Energy advisory services (sometimes called one-stop-shops) offer consumers (building owners, managers, tenants) advice and practical assistance on a number of legal, financial, technical, practical and behavioural aspects to increase energy efficiency or sustainable energy use in a building.
In just five examples, the briefing provides a glimpse of the range of experience and approaches on offer across Europe. The examples include examples of long-term, sustained, national provision dating back to the 1970s; delivery by diverse organisations including local government, consumer organisations, the private sector and third sector; as well as newer initiatives using methodologies and communications specifically designed to access repair, maintenance and improvement cycles, hook into householders’ health, wellbeing and comfort motivations and to deliver very deep renovations.
The initiatives are driven by, and therefore integrated with, specific national objectives – a building renovation target, the need to reduce reliance on fuel oil, or a plan for national growth.
Each of the programmes is driven by different macro objectives and is delivered in different a way. But each of the policy-makers and programme practitioners behind them have acknowledged that the consumer advisory service is the glue that holds together and the oil that lubricates the wheels of the policies in the framework.
But there is the rub.
As the glue that (particularly from the consumers’ perspective) holds together an often complex and changing landscape of policies and as the oil that improves the effectiveness of each of these policies, it is very difficult – near impossible – to accurately evaluate the impact of the advisory service itself. What is the direct contribution of the advisory service alone?
It is easier to attribute impact to a ‘hard’ policy. For example, without financial support (grants, tax rebates, loans, etc.) many renovations could not happen. However, the advisory service is often the element that can make sure the renovation does happen. It can ensure consumers don’t get lost or put off half way through the process, it can ensure the renovation is successful and achieves the greatest energy saving. And this impact is harder to attribute.
On this last point there does seem to be growing evaluated and anecdotal evidence. An evaluation of France’s advisory service found that 55% of clients who undertook works reported that the service allowed them to go further. Similar reports from clients of the BedreBolig pilots in Denmark and the SuperHome scheme in Tipperary, Ireland also confirm that the service enabled clients to do more than they would have achieved alone. And in today’s Europe, where the need to drive the rate and depth of building renovation is one of the top energy policy priorities, this is rather important.
The examples we selected for our latest briefing show that energy advisory services are policies that are effective and flexible enough to be adopted into any national context. Member States have significant experience to share on effective implementation. What we need now is some effective political leadership to inject the much needed glue into the European building renovation strategy.
EAE has recommended that, as part of the Clean Energy for All revisions, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive be amended to require a robust strategy for consumer energy advice provision as part of an effective renovation strategy.