PLEASE, INTRODUCE YOURSELF AND OUTLINE YOUR CAREER. HOW DID YOU BECOME DIRECTOR OF THE SPEE (public energy efficiency agency) FOR THE HAUTS-DE-FRANCE REGION?
I trained as a scientific engineer in materials chemistry, first at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de Paris (now Chimie Paris Tech – Pierre-Simon Laplace University), then as a doctoral student at the Pierre-et-Marie-Curie University.
I started my career at ISOVER, a company of the Saint-Gobain group specialised in the design and manufacture of mineral wool used for home insulation. For almost 15 years I specialised in insulation and energy renovation, first as a “technical process development” engineer, then as an international project manager for the “development of a training process for factory operators using e-learning and tutoring methods”. I then took up a more technical position as a “Systems Development” engineer, working on a variety of insulation materials: from glass wool for external wall insulation systems to the more innovative vacuum insulation panels!
In 2012, I was given the opportunity to join the 2nd intake of the Ecole des Ponts’ Real Estate Building Energy Master’s programme, a Master’s programme created in 2011 in the wake of the Grenelle Environment Forum, with a focus on energy and environmental performance. This enabled me to develop much more extensive skills and to better understand the issues surrounding the radical changes required by the construction, home renovation, property management and building occupations to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
I then quite naturally decided to join the SPEE in 2014 in order to participate in the development of new home renovation tools. I started as a technical manager and became director in 2017.
CAN YOU PRESENT THE SPEE TO US?
The SPEE, public energy efficiency agency of Hauts-de-France region in France, is an EPIC (a public institution of an industrial and commercial nature), operating under a public service contract with the Hauts-de-France Region. Its objective is to offer home renovation support services to all inhabitants of the region, whether they are owner-occupiers, landlords of individual houses or condominium co-owners.
As a Third-Party Financing (TPF) company, we offer a comprehensive and integrated service that allows users to benefit from both technical and financial support. Owners are accompanied from the beginning of their project until work completion and even afterwards. The technical offer includes a complete energy audit of their home, preparation of an optimal works programme, support in the choice of tradespeople and monitoring of the work. The SPEE has chosen to operate as a project owner delegate, which enables us to act on behalf of the owner directly with regards to all the parties involved in the project.
The financial offering consists of:
- assistance with finding aid and subsidies to which the owners are entitled and with preparing the applications
- a financial offer in the form of a loan, made possible thanks to the exception to the banking monopoly made to third-party financing companies, to finance the remaining costs.
After work completion, we remain in contact with the households for another three years to assist them with monitoring their consumption and thus check that the energy saving objective set when the works scenario was defined has been achieved, i.e. at least 35% energy savings. This monitoring is very important to us because it allows us to validate the relevance of the work carried out and also the relevance of the financing plans. Indeed, the savings estimated in the design phase are considered as a resource which households will be able to use to repay their monthly loan instalments; too large a gap between forecast and actual savings could jeopardise the outcome of the projects for some households.
WHAT ARE YOUR NEXT STEPS IN DEVELOPING THE AGENCY?
The challenges are immense. In order to achieve the 50% emission reduction target in the residential sector between 1990 and 2028, as defined in the National Low Carbon Strategy, France plans to renovate 500,000 homes per year to low-energy standards by 2050. We are currently at 40,000 per year, of which only 25% achieved a minimum 2-class leap in terms of their energy performance. The main challenges are therefore how to massify energy retrofitting and secure the quality of the work.
Regarding the Agency, our operating area was extended in 2020 from the former Picardie region to the entire Hauts de France region. But the Agency will not be able to organise and manage project massification for the whole region on its own. It can, however, take a leading role. Our challenges are therefore, alongside the Regional Council, to demonstrate feasibility, to initiate massification by working on certain targets more proactively (co-owners, landlords, buyers, etc.) and to support the various players who may be involved in taking up this challenge (tradespeople, companies, financiers, etc.) by setting up constructive partnerships.
In order to develop our action more quickly, in December 2021 we joined forces with the 5 other TPF companies: Île-de-France Energies, Oktave (Grand Est), AREC Occitanie, Centre-Val-de-Loire Énergies and Facirénov by Bordeaux Métropole Énergies, to create an association, SERAFIN, whose objectives are to spread and disseminate the third-party financing model; to create a forum for privileged exchanges between the various actors in energy renovation; to build up a portfolio of common tools and methodologies; and to contribute to the management and optimisation of financing sources for renovation projects.
SERAFIN should therefore be a vehicle for disseminating the model of third-party financing companies and representing them at the national and European levels, where they are a reference for Integrated Energy Renovation Services, one of the key measures provided for in the revision of the European directive on the energy performance of buildings.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A EUROPEAN LOCAL AUTHORITY WISHING TO LAUNCH A SCHEME OF THIS TYPE?
It really is necessary to make a very precise inventory of the needs and initiatives already in place. This is essential in order to develop a scheme in line with local specificities.
Many One-Stop Shop initiatives and projects have emerged all over Europe, and I would always advise project holders to systematically include the technical and financial aspects, regardless of how funding is implemented. This can be a partnership with existing actors or, as in the case of TPF companies, the implementation of direct financing. Above all, it is important to provide future owners planning to renovate their home with as much information, advice and support as possible so that they do not hesitate to go ahead with the work.
IN CONCRETE TERMS, WHAT IS THE COMPOSITION OF A SPEE TEAM AND HOW DOES IT SUPPORT INDIVIDUALS WITH THEIR RENOVATION ?
