A project in the southern Danish municipalities of Kolding, Middelfart and Odense is demonstrating how tradesmen such as builders, plumbers and roofers can build their businesses and create jobs by better aligning their services with the European Union's energy-efficiency objectives.
To do this, the Green Business Growth in SMEs project is turning tradesmen into “energy craftsmen”. It provides them with training courses on the energy-efficient renovation of buildings, equips them with the latest energy-efficiency techniques, and updates them on the most energy-efficient materials.
Once certified, energy craftsmen can offer a wider range of state-of-the-art, energy-efficient renovation services to their domestic and commercial customers. The project believes that this will underpin the future growth of their businesses, and thus create jobs. The project started in July 2009 and runs until April 2013. Its stated aim is to create 300 energy-efficiency jobs.
But the project does not just deal with the supply side. It is also taking steps to stimulate demand for energy-efficient renovation. It provides evening courses to homeowners, educating them about how they can make their homes more energy efficient, and what sources of subsidy might be available. It holds energy fairs at which tradesmen and potential customers can be introduced. At one energy fair in mid-February 2013 in Odense, energy craftsmen signed up 100 potential new customers.
The project website also provides a list of certified tradesmen, links to household energy calculation tools, information on municipal funding for renovation, and energy renovation proposals for different budgets. Case studies on the website show what is possible: in one demonstration project in Kolding, a 1950s villa was upgraded to Low-Energy Class 1 status, translating into an 80 percent saving on its heating bills.
The project is considered to have demonstrated an effective, coordinated approach through which residential and commercial energy savings can be secured, and through which awareness can be boosted. Although the project is not finished, early results indicated it was on course to meet its job target, with 100 new energy-specialist jobs created by the end of 2011. As well as Kolding, Middelfart and Odense, the project involves 14 private sector partners including banks, business centres and training companies. It has been backed with €768,500 of EU money from the European Regional Development Fund.
The project could be replicated across a wider area. In September 2012, the 22 municipalities that make up the region of southern Denmark met up to consider an application for European Investment Bank finance (the ELENA facility, European Local ENergy Assistance). If the larger project goes ahead, it is estimated that up to 800 jobs could be created, while energy savings would reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by 12,000 tons.