The power of a label: why research linked to research and development in energy efficiency in buildings must target the market

ECCREDI’s contribution to E2BA Roadmap
Since 2008 sales for A-labelled cars in the Netherlands have increased by more than 45% decreasing the overall CO emissions of the Dutch automotive sector by 17.4% 

Sectors such as the automotive industry and household appliances show the enormous potential for the building industry in succeeding in bringing energy labelling into hearts and minds of the EU citizen. The energy label is a key success factor in improving the energy performance of the built environment. Under the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, all new buildings will need to meet “nearly zero energy” standards from the end of 2020 . However, new buildings are a distinct minority of the building stock and with low replenishment rates, it will be crucial to incentivise the more than 50% of private owners to seriously improve the energy performance of their existing properties. In order to achieve this a reliable energy label that has the trust of the market and is of benefit to consumers is crucial.

How to bring up refurbishment rates for improved energy performance to a much higher level than today is a research question in itself. As 60 to more likely near 80% of the present building stock will be still with us in 2050 it is hard to believe that without that happening any of the goals set for 2020 and 2050 can be accomplished. But if we succeed in bringing the need for serious improvements in buildings’ energy performance to the hearts and minds of the EU citizen, it will improve EU energy efficiency tremendously thus helping to reduce carbon emissions, boost activity in all sectors of the construction industry and therefore support the EU economy as a whole. In other words as in the past, making the construction sector the engine in revitalising the EU economy through greening the built environment.

In one of his recent interviews Robert Jan Smits, Director-General of DG Research and Innovation in the European Commission said that in formulating the Horizon 2020 Programme the realisation of a culture shift from the strongly technical approach of the past Framework Programmes towards a programme more driven by societal needs is seen by him as one of the main challenges for the period to come. It is clear that the societal impact of RD&I actions will be more then ever the yardstick for measuring success.It is also clear that if there is one sector where this challenge applies, it is the highly fragmented sector of the built environment where structural change can best be accomplished in the framework of research Public Private Partnerships. The aim of such a partnership should be to establish an intelligent and well balanced portfolio of mechanisms to raise public awareness, develop a set of regulations, codes and practices, fiscal and financial tooling, and technical means and services.

Energy Labelling in all aspects of the built environment should form a major focal area for the research and innovation activities of the built environment agenda of Horizon 2020 and should be brought to the EU citizen in a way that it wins hearts and minds. Addressing the total range of the “Why”,“What” and “How” questions. The ‘Why’ question, not predominantly addressed, like in the past, purely from rationality but also from the angle of what stimulus is needed to bring people into action. Keeping in mind that before the i-pad was introduced there were many earlier attempts to bring a tablet to the market but nobody succeeded before Apple found the way to the heart of the consumer. Furthermore showing in the ‘What’ and ‘How’ the more technical aspects of R/D/I results as function of the label’s contribution either in terms of comfort, improved energy performance, reliability, cost effectiveness and the like by improving the impact transparency.

All communication channels both public and private, should be used: e.g. making use of the national organisation of the various building associations to help raise awareness among the EU citizen on the impact of Horizon 2020 on his or her wellbeing. It is our strong belief that apart from technical issues, all these “how to” questions such as how to raise people’s attention, create interaction between codes and practices and technical capability, the design of methods of communication etc, should be addressed in a separate Social Economic (Market) Research section of the E2BA Roadmap to make this part of the Horizon 2020 agenda a success.

A Social Economic (Market) Research section to include;

  • R&D on the development of (social/economic) mechanisms to bring refurbishment rates, specifically those for improved energy performance, up to a much higher level than they are today.
  • Development of a system for creating impact transparency for R/D/I results as a function of the label’s contribution.
  • Research on mechanisms used in the various member states in relation to energy labelling and its effect on what will incentivise people to move including the development of an intelligent and well balanced portfolio of mechanisms to raise public awareness, set regulations, codes and practices, fiscal and financial tooling
  • Introduction of a communication paragraph in the Roadmap facilitating the use of and research on making best use of applicable public and private communication channels to raise awareness about labelling and of progress made as a result of R/D/I  in terms of comfort, improved energy performance, reliability, cost effectiveness and other (social/economic) arguments which might prove relevant etc. as values in terms of ‘up-labelling
  • Development of SME friendly systems and modelling of services for ‘up-labelling’, which are integrated, attractive, no regrets options which are fit for purpose, stress free put together and cost effective.
  • Development and introduction of a system of R/D/I evaluation predicting/showing the related positive impact of measures taken in the context of actions related to label improvement.
  • R/D/I through, for example, monitoring best practice or other means in realising an dynamic, interacting open innovation environment where the (new) technical potential is brought into a dynamic interaction with an optimised practice of standardisation underlying a system of codes and practices, directives and regulations, fiscal and financial tooling making optimal use of the strength of diversity in conditions between  the 27 Member States.

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