‘One-stop-shops’ for building retrofit taking shape in Europe

The push for all-in-one intermediaries that help homeowners plan building renovation works is taking shape as policymakers progress on the revision of two related EU directives.

‘One-stop-shops’ for building retrofit taking shape in Europe

The EU had set out ambitions to retrofit buildings at a minimum rate of 2% per year

With energy prices reaching new highs, speeding up renovation is becoming vital to address the cost-of-living crisis while reaching climate targets, and so-called ‘one-stop-shops’ are seen as a key way of switching up gear.

“Given the ambitious renovation objectives over the next decade”, it is “necessary to increase the role of independent market intermediaries including one-stop-shops,” reads the European Parliament’s position on the revised energy efficiency directive (EED), adopted on 13 July.

One-stop-shops are essentially designed to offer a smooth customer journey to ensure they get a better outcome in the end. It’s like “handholding through the renovation process”, says Louise Sunderland from the Regulatory Assistance Project, an energy and climate think-tank.

When it comes to renovations, the reality is lagging behind targets. In its 2020 Renovation Wave strategy, the EU set a target of renovating 2% of buildings per year. But the rate of deep renovation “stands at only 0.2% on average in the EU,” according to the Buildings Performance Institute Europe.

The EU’s building stock is responsible for about 40% of the EU’s energy use and 36% of the bloc’s emissions, making renovation a key priority for policymakers.

“Buildings essentially lie in the nexus of all climate policy, and this delay has forced us into playing catch up,” explained Sean Kelly, an Irish MEP representing the Parliament’s conservative EPP group on the revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD).

Overcoming renovation obstacles

For homeowners, attempting to renovate often feels like a journey involving bureaucracy, hidden costs and personal time.

“It is currently a jungle to navigate through different [energy] saving solutions,” explains Pernille Weiss, a conservative MEP from Denmark who is part of the European Parliament’s negotiating team on the EED’s revision. “The same goes for the preparation of financial plans based on individual financial circumstances,” she wrote in a recent op-ed for EURACTIV.

This is where the one-stop-shops come in. Whether privately run or government-operated, they are expected to take homeowners by the hand and guide them through the renovation process.

“One-stop-shops will facilitate the delivery of tailored energy efficiency measures, starting with worst performing buildings and households that are in energy poverty,” explains Quentin Galland, director of public affairs at Knauf Insulation.

“Such single points should provide technical advice on how to reach a zero-emission building, on an energy class scale, and also publicly report on the barriers that are preventing the implementation of the energy efficiency first principle,” he told EURACTIV.

While the concept is promising, one-stop-shops are still a rarity. A 2018 report by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre noted that only two or three were set up in each of the Nordic countries, as well as France and the Benelux region.

Brussels to the rescue?

One-stop-shops were originally meant to be addressed in the EU’s building directive, the EPBD. But the European Parliament charged ahead and slotted the concept into the EED as well.

“It makes sense for the EPBD to reference the definition of the one-stop-shop in the EED, which already has proven cross-group support,” explains Sean Kelly, the Irish conservative MEP.

But Danish MEP Morten Petersen, who leads work on the EPBD revision for the centrist Renew Europe group, warns against the risk of discrepancy. “We should ensure consistency between the two files on this as well as other issues,” he told EURACTIV.

The Parliament’s version of the EED indeed pushes the idea of one-stop-shops on multiple levels.

For one, it states that EU countries “shall support the proper functioning of the energy services market” by setting up and promoting “independent market intermediaries including one-stop-shops”.

In addition, the Commission “shall evaluate” whether an “energy efficiency mechanism at Union level” providing technical assistance – including one-stop-shops, and associated grants – could support the bloc’s energy and climate goals “in a cost-effective way.”

If the answer is yes, the Commission will then have to adopt a legislative proposal in March 2024 to further flesh out the idea.

It is still unclear whether one-stop-shops will survive talks with EU member states to finalise the EED, which are expected to conclude before the end of the year. In the meantime, MEPs in the Parliament’s industry committee will get a second chance to push the one-stop-shop concept when voting on the revised EPBD on 26 October.

Nikolaus J. Kurmayer, EurActiv.com

This article first appeared on EurActiv.com, an edie content partner

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