The Region of Wallonia has ambitious targets set out in its Renovation Strategy in relation to improving the energy performance of buildings (residential and non-residential). The primary focus of the Expert Mission, completed from 7-9th of October was to identify opportunities and plans for upgrading public buildings in the region. The focus was primarily on public buildings as these presented opportunities for immediate impacts and also to inform the future investment plans for the region.
During Day 1 of the visit, meetings were held with senior management within the Energy Department. It was clear that the region have given priority to this area and all senior managers relevant to the Expert Mission were involved in the initial discussions to ensure there was strategic and organisational commitment to the potential outcomes of the Mission. The initial concept was to build on the experiences from an existing support programme (UREBA) and consider how this could be developed into the future to meet the needs of the renovation strategy. An innovative and specific feature of discussions during Day 1 were with senior staff from the Regions Debt Management Unit. The Region raised €1bn in funds using Sustainability Bonds in 2019. This successful offering has brought a new dynamic to the discussions internally on the regions investment plans and strategies. This dynamic includes responding to specific needs of the investors in terms of regular reporting. The region will now report on an annual basis and will now have to demonstrate the impacts from relevant investment programmes e.g. jobs created, Tonnes CO2, GWh saved etc. Also involved in the Day 1 meetings were the staff who directly manage the current UREBA programmes and it was possible to get direct details on the relevant operational aspects, challenges and opportunities that exist.
An engaging Stakeholder meeting was held on the morning of Day 2 where the Region and Expert had the opportunity to meet with representatives from different actors and stakeholders relevant to the public sector buildings. The focus of the discussions was to brainstorm and identify opportunities for future funding programmes. Topics addressed included levels of support, appropriate technologies, contracting options e.g EPC, mobilising ESCOs. This highly productive meeting assisted in identifying perceived barriers to the development of ESCO solutions to finance public building upgrades while also clarifying the needs of the municipalities. Critically the importance of good communication structures was identified as a need for future programmes.
The final stage of the Mission saw the Expert working with the regional team, including the representative from the Debt Management Unit, to develop proposals for future investment programmes for public buildings in the region. A short term and a longer term solution was developed and presented to the Senior Management team on Day 3 of the mission. The ambition was to present immediate solutions where options to develop a new pilot variation of the UREBA programme which could be implemented in 2020 accompanied by a longer term plan for a large scale renovation investment programme. It is planned for the region to consider applying for support to implement the large scale investment programme via the H2020 PDA or the EIB ELENA programmes in 2020.