Time to Act Now!
Using 40% of the energy consumption, buildings are Europe’s biggest energy resource. Using energy more efficiently in the building stock is therefore a key objective for polices of different fields and levels. Municipalities are the key players for improving energy efficiency at the local level. They benefit from improved energy efficiency in different ways, including reduced GHG emissions, less energy expenses, improved working and housing conditions and many more.
With this learning platform, the Act Now! project seeks to share the methodology, knowledge and experience accumulated while it built energy efficiency capacities in several Baltic municipalities. Here, municipalities will find hands-on guidance to strategically improve their abilities to plan and implement energy efficiency projects in their building stock.
Lesson 1a: Building a Work Group (LEEG)
Energy efficiency is far more than just a technical issue. Energy is consumed at different points in different buildings, and making the consumption more efficient can affect many different people in different ways. E.g. new ventilation can be a matter of health and quality of life, while saving heating cost may have a impact in social housing. In Act Now!, we believe that any effective and robust energy efficiency activity must be a joint effort of all affected parties inside and outside the local administration.
Thus, we put the Local Energy Efficiency Workgroup (LEEG) at the centre of our approach to energy efficiency. It is a group of municipal staff from different departments (technical, finance, etc.) and organisations (schools, public transport, etc.) as well as representatives of other local stakeholders (businesses, home owners, residents, etc.). Being experts on each of their fields and well acquainted with the local situation, the LEEG aggregates perspectives and knowledge that would otherwise be scattered across different parties. Therefore, the LEEG is the core organizational unit of the Act Now! approach. Establishing a LEEG should be among the very first steps before taking on energy efficiency in your municipality. Ultimately, it is the very place where all the activities suggested by Act Now! shall take place.
Lesson 1b: Customized Capacity Building
While an energy-related action plan can be established using external expertise, its execution requires substantial internal resources in terms of personnel, structures, expertise and finances. This can be overwhelming, especially (but not only) for smaller municipalities. The Act Now! Approach is help for self-help. It focuses to build internal capacities that help municipalities to sustainably plan and implement energy efficiency measures in the long-run. This enables to accumulate and cultivate the necessary expertise and networks locally.
However, there is obviously no one-size fits-all solution. Municipalities in the Baltic Sea Region and beyond are not only bound to different national legislation, but operating in highly specific local circumstances. Each of them has different administration structures and decision-making procedures, political background, local business structure, population and many more factors to take into account.
Taking this into account, we developed a methodology to identify the capacity gaps in any given municipality and derive a customized capacity building scheme to be applied.
Lesson 2: Setting the Strategy
Increasing the capacities for energy efficiency enables a municipality to strategically tackle energy efficiency over the long-term. With the necessary know-how and organizational infrastructure, projects can be developed, implemented and evaluated systematically under a common, strategic umbrella. This ensures consistent and effective action in order to make the most of the work and money invested.
Each strategy and resulting action plan requires a different set of capacities in the executing municipality. Thus, Act Now! encourages municipalities to develop their energy efficiency capacities hand in hand with their energy efficiency strategy for buildings. We suggest an approach that combines the core-ideas of Act Now! (see Lessons 1a and 1b) with well-established procedures of strategic energy planning.
Lesson 3: Picking the Energy Efficiency Measures
Energy efficiency can potentially be increased at almost any point in a given building. The building envelope alone offers a multitude of options, while heating, water, electricity and ventilation are other major areas where energy consumption can be shaved off. the question is not whether energy can be used more efficiently, but where, and where first.
However, choosing the right options for your municipality is anything but trivial. Although almost any technical energy efficiency measure might help to reduce the absolute amount of energy consumed, its effectivity in relation to factors like the resources invested, GHG emission reduction, and whatever is addressed in your municipality may differ largely between options.
Act Now! proposes a thorough discussion and criteria-based evaluation process in order to identify the most effective and appropriate energy efficiency measures to be implemented with priority. This ultimately helps to make a robust decision accountable to the taxpayer.
Lesson 4: Financing
A successful energy efficiency strategy does not only require good project management, but also financial resources. Energy efficiency often comes with constructional measures in the building envelope or technical installations, and therefore involves considerable investments. Given that many municipalities suffer from tight budgets, finding secure and sufficient financing for energy efficiency measures is critical for any strategic approach to the topic.
Most commonly, municipalities apply for public support programs for sustainable energy activities. However, this also means that municipalities tend to only pursue projects that are eligible for funding by regional and national governments as well as the European Union. Act Now! encourages municipalities to go off this beaten track and explore different, innovative financing models that suit their needs.
In this lesson, we would like to provide a introduction into the wide spectrum of financing methods, including private investments, community energy and crowdfunding, contracting models and more.
Lesson 5: Unlocking the Private Sector
The private sector may seem out of reach for municipal efforts towards energy efficiency, at the first glance. However, representing the vast majority of the local building stock, the potential for energy saving and GHG emission reduction is many times greater than in the municipal properties alone. Act Now! recommends to unlock this potential by strategically develop PPPs (public private partnerships).
The Act Now! approach takes into account that PPPs require time and effort to mature. Mutual trust and shared vision among municipality and private sector can only be established and translated into action by careful development.
This lesson introduces a step-by-step model to establish PPPs facilitated by the LEEG (see Lesson 1a) in your municipality. It helps you to address private homeowners, housing associations, private rental homes, companies, utilities and sports facilities alike.