EU countries told to set up ‘one-stop-shops’ to help homeowners renovate

With the decarbonisation of the EU's building stock high on the agenda, the European Commission is pushing member states to formalise assistance to homeowners in their renovation projects through the creation of so-called one-stop-shops. [EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET]

In order to double the renovation rate of buildings, the European Commission has requested EU member states to provide technical assistance to homeowners by setting up one-stop-shops that will guide consumers throughout the renovation process.

The building stock is responsible for 36% of the bloc’s emissions and improving the energy efficiency of buildings has long been on the EU agenda.

Last year, the European Commission’s renovation wave strategy sought to double the rate of energy renovations and now the proposed recast of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) puts forward concerted measures at EU and national level in order to make it happen.

The revised EPBD seeks to boost the renovation of the 15% worst performing buildings, which would be ranked “G” on a revised EU scale rating their energy performance.

“Its focus on the worst performing buildings prioritises the most cost-effective renovations and helps fight energy poverty,” said EU climate chief Frans Timmermans, who presented the proposal last week.

Up to €150 billion in public finance will be made available in order to help the poorest households renovate their buildings and save on energy bills, EU officials said.

But “financing alone will not deliver on the renovation needs,” reads the revised EPBD proposal presented by the European Commission last Wednesday (15 December). 

“Setting up accessible and transparent advisory tools and assistance instruments such as one-stop-shops that provide integrated energy renovation services or facilitators…is indispensable to provide the right enabling framework and break barriers to renovation,” the recast directive says.

EU’s new buildings law aims to renovate 15% least efficient homes

The European Commission has proposed the introduction of minimum energy performance standards for the 15% worst performing buildings in Europe, which would be rated “G” on the EU’s energy performance scale, whether they are residential or not.


And while billions per year are already available for renovation, making sure the money is absorbed by government programmes and the market at national level can be challenging.

“What we need to make more renovation happen is not only the finance and the funding, but the practical support for building owners,” says Louise Sunderland, senior advisor at the Regulatory Assistance Project, an independent NGO dedicated to accelerating the clean energy transition.

What homeowners need is a “one-stop-shop,” offering a smooth customer journey – “handholding through the renovation process” to ensure they get an effective outcome in the end, she told EURACTIV.

Practical support would amount to working “out what’s needed for their building, have the assessment done, figure out which measures they need, then help them find the right funding and financing, then engage with the tradespeople to get the work done,” she said.

The setting up of one-stop-shops appears to find consensus among the European Commission, researchers and business groups alike.

“One-stop-shops could play a crucial role in supporting households by offering a full integrated renovation service including design, optioneering, subsidies, funding and implementation of the projects,” said Katarzyna Wardal, EU public affairs manager at Knauf Insulation.

“We businesses invest more likely where good customer support schemes for using our products exist,” she explained.

The issue has become so central to EU renovation efforts that EU states are now urged to “provide technical assistance, including through one-stop shops” in the recast EPBD proposal.

No more time for half-measures on renovation

In times of climate crisis, it is no longer acceptable that our buildings swallow up so much of the limited energy resources and leave our citizens so vulnerable to energy price hikes, writes Adrian Joyce. 

The renovation enabler toolbox 

The idea of one-stop-shops is not new but it is the first time that the concept is being put down into EU law. Article 9 of the recast EPBD deals with “minimum energy performance standards” and says EU member states shall support compliance by: 

  • providing appropriate financial measures, in particular those targeting vulnerable households, people affected by energy poverty or living in social housing,
  • providing technical assistance, including through one-stop-shops;
  • designing integrated financing schemes;
  • removing non-economic barriers, including split incentives; and
  • monitoring social impacts, in particular on the most vulnerable

When it comes to one-stop-shops, only a handful of them have opened across the EU whereas hundreds should be made available in order to coordinate between homeowners, financial institutions and SMEs involved in carrying out the renovation works.

A 2018 report by the European Commission found that only found 2 or 3 one-stop-shops were set up in each of the Nordic countries as well as France and the Benelux. And an EU-funded project recently published a step-by-step guide on how to set up a one-stop-shop for building renovation and what kind of business model they could adopt.

To get renovations going, one-stop-shops should aim to “unleash the natural power of capitalism” and grow the construction sector, said Brook Riley, head of EU affairs at Rockwool, the Danish manufacturer of insulation material. 

But one-stop-shops tread a fine line, as they rely on consumer trust and local expertise. “Although the one-stop-shop is very advantageous for homeowners, they are very careful to accept its offers,” said Frederikshavn, a project partner with the EU’s INNOVATE programme.

While in practice, one-stop-shops could be run entirely online, two aspects are considered key to their success: whether they are physically located close to the customer and whether they can be trusted to give impartial advice.

“In practice, actual physical and regional hubs are most effective,” Sunderland explained.

And when it comes to impartiality, it is crucial that one-stop-shops are “not purely private,” Riley insists. Local technical assistance providers “have to be as independent as possible” to ensure people trust the advice, he said. 

To ensure this, some countries have opted for fully public-funded bodies. France, for instance, plans to “set up a nationwide network of one stop shops, which will be government funded,” Riley said. 

Yet while most actors agree on the need for one-stop-shops, the issue of who should run them is still a topic of debate.

“To increase trust for consumers, only certified one-stop-shops companies should be eligible to provide services supported by public funding,” explained Wardal.

EU’s building renovation wave hits administrative snag

Differing views within the European Commission on how the EU’s unprecedented recovery fund can be spent, and a rush to translate national spending plans from their original language, risk slowing down the EU’s building renovation wave, experts say.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon] 


This stakeholder supports EURACTIV's coverage of Renovation Wave. This support enables EURACTIV to devote additional editorial resources to cover the topic more widely and deeply. EURACTIV's editorial content is independent from the views of its supporters.

Knauf Insulation

We manufacture sustainable insulation solutions For A Better World. Our products contribute to saving energy and cutting emissions. They are designed to make sure buildings are good for the environment and safe and comfortable for everyone who uses them.

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