing providers in spite of the distractions and uncertainties surrounding Brexit.

The first pilot project in the UK was delivered in Nottingham in late 2017, another is underway in Maldon, Essex and another two are being contracted in the Exeter area and the London Borough of Sutton. On top of that, Nottingham City Homes is starting to scale up with the next wave of 155 homes in 2019 and 8 other front running social housing providers have committed to taking hundreds of other homes to the Energiesprong standard.

Policy round table

In the afternoon a round table session brought together three speakers with influence on the European Commission’s policy creation – Antonio Paparella DG Grow; Paul Hodson, DG ENER and Jens Laustsen, Coordinator, Concerted Action EPBD.

Jens Laustsen reminded participants that every product manufacturer starts small before their product becomes mainstream. Supportive policy can really help at the point of growth where a business is ready to respond to massive demand. Paul Hodson argues that energy policies need to work for people that don’t believe in climate change. We need to sell the comfort benefits first.

Housing federations support the solution

The conference was coordinated by Housing Europe and several other housing federations contributed to the discussion. Robin van Leijen of Aedes​​ was positive about the brokering role played by the Energiesprong Market Development teams and the potential for price reductions: “If there is more volume and more market uptake, cost of retrofitting can go down which is a real advantage for social housing providers.”

Carine Puyol (Union Sociale Pour L’Habitat) also pointed to future cost savings as a significant benefit: “Energiesprong gives residents more comfortable homes and improves the look of the homes and the area they are in. The method is radically different but this allows you to reduce the time onsite, which also means you can reduce the cost.”​​

Sorcha Edwards, Secretary General of Housing Europe, concluded the conference by talking of the need to stem the rising tide of inequality in Europe: “A lot of rising inequality is to do with incomes… we want a fair energy transition… people shouldn’t pay more… initiatives that make sure the energy transition brings people with it are key.”

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