On Friday, 6 September 2013 the Energy Agreement was signed by Minister Kamp on behalf of the government and a great number of organisations. My colleague Sebastiaan van de Kant has already written about the main points of the agreement and the ten pillars. One of these pillars is energy conservation. How will savings be made and what consequences will this have for the property sector?
Energy conservation in the developed environment
In relation to the first pillar, the Energy Agreement talks about, among other things, energy conservation in the developed environment. The agreements relate to both the owner-occupied and rented housing sector and the property sector. The starting point is that citizens and companies themselves have an interest in and take responsibility for energy conservation. Awareness, financing and making life easier are key notions in this context.
Market parties, civil society organisations and local and regional authorities will be setting up an information campaign starting in 2014. The energy sector will participate in this as well. Because there are no mandatory measures, the energy user will have to be motivated to start conserving energy.
• All homeowners who do not yet have an energy label will receive an indicative energy label for their home in 2014 and 2015.
Which energy label is given to a home will be determined using a uniform, nation-wide method. In order to customise the determination, owners will be given the
opportunity to enter actual characteristics of their home.
• The national government guarantees the detailed calculation system for building energy performance that is currently in place. The outcome of this calculation will be
stated on the energy performance certificate, which will enable use of more favourable financing options and policy measures in future. Both building-related and
area-related specifications will be properly included in the energy performance certificates. The national government is also aiming to align the methods for new-build
construction and existing buildings.
• Smart meters will be installed and the user of this smart meter will be simultaneously given a proposal to start saving energy. A national approach to energy conservation
will also start in 2014 with the replacement of old devices, such as hot water heaters and electric boilers.
A revolving fund of some 600 million euros will be available. This will make it possible for many homeowners to take energy-saving measures. The idea of a revolving fund is that the government makes funding available on a temporary basis. The resources put out must therefore be repaid. From 2014 it will also be possible for energy companies to provide loans for energy-saving measures, which loans can subsequently be repaid via the consumer’s energy bill. The national government still has to consult with energy companies and regulators, such as the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM), concerning this. The energy performance certificate can be used to demand more favourable financing conditions. More possibilities for taking energy-saving measures into account when providing mortgages are also being looked into.
Making life easier
Industry organisations and local and regional authorities will be helping private homeowners find their way around the energy conservation market. Many homeowners still find this market difficult to navigate. More accessible advice and more guarantees for improving energy performance will be introduced. There will be energy desks, for instance, and the various organisations will collaborate more.
Rented housing sector
The Energy Agreement ties in with the agreements made in the 2012 Agreement on Energy Conservation in the Rented Housing Sector. Realising these agreements will require more investment than has been forthcoming so far. The landlord levy has put housing associations’ ability to make new investments under pressure however. The national government has therefore pledged 400 million euros in subsidies to landlords in the subsidised rented sector to enable investments in energy conservation. In the agreements that have been made between the government and housing associations, it has become clear that housing associations will invest in social housing to the extent the landlord levy allows. Cooperation between municipalities, housing associations and tenants’ organisations should result in performance agreements and monitoring.
Property with a social function and other property
The Environmental Management Act makes it mandatory for businesses and institutions to take energy-saving measures if these can be earned back in five years or less. The implementation of this requirement has been given priority by the preparation of a list of recognised measures, the establishment of an independent expertise centre and better enforcement.
The list of recognised measures to be drawn up will contain information for each measure on the average earn-back period and the financial and technical starting points used in determining that. The expertise centre is being set up for both businesses and the competent authorities. Private parties and knowledge institutes will be involved in the centre in order to ensure that all available knowledge can be brought together. Finally, municipalities and provinces (as principals of the Regional Implementing Agencies) will make enforcement of the energy-saving requirement from the Environmental Management Act a priority and start a pilot for an Energy Performance Inspection (EPK). This EPK must ensure that companies take measures in accordance with the Environmental Management Act and that this can be tested by means of an EPK inspection.
Many of the plans mentioned above are aimed not only at energy conservation but also at more employment and investment in the construction and refurbishment sectors in the near future.
Robert Rypstra Lawyer