Velux VP: Policy must push home renovation for health and efficiency

Ingrid Reumert, of the Velux Group. [Velux]

It’s time for policymakers at both the national and European level to incentivise the renovation of homes, Ingrid Reumert said in an interview with EURACTIV.

Reumert is vive-president at the Velux Group. The Velux Group is a Danish company, specialising in roof windows and skylights. She spoke to deputy news editor James Crisp. 

What can your industry contribute to energy union?

The energy efficiency industry can deliver a focus on the demand and not just the supply side. We need to look at both parts.

We are getting increasingly more dependent on foreign energy sources. Energy Dependence Day is the date from the EU is totally dependent on energy imports. We are getting increasingly more dependent on foreign energy sources. In 2011, Energy Dependence Day was 18 June. By focusing on energy efficiency in buildings you can push that date all the way back to 26 October.

The building sector stands for 40% of energy consumption in Europe. There is huge potential for energy savings in the existing building stock. We have to get into existing buildings and get them renovated.

Why hasn’t it happened yet?

The focus at the moment is on the energy side. To motivate private homeowners to make savings you have to tie it to something tangible like creating a better living environment for example.

Isn’t this a problem caused by industry?

The low hanging fruits of energy efficiency have been picked. What’s left now is on a smaller scale, such as people’s homes. It takes much more individual measures – that’s where we have to go now. At factory level, there is regulation on the way as well…

So the battle there has been won?

I think the policy measures are on the way. With a lot of industry, well, there is still a way to go. But we need to look at the existing building stick and that still needs attention.

Is convincing homeowners to buy into energy efficiency a hard sell?

You have to tie it into something that means something for people, like giving their property more value, saving them money or improving the indoor environment. 80 million Europeans are living in damp and leaky buildings. Then there can be mould and that can lead to asthma for example. So there is a health benefit to improving the indoor climate. After all, we spend more than 90 % of our life indoors.

What can be done at EU level?

You can have a top down approach through the energy efficiency of buildings directive. We believe it focuses on both energy efficiency and the indoor climate. I think this theme is top down, and bottom up in sense of getting people to lower their bills and get a better quality of life.

Often what policymakers are thinking of is completely different to what you think of as a homeowner. We need to remove complexity for the homeowner to encourage them to make these changes. Say a renovation costs €10,000. That’s a kitchen; it’s a holiday in Thailand, but renovating your home can improve your quality of life.

As a positive incentive, there’s lots of research showing that productivity, well-being and health gets better. We know that when we do school renovations, you have better test results, 15% better. So it’s about making those arguments.   

How much can this cost?

Well, there’s deep renovation or there’s more low hanging fruit like the windows or tightening the doors. The further you go, the more energy you save and there’s very much a case of looking at the cost and benefits. How long do you want to stay in the house, for example.

There are individual measures in place in many countries, incentive schemes and tax rebates that can help. What’s important to understand is that this is a long-lasting measure.

If you make changes to energy efficiency in a building the benefits stay for a long time. A building in Europe will stand for 50 to 100 years.

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