Scaffolding around a house to install thermal insulation on the facade

As part of the steps the European Union (EU) is taking to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, it has agreed on stricter requirements for the energy efficiency of buildings as part of reforming the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive at the end of 2023. Among other policies, the revised directive asks the member states to establish one-stop-shops for energy building renovations. Within the ProRetro project in the run-up to the EU agreements, researchers at the Wuppertal Institute have together with twelve partner organisations spent the past three and a half years exploring how refurbishments can be made significantly easier and less time-consuming with the help of one-stop-shops.

The compromise reached on the revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) in December 2023 contains various energy efficiency measures to drive forward the necessary wave of renovation throughout Europe. One of these measures is so-called one-stop-shops. They serve as central points of contact for energy building renovations and take on a variety of tasks that arise during an energy renovation. Homeowners are supported throughout the entire renovation process, which simplifies the often complex process with its many individual steps and interplays. For example, owners are supported with energy advice, financing and subsidies, commissioning various trades and coordinating work steps. But contractors and planners can also benefit from one-stop-shops, as they save time on consultation and acquisition if they already have informed and decided customers.

The one-stop-shop idea: challenges and field test in Germany

Felix Suerkemper, Senior Researcher in the Research Unit Energy Policy at the Wuppertal Institute, was responsible for coordination and scientific support within the project. He explains: “In other European countries, there are already ambitious one-stop-shop offers that are operating successfully on the market.” However, the scientist knows that replicating these business models under German conditions poses a number of challenges: “On the supply side, the market is very fragmented with numerous craft companies from different construction trades, architects and energy advisers. For many of these players, their independence is a very valuable asset. Thanks to ProRetro, we have been able to test which one-stop-shop offers are possible and how under these conditions.”

The Wuppertal Institute researchers supported the work of the implementation partners, for example by conducting an online survey of potential customers and organising focus groups with interested homeowners. With this help, all of the German implementing partners were able to develop and test their own offers for homeowners in the five regions. ProRetro’s aim was for them to create new services based on existing know-how and networks.

One-stop-shops were implemented and put to the test in the following five cities and regions in Germany:

  • In Berlin, the one-stop-shop’s services focussed in particular on homeowners’ associations. The services offered included participation in owners’ meetings to support decision-making regarding energy renovation measures and their implementation.
  • The one-stop-shop offer by the Böblingen district energy agency was also aimed at local homeowners’ associations. They were accompanied and supported throughout the renovation process. In addition, a database of skilled craft companies in the district was set up, allowing companies suitable for implementing the desired measure to be found more quickly.
  • In Bottrop, an expanded advisory service was offered that can be availed of at various stages in the renovation process.
  • In the Hanover region, the one-stop-shop was created in cooperation with the Modernisation Partner Network, in which numerous providers from the field of energy building renovation have joined forces and are thus able to implement deep energy renovations.
  • Raumfabrik from Wuppertal brings together companies from various construction trades. Thanks to ProRetro, energy efficiency can now be given greater consideration in all of their renovation projects and energy advice is now an important part of many initial on-site visits, too.

Results formed the basis for policy recommendations

Representatives of organisations interested in implementing their own one-stop-shops discussed the project experiences in various working groups as part of a workshop. The results are summarised in detailed documentation which can be found on the ProRetro project website. They also form the basis for policy recommendations that were published at the end of the project.

“The project has confirmed that one-stop-shops are crucial for overcoming the many practical obstacles building owners and other stakeholder groups face when it comes to energy renovation. That is why we have repeatedly recommended promoting the establishment of such one-stop-shops in Germany.” says Dr Stefan Thomas, Head of the Energy, Transport and Climate Policy Division at the Wuppertal Institute.

The recommendations to policymakers include the development of a standardised nationwide digital tool that facilitates the work of one-stop-shops. Such a digital tool could, for example, support the collection of data on the buildings to be refurbished, serve as an online marketplace for renovation projects or present successfully implemented renovations in a kind of library of examples of good practice. Policymakers should also be encouraged to use one-stop-shops as a suitable instrument to make funding programmes more effective. In this way, one-stop-shops can take over the application process for homeowners, while at the same time improving awareness and utilisation of existing funding opportunities through their activities.