Developing Positive Energy Districts (PEDs) in Europe

National strengths and weaknesses in the policy frameworks of Norway, Spain, Austria and the Netherlands.

As part of our regular Housing Exchanges, the past 29th of October our membership came together to discuss whether PEDs could be developed in their countries for more affordable and liveable neighbourhoods. As part of Housing Europe’s work for the EU-funded H2020 syn.ikia project on Sustainable Plus Energy Neighbourhoods, four Housing Europe members representing national housing federations in the project's demonstration countries – Norway, Spain, Austria and The Netherlands – identified the existing policy framework in their countries in relevant areas: district approach, energy efficiency, renewable energy, digital technology and affordable living, health and wellbeing. Speakers assessed

the impact these policies have on the development of PEDs in their national


The webinar put on the spotlight the disparities of the national legislative frameworks among European countries. Different energy sources and energy production and consumption in the building sector are reflected in the diverse policy responses that the four countries set. The session also served to validate the assumption that PEDs are still an emerging reality for many European countries where national policy frameworks pose barriers to their development. However, the new opportunities provided by the (renewable) energy communities could pave the way for more NZEB (Nearly Zero Energy Buildings) and PEDs.

Océane Peiffer-Smadja - Policy Officer DG GROW at the European Commission - opened the session by presenting the role of PEDs in the recently published Renovation Wave strategy. The district approach has been placed at the core of the renovation strategy to avoid focusing on individual dwellings and tackle all aspects involved in renovation work besides energy efficiency, such as the local economy, social services or public space.

Social and affordable housing frequently adopt this approach because dwellings are often built residential complexes or states benefiting from a wider spatial scale.

remarked Océane.

It is because district renovation projects have proven effective and successful, especially PEDs, that the Affordable Housing Initiative (AHI) comprised in the Renovation Wave will pilot 100 lighthouse renovation districts in a smart neighbourhood approach.

The AHI will enable a European level cross-sectoral partnership on social and affordable housing to guarantee that local renovation projects targeting social and affordable housing have access to necessary technical capacity and EU funds. The initiative aims at providing blueprints for replication, setting sustainability, liveability, inclusiveness and aesthetics at the forefront with the ultimate goal of pushing other projects to go the extra mile.

Currently, the European Commission is in the process of identifying the districts that can serve as models and best practices and looking forward to engage with stakeholders.

Tore Johannesen from the Co-operative Housing Federation of Norway (NBBL) introduced the Norwegian policy context by highlighting that as a non-EU country, European directives such as the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) or the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) are not implemented in the country. Nonetheless, the current policy framework in Norway does include renewable energy requirements in buildings of new construction as well as smart metering systems – although consumers can’t request data on electricity, they fed into the grid. Likewise, there is commitment in Norway to set NZEB regulations on new buildings as for 2021, although this is currently under political consideration.

Overall, with a highly decarbonised energy industry and affordable electricity, incentives to the development of PEDs are small. However, our main policy challenge lays on enabling and encouraging local energy production to ensure accessible, affordable and clean energy to Norwegian residents also as an empowerment mechanism.

Tore concluded.

Joan Estrada on behalf of Catalan Institute of Land (INCASÒL) described how in Spain the competences on the energy sector belong to the Spanish state, this implies that regions and municipalities have a very narrow margin to influence on the regulatory frameworks. Nonetheless it is often the case that municipalities have set local regulations that help increase energy efficiency. For example, in Barcelona there are subsidies to reduce the property building taxes when new Photovoltaic (PV) facilities are installed or when windows are replaced. Joan gave an overview of the Spanish policy framework at national, regional and local level how they facilitate or prevent the development of PEDs.

According to Gerlinde Gutheil-Knopp-Kirchwald from The Austrian

Federation of Limited-Profit Housing Associations (GBV),

In Austria there is a broad regulatory framework addressing specific dimensions of PED such as energy efficiency, neighbourhood approach, production or renewable energy. However, there are no explicit regulations for an integrated approach like PED yet. The Austrian legislative framework still is under development in this regard.

Having said that, there is a series of research programmes in Austria focusing on the development of PEDs as well as national legislation (both existing and under development) in the areas of district approach, renewable energy production and energy efficiency.

In the Netherlands, Robin van Leijen from the Dutch Association of Housing Corporations of (AEDES), gave an overview of the key initiatives behind the Dutch Climate Agreement between the national government and different sectoral organisations such as agriculture, industry or housing to reduce the Netherlands’ greenhouse gas emissions by 49% by 2030 and a 95% reduction by 2050. The pact is closely connected to the Dutch Long-

Term Renovation Strategy and considers several guiding principles to reach

its ambitions for instance, cost-effectiveness, deep renovation, energy

poverty, public buildings, innovation and financing. All elements are brought

forward from a district approach which plays a central role in the agreement.