How to fight the cost of living crisis and the climate crisis? Save energy at home
“You’re just completely lost at sea,” he said.
From struggling with endless bureaucracy to struggling to access loans and information, he’s almost on the verge of looking for cheaper options outside the Belgian capital.
Wastiaux, 39, was surprised that making green upgrades would be so complicated when the benefits of saving energy are well known, including its role in combating climate change.
“It should be mandatory because we have no other choice,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Reducing energy use is the cheapest and most effective way to save on bills, while cutting carbon emissions to slow the rate of global warming, energy efficiency campaigners say.
New analysis from the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows that doubling the current rate of improvement in energy intensity – the ratio of global energy supply per unit of gross domestic product – to 4% per year, we could save the equivalent of China’s annual energy consumption in 2030.
A global energy efficiency effort could cut oil consumption by nearly 30 million barrels a day – about triple Russia’s production in 2021 – and cut household energy bills by $650 billion a year by by the end of the decade, he added.
While the war in Ukraine has disrupted international energy markets this year, the European Union’s reliance on Russian oil and gas has made reforming wasteful habits more urgent.
“It has highlighted the fact that energy savings are crucial to achieving energy independence…and (that) energy efficiency policy has not been sufficiently prioritized,” said Arianna Vitali, Secretary General of the Coalition for Energy Savings, a non-profit association in Brussels.
EU countries have some of the oldest housing stock in the world, with buildings accounting for more than a third of the bloc’s carbon emissions.
Half of residential buildings in most EU countries were built before 1970, when thermal regulations came into effect. The EU now plans to renovate 35 million residential buildings by 2030, out of a total of 119 million.
Insulating homes better so they absorb and lose less heat is a key way to save energy.
According to the Buildings Performance Institute Europe think tank, insulating attics and roofs alone can save up to 14% of home heating energy.
The type of housing in some EU countries is another challenge. In Ireland, for example, single-family houses make up 80% of residential buildings, while in Spain and Estonia apartment buildings dominate.
Applying for a renovation permit for apartment buildings can come up against legal and administrative obstacles.
Spain is one country that has sought to address these bottlenecks, adjusting property laws in 2021 to reduce the share of votes needed for co-owners to start renovation by simple majority.
“It is naturally simpler and easier to achieve than higher thresholds,” said Monika De Volder of BEUC, a Brussels-based NGO that defends consumer rights in the EU.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
Finding the right information is crucial for starting home improvement projects.
To achieve this, energy efficiency campaigners are calling on local authorities in European cities to set up ‘one-stop shops’, virtual or physical spaces where homeowners can find everything they need to make energy improvements. energy saving.
EU countries have earmarked funds from their COVID-19 economic recovery funds for energy efficiency, ranging from around 3% in Hungary to 25% in Luxembourg, according to Bruegel, a European economic think tank.
Spain has said it will invest in one-stop shops, while Austria plans to provide advisers to low-income households.
BEUC emphasizes that consumer support initiatives such as these must have sufficiently trained staff to be successful.
In Brussels, Wastiaux said a new website called Homegrade, set up to answer questions about renovation projects, was already overloaded and he had been waiting for help for four weeks.
Another way to get the message about saving energy is through front-line workers.
BEUC’s STEP project trained social workers, nurses and volunteers to advise people at risk of fuel poverty on low-cost or free measures to make their homes more energy efficient.
The project has traveled through Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Great Britain over the past two and a half years.
More than 1,000 frontline workers have been trained, 16,000 consumers have received energy advice and cumulative investments in sustainable energy have been calculated at 400,000 euros ($422,320), according to BEUC.
As energy and food bills rise faster than wages in what is increasingly being called a ‘cost of living crisis’, BEUC says its model could be easily and cheaply exported to other countries. ‘other countries.
Affordability is another hurdle for energy-efficient home renovations – but BEUC says green finance schemes can be a way to support households that want to make the switch.
Buyers might qualify when buying a property that has a higher energy performance rating, for example, or when making home improvements, such as replacing single-glazed windows with thicker ones or installing a heat pump.
In Britain, Nationwide is offering 500 pounds ($613.65) cashback on property purchases with a top-rated Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), while Barclays is offering a lower interest rate on mortgages for new builds with a top notch EPC.
Yet BEUC points to a lack of skills in the banking sector when it comes to sustainable and green options.
“Lenders need to be trained and equipped with relevant offers, and properly consider the benefits of better energy efficiency which leads to better financial resilience (and lower) risk of default,” said expert Guillaume Joly. in sustainable buildings at BEUC.
Transportation is another area where consumers can save money.
As gas prices at the pump in the United States reach historic highs, the IEA has suggested reducing speed limits on highways by 10 km/h (6.2 mph), working from home up to three days a week, car-free Sundays in cities and to reduce the cost of public transport.
But the challenge of changing habits remains one of the greatest obstacles to energy efficiency – something that economic shocks can catalyze.
In Denmark, the oil crisis of the 1970s sparked an energy efficiency revolution, Dan Jorgensen, Danish Minister for Climate and Energy, said at the IEA Energy Efficiency Conference in Sønderborg this this month.
Yet when it comes to climate action, media attention often shines a spotlight on big supply-side projects, like offshore wind power, while personal energy savings go largely unseen. , in part because they are corny, he added, calling for more awareness.
“Instead of filming wind farms, journalists should visit a normal Danish house, sit in the warm living room and film a thermostat,” he said.