“Ēkubirojs One-Stop-Shop: Results of the EUROPA Regional Event”
Ēkubirojs hosted the Regional Event of the EUROPA One-Stop-Shop project in Riga, Latvia. Representatives from Riga Energy Agency, Renesco, the Latvian Member Committee of the World Energy Council, and other interested stakeholders gathered to discuss the concept of one-stop-shop in Latvia.
The floor was opened by the representative of the Latvian Member Committee of the World Energy Council Olga Bogdanova, who provided the general energy context of Latvia. As a county energy importer, the achievement of resilience requires solving energy efficiency problems. Last year, Latvia faced an absolute maximal energy cost, which was the moment when everyone felt the importance of energy. Businesses, as usual, will not enable either reaching the climate targets or achieving energy security. NIMBY-ism (not in my backyard) exists in the field of energy policy, as well. Despite the problem being widely recognized, when it comes to concrete actions, we still see a tendency to search for solutions elsewhere rather than act. Another challenge is that in the energy market, the process of replication and change takes a long time, while the current situation requires immediate action. The complexity comes to balancing the energy generation with energy supply, as well as in the consideration of the entire supply chain rather than separated elements.
Buildings are the points for action for energy efficiency. The existing building stock has an enormous potential for energy savings, but it is important to consider building comprehensively rather than focusing on separated elements. Energy supply in buildings is not only a question of energy; they are also an economic question because the sustainable energy supply makes the state more competitive. However, the energy crisis still did not cause people to run for renovation, despite high energy prices. This is a very important moment for municipalities to stimulate the renovations and support the most vulnerable population groups.
Nicholas Stancioff from Ēkubirojs introduced the concept of One-Stop-Shops (OSS) for building renovations and their key role to bring all the services for renovation together in one place. Nicholas explained four models of OSS: facilitation, coordination, all-inclusive, and ESCO model, and provided examples. ESCOs face similar challenges across Europe, such as the inability to scale their services due to insufficient demand, the long time it takes for the homeowners to make decisions about renovation, high reliance on public funds, distrust towards innovative financial instruments, and lack of awareness. The EUROPA project delivered five OSS, and the Energy Efficiency Subscription (EES) is at its core. The main idea of the EES is to facilitate the renovation process by delivering consistent high-quality services while ensuring that energy savings are guaranteed. Nicholas stressed the wider benefits of renovation, which go beyond the energy savings, such as safety, health, and comfort. Wider benefits also gain bigger recognition in policy-making and become more present in policy documents.
Edgars Augustiņš from Renesco explained the ESCO model in Latvia. The key focus for ESCO is to achieve cost and energy efficiency together. Edgards highlights that the cost of energy retrofits increased greatly in the last 10-15 years. With the current prices, it is not possible to cover the costs of renovation by the energy savings alone; it requires owners to pay a bit more after the renovation process is done. This cost increase makes homeowners hesitate to renovate their building, although the perspective should consider long-term benefits versus the additional costs. Despite the pressing conditions of the energy crisis, the demand for renovations has not boomed, even though the interest and awareness increased slightly. The lack of trust further complicates the process. Owners do not trusts service providers or policy-makers. Yet, the experience shows they trust municipalities. Successful examples of such cooperation can be found in Liepaja, Cēsis, and Valmiera. OSS should help to mediate the conversation with the residents and increase awareness about the relevance of the ESCOs among policy-makers – in the last years, it is seen that the concept becomes recognized, but still not scalable. In the course of actions, ESCOs should enable homeowners to express their needs and have a say in the improvement of their building’s future. That is the way to build trust and make the voices heard.
Edgars mentioned that, in the future, the projects for ESCOs should go beyond one building, but take the perspective of quarters or building blocs. This would enable them to optimize costs and stimulate the owners to care not only about their flat but about the wider urban environment.
Valters Liberts Muzikants from Riga Energy Agency (REA) shared the insights of the experience of REA in the process of setting up the facilitation model of the OSS. This model focuses on the provision of the relevant information to initiate the renovation process. Valters stresses that despite multiple organizations that can fulfill the functions of the OSS, it is important to proactively use the opportunity to provide free consultations for the residents which many municipalities and REA have. The process to apply to such consultations should be easy in order to stimulate all the interested homeowners and increase their awareness. Sometimes, the problem is that neither municipalities nor owners are proactive enough and that should change.
The discussions during the event highlighted the following:
- Grant reliance is unsustainable. We cannot focus only on relying on the grant money. The solution should be found within the market. We need more public-private partnerships. Public financing is not enough for the scale of the action needed. Grants should be also better audited to ensure that the results in terms of improved energy efficiency and wider benefits of renovation are achieved.
- The ownership structure in Latvia should change to stimulate more communities and cooperatives to emerge.
- We should re-consider the subsidization of fossil fuel use in buildings. “One size fits all” policies to cut energy costs for all will discourage the owners to consider energy efficiency improvements. This kind of subsidy should take into account the commitment to energy efficiency.
- The application of tax to the building does not fulfill the minimum energy efficiency standards.
- Fight the short-term thinking because the long-term benefits will outweigh the costs by not only saved energy but also improved lives and built resilience.
- Marketing is key to create demand for energy retrofits, event though we need to build awareness first.
The event was concluded on the note that the active stakeholders in Latvia should be more proactive in working together and mobilise the shared efforts to achieve the common goal.