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Brussels launches initiative for cheaper energy bills

Credit: Kristof Van Accom/Belga

The Brussels government on Thursday announced a new initiative that aims to lower the energy bills of the city’s inhabitants by optimising the renovations of buildings in the city to make them more sustainable.

The renovation strategy (RENOLUTION), which will be supported by €350 million in funding between now and 2024, will rely on the construction, the financial, and the association sectors as well as social partners to implement effective solutions.

“Brussels’ buildings are the most energy-consuming in Europe,” Alain Maron, Brussels Minister for Climate Transition, Environment, and Energy said during a press conference to launch the project.

“One-third of the buildings aren’t even insulated, which means people have larger energy bills but are living in worse conditions. Meanwhile, a fourth of families can barely afford to pay their bills. We have to reduce this precarity through new measures,” he added.

More than half of Brussels’ greenhouse gas emissions come from the energy consumption of buildings. This initiative will also help the city achieve its objective to approach carbon neutrality by 2050 by lowering the average energy performance level to 100 kWh/m²/year for the city’s buildings – three or four times lower than the current level.

To do so, the government is focusing on the renovation of existing buildings: it has increased the budget for energy and renovation grants, and will significantly strengthen guidance and financial support for this by creating a one-stop shop for all renovation procedures.

“Insulating properties will also become easier. By the end of the summer, we will amend the decision on small-scale renovations for this. Roof insulation works will then be exempted from a building permit (except for protected properties),” said Pascal Smet, State Secretary for Urban Development.

From the start of 2022, renovation subsidies will also become available to owner-occupiers, who are now only entitled to energy subsidies.

Leaving no one out in the cold

In terms of the premiums granted to implement these measures, the current pre-financing mechanism will be strengthened, whilst the income and assets of households will be taken into account to avoid the risk of rising property prices.

“This initiative must not leave anyone out in the cold and will therefore be accompanied by carefully targeted measures to ensure that it achieves its objectives, particularly in terms of improving the quality of housing and reducing household energy bills, without pushing up property prices,” said Rudi Vervoort, Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region.

A big part of the project entails training people already employed in renovation professions and the construction industry to stimulate knowledge of new, more sustainable building techniques and technologies. It is also expected to create around 8,000 new job opportunities.

Lauren Walker
The Brussels Times

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