Household energy renovation is a major challenge France knows it must overcome. Despite this awareness, there is still a large disparity between what is needed and what is being done. Money spent on energy bills has yet to be refocused into housing renovations.
It is a shame that not everyone in the industry promotes renovations with the same enthusiasm. Those who ignore the definitive progress made in energy efficiency and digital technology risk being swept aside, either by building entrepreneurs who will fully embrace the transition, or by new players, such as the likes of Uber with taxis and Amazon with bookshops.
Homes will become more energy efficient through two channels. Firstly, through eco-friendly materials and methods during the construction stage, supported by the energy transition law. And secondly, through the emergence of companies offering major renovations drastically improving energy efficiency in one fell swoop. However, if this market is to become widespread, then prices must be cut and the benefit made more real and perceivable: both of which are possible through the proper application of digital technology. Some entrepreneurs have already taken up the challenge with innovative solutions, but they are held back by a lack of high demand.
The sector needs more projects, not more subsidies. One of the difficulties is increasing demand without pushing SMEs out of the market. If demand does not increase naturally, then it will do so at the behest of digital technology giants. These ‘new barbarians’ are certainly taking an interest in energy efficiency, and will take no prisoners when they go on the offensive.
All the ‘uberised’ sectors share similarities with the energy and home improvement market: they were digitally immature, rich and had unsatisfied customers. The risk of ‘uberisation’ of the energy renovation industry is real and could be good news for the planet. If the arrival of Uber saw an increase the number of taxi rides, such innovation could also greatly increase the number of renovations.
Google has already begun to move its pawns. With their data, Nest and Google Maps could provide highly precise energy diagnostics without needing to send a technician. Even today, Google Sunroof offers the ability to predict a roof’s solar savings potential.
Efforts pushing towards energy renovations are feeble. Google may well offer a platform to find local professionals while taking 20% commission…just like Booking does with hotels. Another lead comes from Elon Musk, the American entrepreneur whose businesses SolarCity and Tesla helps provide cheaper energy by offering solar panels and batteries via rental agreements. A solution combining major renovation works with third-party financing is near.
The ensuing revolution brings with it a shift in the distribution of market value. There is an undeniable risk that digital technology giants will absorb a large share of the market. Believing that law could stop it from happening is fanciful. Anticipating it, however, is not.
The Dutch project EnergieSprong provides such hope. Several social backers joined forces and broke away to carry out major works on their properties: using external quasi-public financing, hundreds of houses were renovated to bring them up to a ‘passive’ standard in one week, with energy savings guaranteed over 30 years. After 500 renovations, the price fell to €70,000, and €45,000 is due to be re-invested so that works can be wholly covered by the energy savings. The next generation of energy-efficiency renovation has arrived.
We now must act instead of suffer. We must help build a mass market for energy-efficiency renovations if we are to pre-empt the sector’s ‘uberisation’!