Energy-efficient retrofits – How municipalities can act

The City of Rüsselsheim am Main (DE) leads the way with the Energy Caravan

Europe’s building stock is one of the key drivers of climate change due to its CO2 emissions. Privately owned buildings are responsible for more than 25% of total emissions, clearly showing that it is time to act – also at the local level. In this sense, it is important that municipalities not only tackle their own building stock, which they can directly influence. They must also motivate private home owners.

Rüsselsheim am Main, a city with more than 66,000 inhabitants, is now taking this task on with the help of the Energy Caravan – a highly effective campaign to promote the energy-efficient refurbishment of buildings made available to municipalities by fesa e.V. and Climate Alliance. "Private buildings offer enormous savings potential, especially due to their sheer number. In Rüsselsheim there are also many private residential buildings from the 50s to 80s that are very much in need of renovation," comments Jule Rump, project manager for climate action and adaptation and project manager for the Energy Caravan of the City of Rüsselsheim.

The Energy Caravan reverses the traditional principle of energy consulting. Municipalities proactively offer citizens in a selected neighbourhood free advice from neutral and qualified energy consultants. Typically, an average of 60% of the consultations carried out result in the implementation of energy-efficient renovation measures. "With the transfer of knowledge to the municipalities and our support during all project phases, we enable municipalities to carry out measures independently in the future," explains Brice Mertz, campaign manager of the Energy Caravan at fesa. So far, well over 100 municipalities of all sizes have been made fit for the campaign in Germany.

Since declaring a climate emergency in 2019, Rüsselsheim has stepped up ambitions. Climate change mitigation and adaptation have become a stronger focus for the city administration. The Energy Caravan is a task of the city's new "climate team". "We decided to implement this campaign because we saw a great opportunity to reach many citizens with its proactive approach, offering information and drawing attention to the topic of energy-efficient renovation," Jule Rump comments on the city’s decision. The feedback since the local campaign launch in the Eichgrund and Haßloch-Nord neighbourhoods at the end of October 2021 has been very positive so far. More than 40 homeowners have already expressed interest in advice.

Carrying out the Energy Caravan has also come with challenges though. The city organised the campaign in a rush: in just four months, the idea was turned into reality and many areas of the city administration had to be involved in the planning. "Thanks to the good cooperation, the commitment and the quick work on the part of my colleagues, we were able to start the campaign successfully," Jule Rump revealed. She also praised the cooperation with and advice from fesa e.V. and Climate Alliance. Rüsselsheim thus learned and benefitted from the numerous experiences of other municipalities.  The Corona pandemic is currently making implementation difficult. "The energy advisors are offering homeowners appointments in March, hoping that the situation will have calmed down somewhat by then," explains Jule Rump. Even though the consultations will be delayed, Rüsselsheim is convinced by the campaign's approach.

With the example of the Energy Caravan, the City of Rüsselsheim is demonstrating how municipalities can actively contribute to an energy-efficient building stock in Europe. In addition to the campaign, the city is also implementing other measures. For some time now, municipally-owned properties have been successively renovated to be made more energy-efficient. In the future, the city wants to do even more and, for example, take advantage of a German funding opportunity for energy-efficient neighbourhood concepts (Kfw 432). The city is also planning to continue using the Energy Caravan and wants to expand the campaign to other neighbourhoods in the future.

Municipalities have a variety of options for action. Climate Alliance has recently launched a dedicated working group on buildings to discuss these options with interested members and to provide a platform for exchange amongst peers and with experts. Interested municipalities are invited to participate and thus further advance the key issue of building renovation locally.

Read more

written December 2021