For each renovation project, 3 staff members work together to coordinate the work and its follow-up. There is an energy renovation technician, a third-party financing operation manager and a post-work monitoring manager.
The energy renovation technician is the first contact for the homeowners and remains their main contact throughout the project. He/she assists them on all technical matters (selecting contractors, site monitoring, acceptance of the completed work, etc.); he/she therefore works in close collaboration with the building professionals responsible for carrying out the work.
The third-party financing operation manager deals with the administrative and financial aspects of the renovation projects. He/she is in constant contact with the technician and ensures that the administrative application has been made. He/she ensures that the operation will be financially feasible, mixing public aid with the SPEE financial offer.
Finally, the post-work monitoring manager takes over from the technician upon work completion. He/she will regularly contact the owners to take stock of the situation, enquiring about their level of comfort and energy use, during the 3 years of monitoring. He/she can thus assess the project with the owners, compare the results with the expected objectives and help the owners use their home optimally.
To select the companies and tradespeople who will work on the project, we generally organise a consultation process inspired by calls for tender but greatly simplified. We collect quotes through several channels: the Agency contract consultation platform, sending emails to certified companies in the area, direct contact between individuals and companies, etc. The specifications for the consultation ensure that it is consistent regardless of the channel used. To be selected, companies must be certified and have insurance for the work in question. They must also be up to date with their tax and social security obligations and have visited the future work site before preparing their quotation.
In general, the Agency particularly calls on the services of small local companies.
IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT IS THE GREATEST ADDED VALUE OF THIRD-PARTY FINANCING COMPANIES?
In my opinion, the greatest interest of third-party financing companies, in comparison with other existing information and advice systems, is the integrated offer combining management of the work with direct financing of the amount remaining to be paid via long-term loans (20-25 years) through a single contact.
Standard bank loans are indeed ill-suited, either in duration or in amount, to finance the amount remaining to be paid, which is €30,000 on average (bearing in mind that the cost of an energy renovation varies from €30,000 to over €60,000). And consumer loans offered to finance these projects rarely exceed 7 to 10 years, resulting in high monthly payments, far greater than the energy savings made. As for home loans, more suitable in terms of duration, they can only really be used if the work is carried out at the time of purchase.
Since 2015, the law on the Energy Transition for Green Growth has allowed TPF companies, as long as they are majority-owned by local authorities, to lend money directly and no longer to act solely as an intermediary for a bank.
This exemption from the banking monopoly allows us to offer a financing mechanism under better conditions, but also to open the doors of energy renovation to households that would not have received loans from banks. In fact, we have been able to develop granting criteria specific to energy renovation projects, integrating multiple criteria and indicators (energy savings, value of the property, detailed analysis of the household’s means of subsistence, etc.) which we endeavour to control and back-test regularly to fine-tune our approach.
When it was created, the Agency received an endowment of €7.6 million from the Region for the investment part, which enabled us to start this loan activity. We are also supported by the EIB and the European Union through the ELENA technical assistance mechanism, which enabled us to receive an operating subsidy in the early years and a €35.5 million loan for the renovation and lending activity. Thus, 85% of the renovation applications are financed using third-party financing.
HOW MANY ENERGY RENOVATION OPERATIONS HAVE YOU SUPPORTED SINCE THE CREATION OF THE AGENCY?
To date, since its creation, we have supported 3,191 households at different stages of their projects, for both single-family homes and condominiums (27 condominiums). All households combined, the average amount of work is about €45,000 for single-family homes. Retrofitting condominiums take an average of 2.5 to 3 years, because our project construction process with the co-owners requires them to vote 3 times at general meetings.
We have also carried out 8,503 feasibility studies for individual houses, with a particularly sharp increase last year (+60%), rising from 672 in 2020 to 1,760 in 2021. Also, the number of contacts has almost doubled between 2020 and 2021, which allows us to expect a growing number of renovation sites in 2022.
The results of the other TPF companies are also encouraging and clearly show the effectiveness of the TPF model for initiating efficient renovations. If all the TPF companies are included, in 2021, we have carried out 8,800 energy audits or design studies, 1,200 energy-efficient home renovations, and committed €45.5 million to renovation work. We expect average energy savings of 18.3 Mwhfe for single-family houses and 7.7 Mwhfe for condominiums.
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AS DIRECTOR OF THE SPEE?
As Director, my role is to give the agency the means to respond to the missions entrusted to us by the Hauts-de-France Region under the Public Service Contract signed with the Region, under the control of course of the Board of Directors, which is composed of 12 regional elected representatives and a qualified person (representative of the Agency for Ecological Transition – formely Ademe). I prepare the budgetary guidelines, I am in dialogue with the financial partners or the operational partners, I organise the processes and manage the establishment in its different dimensions (organisational, human, commercial, financial, etc.) with the particularity of having to deal with a very wide range of subjects. Even if, of course, the agency is organised according to area of expertise with specialised managers, I take pleasure in trying to embody the multidisciplinarity required by our activity. One day I’m at a meeting with the EIB for our refinancing loan, the next I’m at a general meeting or visiting a building site. I try to remain very operational, particularly by taking an active part in certain renovation projects (particularly in condominiums). A large part of my time is also devoted to relations with local authorities, with whom it is important to establish strong links in order to coordinate the various schemes (scheduled operations, general interest programmes, etc.).