The Netherlands has found a way to refurbish existing buildings to net zero energy, within a week, with a 30-year builders’ guarantee and no subsidies.
>”Inside the house, the pounding rain stills to distant murmur. That’s thanks to the triple glazing, points out Ron van Erck, enthusiastic member of Platform31, an innovation programme funded by the Dutch government that brings together different actors for out-of-the-box thinking to crack intractable problems. One of its big successes to date is Energiesprong, an initiative that turns the building market on its head to deliver social housing with zero net energy consumption, i.e. no energy bill, at zero cost to the tenant and with no subsidies to the builder.
Starting off in 2010 with three staff, a €50 million budget and five years to come up with something to make buildings more sustainable, Energiesprong today boasts 45 staff and a deal with 27 housing associations and four big construction companies to refurbish 111,000 houses in the Netherlands. Total investment? €6 billion. The initial focus is social housing, but it’s already looking at the private market, care centres and commercial office buildings too.
How does the plan work? The basic trick is that tenants instead of paying their energy bills, pay a similar amount to the housing corporations that own the houses. With this money, the corporations pay building companies to retrofit the houses, which after renovation have net zero energy costs. The building companies have for this project developed ‘industrialised’ renovation procedures that are highly cost-effective. One important difference with existing renovation projects is that all elements that are needed for a successful move to zero-energy housing are brought together in one plan.
Energy Post’s Sonja van Renssen met with manager Jasper van den Munckhof, to understand exactly what Energiesprong does, how it does it and why it will succeed – in the Netherlands and elsewhere.
Q: What was your starting point?
A: We started off with what we spend. The household energy bill in the Netherlands is about €13 billion. This money is available. If you spent it on a mortgage or payback on a loan of about 30 years [instead of energy], you have €225 billion to invest in the Dutch housing stock. This is substantial money: €30-40,000 per house to make it energy neutral.
“Retrofit wasn’t interesting – unless you were rich – but using the energy bill to fund it, no one had thought of that! A building and its energy system were developed as parallel, complementary but not integrated, entities.”
-Jan Kamphuis, BJW Wonen, a one-stop-shop for retrofits inspired by Energiesprong
The trick is, how to get this money flowing. We tried to imagine what owners would need to start investing. They buy kitchens and they don’t see this as an investment but good for their family. You need to get this focus on people and how they buy stuff, how they accept things. If you lose that focus and think it’s about financial arrangements, you won’t find a solution.
Q: So what will make people spend money on retrofits?
A: It needs to be very well done, like if they buy a car, they buy a decent one. It has to be fast – the problem with retrofitting (vs. buying new stuff) is that it’s usually a lot of trouble, dust and hassle. So we said one, the retrofits have to be done within a week. Two, it has to be affordable: ideally the cost to the tenant before and after should be equal. That means the energy bill converted to the mortgage or extra rent has to cover the full cost of the retrofit. Three, it has to be attractive. It needs to be something you see. […]”<