This event is exclusive to Friends of Tortoise
in partnership with Rockwool
At this ThinkIn invited experts and guests discussed the need for a “renovation revolution”. It quickly became clear that existing housing stock needs to be brought up to standard in order to limit environmental damage. To succeed, collaboration is required between individuals, banks, utility companies and the government. This event was part of Tortoise’s Accelerating Net Zero coalition, visit the homepage to find out more and join us.
This final ThinkIn at Cop26 began with an alarming observation. Based on the last two weeks, the world is not aligned with the 1.5°C warming target, and is instead looking more at 3°C. Jens suggested that while meetings have been conducted with a general sense of optimism, once we carefully examine the content of the pledges and their long term nature, the situation seems less encouraging.
Building renovation is a valuable step toward meeting climate targets. In 2019 the building and construction sector accounted for 38 per cent of global energy and process-related CO2 emissions. Jens suggested that building renovations such as insulation can provide a natural CO2 reduction solution. A poll conducted by ROCKWOOL of 14,000 people in seven countries found that an average of 79 per cent of respondents would renovate their homes to improve energy efficiency, if they had the means to do so. Technology, incentive, EU policy, and money are there – now we need to make it happen.
To make it happen, collaboration is required between individuals, the government, banks and utility companies.
The role of the individual: the value of renovations. Individuals will consume less gas and electricity if they renovate homes and appliances, thus saving money and contributing to a reduction in global CO2 emissions. Doing it isn’t that simple, though. Individuals face a range of obstacles to renovating their homes; high cost, fears of poor quality installation, lack of understanding as to what’s needed, and general inconveniences caused by construction. For example, the ThinkIn heard that in order to properly insulate a 17th-century cottage, it would cost around £70,000. That’s a high prices, but the process would be difficult too – homeowners can be unsure how to apply for grants, and resort to bringing in building experts to conduct the renovation.
The role of government: grants & education. Clear policy signals that are long term and take into account a variety of needs in the market are essential, said Jennifer. Some examples:
- Simplify the renovation process for the estimated 500,000 Grade I or II listed homes in the country.
- Offer accessible grants/tax schemes for homeowners who renovate. In May 2020, Italy introduced the “superbonus 110” scheme, which offered homeowners a tax deduction of up to 110 per cent on expenses relating to home energy upgrades.
- Develop government programmes aimed at informing individuals on the environmental cost of energy consumption and the long term financial benefits of renovation and how to apply for grants/subsidies.
- Encourage a greater proportion of the workforce to be trained in renovation/insulation. Jens received applause from the audience when he stated: “nobody is being trained in building, despite us needing many, many more people!”
The role of banks: green mortgages, financing for renovations. When asked about the role of banks in a renovation revolution, Tracie explained the function of “green mortgages” specifically targeted at green buildings. As an incentive for buying a green building or renovating an existing one to make it greener, banks such as Santander offer a lower interest, or a greater loan amount. However, many individuals do not know about these green mortgages, or how to apply for them – therefore the role of education also falls to banks.
The role of utility companies: financing & installing. Jennifer explained that she was contacted by her utility company with an offer for financing and installation programmes for some new appliances – an offer which, like many Americans, she accepted. By lowering the initial cost of renovation and instead spreading it across monthly payments, energy companies can incentivise more people to upgrade their appliances, such as boilers, and thus make their homes more energy efficient. Perhaps UK based utility companies should follow suit.
The widespread renovation of existing housing stock has the potential to make a notable difference in lowering global CO2 emissions. However, at the moment, significant obstacles stand in the way, obstacles which can only be overcome through the collaboration of individuals, governments, banks and utility companies.
editor and invited experts
Global Director for Energy, World Resources Institute
President & Chief Executive Officer, ROCKWOOL Group
Chief Customer Officer, Homes, Santander