The huge opportunity in creating low carbon goods and services for homeowners

Reading time: 3 minutes
1 July 2016

LONDON: On the second day of the Business & Climate Summit, The Climate Group convened a group of expert speakers to discuss the future of home efficiency – something that will play a central role in driving emissions reductions to keep below a 2 degree global temperature rise over the coming decades.

Jean-Louis Chaussade, CEO of Suez Environment, highlighted the scale of the challenge, noting that 60% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2040 and that 40% of urban growth will be in slums. He drew attention to the strain that this will place on resources – with materials management already representing 32% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from extraction, transportation and disposal of resources – and recognized the important role that the circular economy has to play.

Explaining the need for social as well as technological innovations in enabling homes to become low carbon, Jean-Louis noted that “citizen lifestyles are central to the fight against climate change”. Ron van Erck, responsible for International Market Development at Energiesprong, later built on this by outlining their hugely innovative scheme to retrofit 111,000 homes in The Netherlands to become net zero, acting as a catalyst for the retrofit market.

Energiesprong struck a deal with social housing associations to carry out retrofits at scale, with each retrofit financed by the energy cost savings it results in. Recognizing that the ‘home makeovers’ provided by Energiesprong would typically seem unattractive to consumers logistically, Ron explained that the makeovers are designed to be non-intrusive and can be completed within a week, bringing an immediate improvement to the look and feel of the house.

CONSUMER DEMAND

Opening the panel session, Steve Howard, CSO at IKEA spoke about the consumer demand for a more sustainable home life, but also alluded to the fact this needs to be made more affordable, accessible and desirable. Speaking on the panel itself were Terri Wills, CEO of the World Green Building Council, Myriam Maestroni, CEO of ON5 Company Group, and Will Gardner, CEO of Collectively Ltd.

A key discussion point raised by Will Gardner was that solutions should be packaged in a way that consumers can step beyond the previously passive role they have played and take ‘DIY action’. This was echoed by Myriam Maestroni, who acknowledged that “people need to wake up and want to take action”, but that the problem is two-fold and more needs to be done to remove the barriers to change and provide transparent information. ON5 Company has so far managed to help 350,000 homes to start the renovation process in France.

Terri Wills said that over one to two years, the “cost premium for green housing decreased from 6-8% to 1-2%”, indicating that as more homes are built, certified costs are reducing. This echoes a point made by Ron van Erck, in that over time, innovations become much more practical and accessible as demand increases.

Terri also noted that construction challenges lies in existing homes which require retrofitting, as new standards, such as those seen in Ontario and California, call for all new-builds to be new zero. She recognized, however that this varies internationally depending on the building stock – in Europe “80% of buildings that will exist in 2050 have already been built”, yet in emerging regions such as Africa, the focus is on new-builds providing the opportunity for technology leapfrogging.

SUSTAINABLE INNOVATION

The role of millennials was also discussed, and Will Gardner mentioned that the recent Brexit vote has exposed “inter-generational equality” and brought this to the forefront of the agenda, providing the opportunity to bring young people to the table to shape the way forward. He noted there has been a shift in ownership behaviour as millennials are experiencing financial constraints not seen 30 years ago, causing more people to rent – and this must be considered in creating solutions.

Niall Dunne, CSO at BT gave closing comments and highlighted the areas for action going forward, mentioning disruptive approaches such as ‘choice-editing’ and noted the consumer appetite for sustainable innovation, citing Tesla’s Model 3 launch.

He expressed that an “open-approach to engaging the consumer” was needed and that an important way of doing this was to take a service-based approach that doesn’t necessarily focus on ownership, but on digital integration that allows the consumer to personalize their experience. Speaking about developing regions, he noted that the importance of connecting the “4 billion people who are least connected in the world will help define whether we deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals”.

The Climate Group recognizes the scale of the opportunity in providing low carbon goods and services to homeowners, and over the past months its Home2025 project has been engaging stakeholders from a range of sectors to represent how the home lies at the intersection of a number of key systems.

by Grace Gosling

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