French MP: Building renovation needs to get everyone on board

In France, almost half of final energy consumption is used by the building sector generating about a quarter of the greenhouse emissions, said French MP Marjolaine Meynier-Millefert. [EURACTIV]

This article is part of our special report Renovation of buildings: The fight is over, time to implement.

To succeed in renovating the European building stock by 2050, all the governance levels need to be involved, from local to national, French MP Marjolaine Meynier-Millefert told EURACTIV, adding that people who cannot afford the costs of renovation must not be left behind.

Marjolaine Meynier-Millefert is a member of French Parliament with La République En Marche!. She represents the French National Assembly to the Higher Council for Building and Energy Efficiency.

She spoke to EURACTIV’s Gerardo Fortuna on the sidelines of the REDay2018, held in Brussels on 9 October.

First, I would like to ask you for a quick comment from a national perspective on the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). Do you think it is ambitious enough?

I would say it is already ambitious, but I think we are never ambitious enough knowing how and at what rate the climate is changing. We see reports showing that the urgency of actions becomes bigger every passing day. The EPBD is a huge fast step and we need to get this one done so that we can be more ambitious later on.

And I am here today to explain what we are doing in France and to share our experience with other member states and other actors in Europe so that we can compare and improve our own politics.

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What kind of tools could France offer to other countries as best practices to achieve higher energy efficiency for building stocks by 2050?

We developed a lot of interesting tools, but one that actually works very well is the white certificates scheme. It amounts to €5 billion euro that are directed toward renovations in France, focusing especially on poor people. Of course, it is a scheme that needs to be improved, maybe making it more efficient and more transparent, but it’s something that’s really interesting to keep doing.

Also, the energy audit is one tool that could quickly boost the rate of energy renovation across Europe. We need to give every house in Europe a sort of roadmap indicating what is the status of the house and where they need to go by 2050 if we want nearly zero energy consumption and zero carbon in our homes.

And what exactly have you been working on now?

We want now to work on schools, for instance. It’s a good win-win situation: we want to renovate school buildings fast because it is also a way to educate children to save energy.

Now it’s up to you, national MPs and governments, to implement in your own legislation the updated rules. Do you think there will be some difficulties in coordinating renovations at the local level?

We have to get everyone on board. In France, we have the problem that there are lots of actors dealing with renovation in general. We are working on different levels which they don’t really communicate well with each other. That’s why we launched in September a national campaign called “FAIRE”, which is a call to action with a big main idea: getting everyone to work together. Only in this way we would bring all scales from the towns to the regions to the national level together and work in the same direction.

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And it could also be an opportunity to boost innovation at the local level.

Of course, and I would give you an example from where I am from, a little town between Lyon, Grenoble and Chambery. There are two big actors specialised in cement, Vicat and Lafarge, and they created a fertile environment for other businesses. In this Eastern part of France is concentrated some kind of 80% of all innovation made in the building sector, also for the transition saving energy and low carbon. So it brings more economic, especially in the building sector.

What impact do you think the implementation of the national long renovation strategies would have on people’s lives?

It’s a simple question: people have a very direct impact from poorly insulated homes. For instance, almost 20% of people in France more feel like they are cold in their homes during the winter. Together with the fact that older people and children feel too warm in summer,  it underlines that there is a direct health problem that derives from badly renovated homes.

Energy poverty is another issue that the EPBD tried to address.

With a certain kind of public the directive is addressed to, we need to be very present from the beginning to the end of the renovation works. We have to accompany people from the very beginning of the energy audit of their homes and then we have to take them step-by-step through all the stages until the building is fully renovated. You can not leave them alone on that path. That’s one of the main difficulties we will face because accompanying people through this path costs money. But at the same time, if you don’t do it, there will be no results.

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Finally, we have all seen the recent IPCC report on global warming. Could building renovation also help address this challenge?

The numbers speak for themselves. In France, for example, almost half of the final energy is used by the building sector, generating about a quarter of the greenhouse emissions. If we want to have an impact on the environment, we have to work on this sector as well.

Renovation of buildings: The fight is over, time to implement

The vision for decarbonising the European building stock is clear enough: now comes the time for the member states to enforce these commitments.

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