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European citizens willing to renovate their home but held back by investments to be made


European citizens would be willing to carry out energy renovation in their homes in order to increase their thermal comfort, pay less in energy bills and improve their quality of living. However, most of them are held back by the perceived financial investments to be made (1) as well as by the hassle of organising the renovation works.

This is in a nutshell what is revealed in a study conducted by IPSOS and commissioned by the European Climate Foundation to better understand citizens’ motivations and barriers to carry out energy renovation in their homes.

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Carried out with homeowners and tenants in five European countries – Bulgaria, France, Germany, Poland and Spain (2) – this study offers EU and national decision-makers an opportunity to better understand and hear European citizens’ concerns around health and social equity related to the renovation of their homes.

More than 97% of Europe’s building stock must be upgraded to achieve the 2050 decarbonisation vision. This calls for not only EU and national policies to accelerate investments in energy efficiency but also minimum energy efficiency requirements for existing buildings.

The results are based on 2-4 focus group discussions per country in August 2018 and an online survey with a nationally representative sample of 1000 citizens in each country (2000 in Germany) in November 2018.

Main findings

  • Thermal comfort, saving money and a healthy environment are the main motivations to carry out energy-efficient renovations across all countries.
  • For all countries, there is one main barrier: Money. Renovations require substantial investments and not everyone can afford it. Too much hassle is also holding citizens back but to a lesser extent. Renovations always bring a lot of hassle: getting legal permission, coming to an agreement with other households living in the same building, finding a reliable contractor, possibly moving out of the home, dirt and mess are all barriers when considering a home renovation. A third factor is a lack of procedural awareness when it comes to legal aspects and state funding.
  • Women score higher on environmental motivations related to climate change and outdoor air quality, while they are also the ones who are more often held back by the investments to be made to make renovations. Men on the other hand like their houses to be equipped with the latest technology and like to experiment with this.
  • Citizens living in cities more often do not make renovations because of the hassle and a lack of awareness on options and state funding. When they do, their main motivation is to reduce noise. Those who live in rural areas, on the other hand, are more often motivated to make renovations because others do it, to make their houses look better and because they want their houses to be equipped with the latest technology.
  • Citizens who own a house are more motivated in general. The same applies for higher-income households and households with children, while those within the age of 18-34, who lack money to finance renovations, are also more sceptical about whether it will actually result in energy-saving or protect the environment.
  • Politically left-oriented citizens are more often triggered by environmental motivations, while politically right-oriented citizens are more likely to renovate because they like to have the latest technology and want to improve the looks of their house. 
  • A number of respondents who said they made energy-efficient renovations differs per country (4). Insulation and window glazing is most often carried out. Bulgaria (87%) ranks first in terms of respondents who made energy-efficient renovations, followed by Poland (69%), Spain (58%), France (49%) and Germany (41%). It is also worth highlighting that the countries where the most renovations are made also have the highest percentage of homeowners.
  • The awareness and knowledge of ‘highly energy-efficient homes’, ‘energy-neutral homes’ or ‘passive homes’ differ per country. While in Germany, energy efficiency is a popular topic, Spaniards and Bulgarians show a certain understanding of the different concepts. The French and the Poles, however, have a very low awareness of the terms “zero emission” or “neutral house”.
To avoid low-income households falling victim to the fluctuations in energy prices and stagnating wages, governments must ensure buildings occupied by low-income families are positive energy. In other words, buildings must produce more energy than they consume to reduce low-income families’ energy bills to zero euros.
Yamina Saheb, Open Exp
Chronic exposure to cold, damp and mould compromises people’s mental and physical health - the World Health Organization estimates that inadequate housing is linked to 100,000 premature deaths a year in Europe. EU countries must link strategies for affordable renewable energy, energy efficiency, access to housing and environmental sustainability.
Vijoleta Gordeljevic, Health & Environment Alliance
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