Only about seven percent of the houses currently for sale in the Netherlands have an energy label. That’s not good, thinks professor of Natural Resources Henk Moll of the University of Groningen. After years of wishy-washy policy, it’s high time the Cabinet made the introduction of the regulation compulsory
as energy labels are not only good for the environment but also for our pockets.
It has been ‘compulsory’ for nearly two years – since 1 January 2008 – for every house that’s more than ten years old to be evaluated for energy efficiency. Before it can be sold, every house has to have a label on a scale from A to G: G means very energy inefficient and A is very efficient. It is an offshoot of a European environmental guideline. However, the law is rarely enforced, and in over three-quarters of the transactions buyer and seller do away with establishing an energy label. And they are not punished.
Things have to change, is the opinion of Professor of Natural Resources Henk Moll. If all houses had a label, that would result in significant cost reductions as well as a reduction in CO2 emissions. Moll: ‘Newly built houses have to conform to stricter and stricter rules concerning insulation, which means that the average energy use per house is declining slightly. However, the energy consumption in older houses can sometimes be significantly reduced. That has to be stimulated, not only to benefit the environment, but also to reduce household expenses. Energy prices are going to be comprising an ever more important part of our household expenses.’
Introducing a strict system of energy labels would create clarity about energy consumption, thinks Moll. ‘Some people may say that a label is superfluous, but most people have no idea what they should be looking out for when buying a house. Double glazing, high efficiency boilers, insulation, few people know much about them. Most purchasers fall in love with a house and have a fixation on the price that is agreed at the civil law notary. Most people have no idea about the costs of energy and maintenance – often they don’t even know if the level of the electricity bill is due to their own behaviour or the fault of the house. An energy label makes that much clearer.’
Increased clarity would change the housing market, Moll expects, with houses becoming more energy efficient. He draws a parallel with the introduction of compulsory energy labels for refrigerators. As soon as consumers began to take notice of the energy labels, virtually no fridges with poor energy labels appeared on the market any more. Moll: ‘The effect on the housing market would be less dramatic, but just as some people now paint their houses before putting them up for sale, they will also invest in insulation to get a better energy label. After all, if a house has a poor label there’s more room to manoeuvre in the price negotiations.’
The fact that so few houses have an energy label is due to the wishy-washy policy followed by the previous Balkenende Cabinets, thinks Moll. ‘European environmental guidelines were not considered important and far too little attention was paid to them. At the last possible moment a certification system was introduced and people were trained in how to allocate labels. If that’s the way you go about it, then it’s hardly surprising the guideline is considered voluntary. That’s a real shame because the general opinion is definitely for a reduction in CO2 emissions and very few people would be against a reduction in their household expenses.’
From 1 January 2010, the Cabinet must start publicity campaigns making clear why energy levels for houses are important, thinks Moll. The government must also ensure that there are well-trained and certified label allocators so that there can be no question about the quality of the label. Targeted grants could also stimulate the use of energy labels – not only among house purchasers but also among house owners who want to make their homes more energy efficient and among the rental sector. However, Moll feels that compliance must be strictly monitored. ‘If you really want such a regulation to succeed, it cannot be voluntary. If you introduce a maximum speed but never fine offenders, then it’ll be a free for all in no time.’
Henk Moll (1952) studied physics in Groningen. From 1981-1984 and 1987-1991 he was a researcher associated with the Centre for Energy and Environmental Studies (IVEM) of the University of Groningen. In 1992 he became a university lecturer and gained his PhD a year later. In 2004 he was appointed associate professor of Natural Resources in relation to sustainable production at the IVEM. Moll conducts a great deal of practical environmental research, nationally as well as internationally, and in cooperation with other disciplines such as psychology and public administration.
Prof. H.C. Moll.
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