Developing Positive Energy Neighbourhoods to Renovate Europe: National insights

Brussels, 29 October 2020


Today Syn.ikia has brought together different public, cooperative and social housing federations online to identify national policy strengths and weaknesses for the development of Positive Energy Neighbourhoods (PENs). National housing federations from the project countries where PENs are being developed – Norway, Netherlands, Spain and Austria – shared how the existing policy frameworks in their countries are facilitating or, on the contrary, preventing the implementation of PENs.

These insights come at a time when the European Commission has recently published its Renovation Wave Strategy, outlining its action plan for the decarbonisation of the building stock, pending the revision of numerous legislative texts in 2021. PENs are placed at the heart of the strategy as a key leading action to decarbonise the built environment in Europe.

Syn.ikia’s concept of Sustainable Plus Energy Neighbourhoods (SPEN) relies on the interplay between novel technologies at the neighbourhood scale – integrated energy design, energy- and cost-efficiency measures, local renewables, local storage, energy flexibility, and energy sharing and trading – and high architectural and spatial qualities, affordable housing and social sustainability. To ensure access to healthy housing for all households, especially low-income groups at risk of energy poverty, our SPENs are being developed by the non-for-profit housing sector including, public, social and cooperative housing providers. Moreover, they are in line with the Renovation Wave’s Affordable Housing Initiative for 100 lighthouse projects.

However, SPENs are still an emerging reality for many European countries where national policy frameworks pose barriers to their development.

“In Austria, there is a broad regulatory framework addressing specific dimensions of PED (e.g. energy efficiency, neighbourhood approach, production or renewable energy). However, there is no explicit legislative framework for an integrated approach like PED yet” says Gerlinde Gutheil-Knopp-Kirchwald from The Austrian Federation of Limited-Profit Housing Associations (GBV), Austria.

“Existing regional policies in Catalonia currently limit the investment possibilities of social and public housing providers to develop PENs as well as the extension of electrical distribution networks. Nonetheless, local regulations enable the generation of renewables both for self-consumption and sharing at neighbourhood level “- says Joan Estrada from Institut Català del Sòl (INCASOL), Spain

“Decarbonisation is priority in the transport and industry sectors in Norway, but no so much in the construction sector. Cooperative housing and condominiums offer a significant potential to contribute to energy savings, lower load on the electricity grid, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions”says Tore Johannesen from The Co-operative Housing Federation of Norway (NBBL), Norway

Four real-life SPENs that combine both new construction and renovation projects, are currently being developed, analysed, optimised and monitored by our consortium in these countries, to demonstrate the functionality of the plus-energy neighbourhood concept for the rest of Europe and pave the way to a new wave of decarbonised districts.

“The district approach and the Affordable Housing Initiative can help for the digital, green transition of buildings and transform entire neighbourhoods. At the moment, we are looking for inspiring neighbourhoods that can set a benchmark ” – says Océane Peiffer-Smadja, Policy Officer at DG GROW, European Commission.

We believe syn.ikia’s work can pave the way and serve as an exemplary district renovation project to demonstrate the functionality of integrated, participatory and neighbourhood-based approaches to the rest of Europe. The recognition of participatory neighbourhood-based approached to building renovation is a great encouragement to develop, within this project’s scope, solutions that will actively contribute to meet the European Commission’s expectations and goals – a more sustainable, healthier, inclusive Europe.

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