in conversation with Roel Vermeiren

  • January 9, 2020

In conversation with Roel Vermeiren: project leader of the Renovation Pact

On December 13th, 2019, the 5-year Renovation Pact study day took place. The ambitious pact that the Flemish government concluded in 2014 to make every house and apartment as energy efficient as a new-build home. The perfect opportunity to invite the project leader of that pact, Roel Vermeiren, for an interview.

Roel Vermeiren (48) is a master in clinical psychology (Ugent) and in Public Management (Antwerp Management School). He has been working at the Flemish Energy Agency (VEA) since 2008. Before that, he worked for 10 years at the VDAB as coordinator of programs for vocational training and in strategic policy support. This experience is now useful in his current job where he works on rational energy use and social energy policy.

“Since 2015 I have been the project manager for the Flemish Renovation Strategy 2050 for residential buildings. Under the heading "Renovation Pact", a large group of committed actors is working on a supported long-term vision, an optimal division of roles and impactful instruments, including for financing and advice. "

What are your personal professional assets?

“I approach challenges from a broad perspective, which makes it possible to better weigh up the advantages and disadvantages and to arrive at feasible and effective actions. Next to that I prefer some creativity and, where possible, some perspective humor. I also like to motivate the people you work with and help them maximize their skills and thereby grow further. ”

What exactly does VEA do? And what's your place in there?

“The Flemish Energy Agency (VEA) is an independent agency of the Flemish Ministry of Environment and its mission is the implementation of an energy policy focused on sustainability. Our most important tasks are to promote rational use of energy and to promote environmentally friendly energy production. We focus on policy preparation and implementation, broadening support, enforcement of regulations and policy evaluation. I work in the policy team of the energy efficiency cluster.”

Can you give some explanation about the Renovation Pact: what are the objectives of this, for example?

“By 2050 we want every house and every apartment to be as energy efficient as an energetically efficient new-build home. The challenges to achieve a building stock with much better energy performance are great.

The government can facilitate and support this transformation, but other stakeholders, such as the construction sector, civil society and banks, will also have to support this. That is why a project was started at the end of 2014 in which 34 organizations are committed to working out the Renovation Pact in an active and constructive manner. The aim of the Renovation Pact is to develop a coherent action plan that, both in the short and in the long term, greatly increases the renovation rate of our Flemish residential property portfolio and optimizes its energy performance to an almost energy neutral level. The Renovation Pact is a partner organization in which resources, information, activities and competencies are shared in order to achieve the common goal. ”

How necessary do you think this pact is?

“The challenge of thoroughly renovating nearly 3 million homes in 30 years is so immense that it becomes all hands on deck to achieve this goal. From a win-win perspective, we need to involve as many partners as possible to make a contribution. Ideally, the political level takes on the role of leader, game distributor and sponsor. The latter in the sense of creating an opportunity to jointly develop tools, methods, tools and support that effectively increases the renovation rate. ”

The 5-day Renovation Pact study day was recently held. Where are the objectives compared to the start of the Pact? Where did we succeed? What do we still have to work on?

“Since the start at the end of 2014, a great deal of cooperation has been established between the partners. We got to know each other better and we are largely on the same page. We want the housing stock to reach label A and to be heated fully sustainably (long-term goal 2050). In addition, we have developed the housing pass and the new EPC together with partners. The conditions for the energy premiums were aligned with the 2050 target and with the neighbor premium and the total renovation premiums we want to activate more people for renovation, preferably aiming as far as possible immediately.

Many owners think that renovating your home is too expensive, but doing nothing also costs money.

It is striking that in the period 2011 to 2015, many owners carried out insulation measures. Afterwards, this fell seriously, perhaps partly due to the reduced premium amounts. Following the European guidelines, we further elaborated and refined the 2050 strategy in 2019 in possible scenarios. That makes the options clearer, but also shows which variation in measures is needed to get the matter moving. It also identifies the necessary investments and the associated broad social benefits such as health and employment. ”

Which measures, that are not currently included, do you find essential to arrive at a properly renovated building park.

“I think we can be brief about this: the experiences of recent years and the scope of the invitation will necessitate a more guiding approach. You will then quickly come to obligations, whether or not linked to support through premiums and / or a thorough reform of housing taxation. ”

What do you think is the biggest misconception about energetic renovations among citizens?

“Many owners may find a thorough energy renovation too expensive. That's right if you simply calculate the payback time of the measures. However, studies indicate that doing nothing about an existing home also has a certain cost: maintenance, energy invoices (which are expected to rise with energy prices, ...), .... In-depth energy renovation is cost-effective if it is thought through. And if we take into account the future value of an energy-efficient and comfortable home, the bill is quickly made and we contribute to the energy and climate goals. We must, however, note that the housing market and citizens are evolving slowly. Hence the need for an acceleration, based on an appropriate package of support. By the way, a 2019 study confirmed that a B-label home is worth nearly 11% more than one with an E. Should this evolution continue, families who purchase a poorly performing home will have more budget for a thorough renovation . "

How do you see the future in terms of renovation policy?

“Since the renovation rate and intensity are not rising sufficiently, we will have to monitor more specifically how we are doing it. Based on that, we can then adjust existing measures and develop new ones. In order to really get things moving, a clearer political commitment and stricter approach may be needed, preferably combined with a housing tax system that is much more friendly to energy-efficient homes than to energy-intensive ones. At the same time, we must accelerate the sustainability of heating so that we can get rid of fossil fuels as quickly as possible. A growing proportion of the energy requirement will be met with electricity. Heat networks in the cores and heat pumps in the outer area will be an important part of the solution. "

Thank you for this conversation!

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