In the previous blog post, I mentioned how some European countries have passed legislation that encourages retrofitting the existing building stock for improved energy efficiency. The example we will look at here is the German Energy Conservation Act and the initiatives this legislation promotes. We’ll keep to the basics to show how regulatory change and funding can encourage sector wide changes.
Funding for the Energy Conservation Act is provided by the German public investment bank. As of 2011 they were providing €1.4 billion a year towards the refurbishment of existing homes and other buildings for improved energy efficiency. The goal is for all existing buildings to be refurbished by 2030.
This funding for this program is managed as follows:
- Interest free or low interest loans (averaging around €36,000 per home) are provided to property owners to fund retrofitting.
- Funding priorities are new insulation, better windows and doors and more efficient heating systems.
- Renewable energy is funded only in combination with the above measures so that any energy generated will cover a greater proportion of energy used.
- Loan repayments are connected to a proportion of documented energy savings. This is to facilitate immediate benefit from reduced energy bills.
- The loan itself is tied to the property, not the property owner. This is to encourage owners to undertake retrofitting even if they are unsure of how long they will remain in the property.
This program has been running for over 10 years in Germany and has proved very successful both in terms of the number of projects retrofitted and a positive affect on the German economy. The key lessons from Germany indicate that a more ambitious scope of measures leads to greater public participation and that qualified expert advice is essential for achieving projected energy savings.
So what should we do in New Zealand? In both Germany and the UK, exemplar projects were constructed and monitored to establish which energy efficiency measures were best suited for funding. ECD Architects in London (who I used to work for) were heavily involved in UK exemplar projects funded by the UK Technology Strategy Board.
Many different agencies and private companies are involved in similar exemplar projects throughout New Zealand. EECA is probably best placed to coordinate monitoring and funding as they are already involved in research. They also have the beginnings of a wide range retrofitting program for energy efficiency in the Warm Up New Zealand insulation programme.
Obviously what has occurred in Europe and what would be needed here in NZ is a matter of government will rather than physical change. Regardless of your political views, investing in energy efficiency has a sound business case especially when health benefits are also considered.