The Brussels-Capital region is strongly committed to mitigating its greenhouse gases emissions. The Société du Logement de la Région Bruxelles-Capitale (SLRB, Housing Company of the Brussels-Capital Region), the public company in charge of the region’s social housing programme, is doing its share of the work within the VAMOS Vert. Une Aide à la Maîtrise d’Ouvrage Sociale (VAMOS, Green. An help to social project management) programme. Indeed, from the observation that there was a lack of capacity in integrating renewable energy to building renovation programmes, the SLRB undertook the project of developing an internal team that would bring this type of expertise to the region.The project VAMOS thus aims at transforming Brussels’ social housing sector on the long term by creating a new culture regarding the integration of renewable energy production in building retrofitting projects or construction. To do so, the programme is acting on two aspects: capacity building with project developers and financing mechanisms of the incremental costs of renewable energy production.
Building a local pole of expertise for building-based RES production – Brussels-Capital, Belgium
The Brussels-Capital region is strongly committed to mitigating its greenhouse gases emissions. The Société du Logement de la Région Bruxelles-Capitale (SLRB, Housing Company of the Brussels-Capital Region), the public company in charge of the region’s social housing programme, is doing its share of the work within the VAMOSVert. Une Aide à la Maîtrise d’Ouvrage Sociale (VAMOS, Green. An help to social project management)programme. Indeed, from the observation that there was a lack of capacity in integrating renewable energy to building renovation programmes, the SLRB undertook the project of developing an internal team that would bring this type of expertise to the region.
The project VAMOS thus aims at transforming Brussels’ social housing sector on the long term by creating a newculture regarding the integration of renewable energy production in building retrofitting projects or construction. To do so, the programme is acting on two aspects: capacity building with project developers andfinancing mechanisms of the incremental costs of renewable energy production.
1.Business model: How the programme is implemented
Energy production in public housing: creating a long-term dynamic
The VAMOS project is undertaken by the SLRB in order to develop a local pole of expertise for integrating renewable energy sources to social housing projects. The VAMOS programme is expected to yield reduction of some 9,534 tonnes of CO2 emissions, and 43.9 GWh of energy savings between 2013 and 2016. Besides, theprogramme aims at generating 1.3 GWh of electricity from renewable energy sources by the end of the period. This shall be done thanks to the mobilisation of some EUR 124 million in investment.
The SLRB oversees some 30 ‘Sociétés Immobilières de Service Public (Local public housing companies) (SISPs). These SISPs manage the stock of social housing of the Brussels-Capital region, which includes retrofitting projects. They dispose of funds to undertake these actions, and have extensive knowledge of the potential of retrofitting actions in terms of energy savings. However, the SISPs do not have the expertise for integrating energy production in the buildings.Neither do they always have the funds necessary for this. On this basis, the SLRB developed the VAMOS project that aims at:
Overall, VAMOS aims at mainstreaming the integration of renewable energy production in public buildings,alongside energy efficiency, beyond the year 2016. The project was conceived with the aim to develop a local pole of expertise in this domain.
Financing the implementation of the project The SLRB usually undertakes massive investments. These investments are defined in quadrennial investmentplans2 that list the different investments to be realised by the SISPs in partnership with the SLRB. The retrofitting and construction projects undertaken by the SLRB already include an energy efficiency dimension.The VAMOS team concentrates on the projects of the 2014-2019 plan. The actions carried out within the scopeof the project include:
Organisation & partnerships
To manage the implementation of the project VAMOS, the SLRB set up a team of two agents specialised inintegration of renewable energy technologies in buildings. This team starts operating upon the SISPs’ request.The agents that compose this team are specialised on integrating energy production technologies in buildings.
The team serves as a link between the SLRB and the SISPs, and represents a local pole of expertise on the issue.It works with the project managers of building renovation and construction (from the SISPs or the SLRB) as well as with other services of the SLRB. The team has a wide array of missions:
The VAMOS team works in close cooperation with different partners:
Signed in September 2013, the VAMOS programme is still in its early phase. There have not yet been effective results in terms of energy production. Indeed, even the ongoing projects in which the team VAMOS was involved are merely about to start. However, the programme has been rather successful in attracting project managers.Indeed, the team has identified some 67 projects so far. Of these, some 30 are still ongoing and receiving assistance from VAMOS and the SLRB to integrate renewable energy production.
(The SLRB does not have an estimate of the number of housing concerned by these projects. As an indicator, public housing projects in Brussels-Capital generally range from a dozen housing units for small projects to some 300 for big ones)
The success factors of the programme identified by the SLRB are:
Being mostly directed to a set of targeted professionals, VAMOS did not benefit from a widespreadcommunication from the SLRB’s side. However, some actions have been undertaken, mostly to inform theproject managers:
The team puts most of its energy in the translation of the initiative in concrete results before engaging heavily in communication. Besides, once the team VAMOS has developed a third party investment mechanism, it will need to advertise it largely in order to attract investors.
ELENA-EIB technical assistance
A specificity of the VAMOS programme is the fact that the assistance from ELENA was not sought for a single project, but rather to build capacity on the long term. The SLRB’s ELENA programme is partly defined by the tension between the construction sector’s business model and the requirements of the ELENA-EIB facility. This was a source of difficulties for the SLRB in designing its project and the company had to design a way to mobilise sufficient amount of investment in the short term to reach the necessary leverage ratio, while still committing to capacity building on the long term. However, the grant provided under ELENA was crucial to theimplementation of VAMOS. Indeed, prior to the programme, there was a dramatic lack of expertise on energy issues in the SLRB or the SISPs, and developing such a local pole of expertise required significant resources. Theprogramme triggered the development of new cross-cutting skills on energy issues in the Brussels’ social housing sector.
Despite this structural tension, that was finally overcome, the collaboration was rather positive between the European Investment Bank and the SLRB in the conception phase of the VAMOS programme. The EIB indeed provided an appreciated expertise, notably with feedback of constructive inputs for designing the business plan of “an enterprise that will last three years, and keep going on”. The bank’s support was quite appreciated by the SLRB, helping to develop the project before its implementation, building trust on a partnership dynamic. Thereafter, the link with the bank was more formal, and mostly became an important tool for asserting the value of the VAMOS programme to the partners and other internal services.
Key takeaways for other public authorities
This last challenge notably results from some specificities of the building sector in which the SLRB is involved. Inthis sector the definitive approval of an investment can take up to three years. This corresponds to the duration of support under the ELENA-EIB facility, during which recipients are expected to produce the minimal leverage ratio of 20. It was challenging for the SLRB to adapt its project to this framework. Thus, the VAMOS team intervenes to integrate renewable energy sources in different ongoing projects of the EUR 60 million portfolio of projects handled by the SLRB, upon request by the project managers (SISPs).