New Orleans There’s no better argument for the advantage of in-person meetings rather than Zoom world than our ongoing efforts to figure out a common language over recent months about retrofit campaigns. Visiting with our organizers, first in Lyon, where there had been major breakthroughs, and then in Grenoble, where Adrien Roux, the Alliance Citoyenne head organizer, and I were finally able to get to the heart of the rating system that helps prioritize where public investments in housing rehabilitation and weatherization need to be made.
I had been hearing there was a European Union wide classification system, but when I had tried to have the discussions with organizers form the UK or the Netherlands, it was all Greek to them, even though on the tip of the tongues for our French organizers. Looking over Adrien’s shoulder, it finally became clearer. This was the EPC or Energy Performance Certificate ranking for housing and building infrastructure. The classifications were from good, an A, down to the worst, a G. What had been won in France from the national government was a commitment to retrofit all housing ranking F and G in the two worst energy performance categories.
Was it mandatory for all EU countries, as I had understood? Not necessarily, it seems. The EU website says,
…Article 20 (2) EPBD, which asks Member States to provide information on the energy performance certificates and the inspection reports, on their purpose and objectives, on the cost-effective ways and, where appropriate, on the available financial instruments to improve the energy performance of the building to the owners or tenants of the buildings.
So, voluntary. Elsewhere the EU indicated that 11 of the 27 countries have gone farther than the mandate in creating a common registry. That’s good. It also seems that a much better job has been done on new buildings and new construction than has been done on houses and apartment blocks for lower income and working families where we are most interested.
In the United Kingdom though the EPC standards seem tougher. From my reading a landlord is not allowed to rent a unit if the EPC certification is an F or G, almost a form of licensing which has been a major campaign for us in Canada and, more recently, in the UK. Furthermore, a landlord is required to give a tenant the EPC classification category upon request as part of the lease.
The United States has a quasi-equivalent program which turns out to be the Energy Star that one sees on buildings from time to time, but if the EU program is voluntary, the EPA program is less than that. It seems to be a certification that builders can seek, in classic American style, but not available in the main for private housing, and certainly not the intricate multi-level system enjoyed by some EU countries and the United Kingdom. The system in Canada seems most like the Energy Star program where there are several different ratings that builders can seek to claim energy efficiency, but no overall housing classification system.
In the wake of COP26 and the fact that 40% of carbon emissions come from buildings with half of that from homes, it seems our demands in the retrofit campaign will have to be twofold. One for a classification system for all housing, and secondly for specialized programs to upgrade and weatherize for energy efficiency older buildings and rentals where our members are living.