What policies are most effective for driving existing building energy efficiency renovations?

21 Dec 2017

The renovation of existing buildings is critical to curbing GHG emissions and reducing sectoral energy consumption. Indeed, while new buildings are being built in accordance with energy efficiency principles and low energy-consumption buildings are starting to reach a ‘critical mass’, a large portion of existing building stock is much less efficient. Although there are many opportunities for improvement, the challenge for policy makers lies in determining the most effective set of policies to encourage improved energy efficiency in existing buildings.

In response to this topical issue, IPEEC’s Buildings Energy Efficiency Task Group (BEET) launched a report on Existing Building Energy Efficiency Renovation: International Review of Regulatory Policies - otherwise known as BEET6. Released in September 2017, it is the sixth in a series of studies produced by the Task Group and expands on BEET’s previous work on energy performance metrics, codes, and energy efficiency rating schemes (click here to browse through the previous publications).

The new publication provides an overview of key regulatory policies that have been used internationally to require improvements to existing commercial and residential buildings at the points of renovation, refurbishment, retrofit, alterations or additions. Since implementing building energy codes to the renovation of existing building stock is particularly difficult, especially given the multiplicity of perspectives and competing goals among stakeholders, BEET6 illustrates best practices and case studies from around the world– including Australia, China, the European Union, Japan and the United States– to show what is possible and what appropriate regulatory policies are already in place. By examining these policies, the report outlines which of them have delivered the most impact and how agreements can be reached between different stakeholders for the benefit of all.

The following policies are found to be the most impactful:

  • Comprehensive improvement targets: These targets can set high, longer-term ambitions while continuously upgrading energy performance requirements. This can be done if the targets are supported by underlying policies and initiatives such as regulations, financing, and information campaigns targeting various stakeholders.
  • Disclosure of energy performance: When coupled with mandates tied to improving the performance of poorly performing buildings, disclosure of energy performance can potentially lead to major energy reductions. However, since the mandated improvements can be politically challenging to implement and enforce, periodic disclosure of measured energy performance can provide the feedback loop required to understand the effectiveness of other policies.
  • Linking financing and other supportive policies to deeper savings: Tiered incentives where very deep renovations are rewarded can transform markets and drive greater impacts.
  • Some role for a “renovation facilitator”: A facilitator can navigate different policies and stakeholder groups for the effective implementation of deep renovations.

The success of these policy tools differs and more evaluation is needed to fully understand their impact in many countries. BEET6 however offers a welcome first exploration and sets the ground for further work in this important area.

To view the publication, click here.