However, this is Belgium, which means that the situation is different in each region. In Flanders, as of January 2009, owners will be required to provide you with an official document called Energieprestatiecertificaat (EPC) made by an official energy expert (energiedeskundige type A) and the list of these approved experts is available here (as a PDF document) or you can call them for free at 1700. Note that the experts for energy audits are different ones (type B) and that they are not allowed to give an EPC.
In the 19 communes of Brussels, the certificates have existed for newly built houses since July 2008 already, but only as of late 2009 or early 2010 will buyers or renters have the right to demand one from the owner. Please keep an eye on the Brussels Environment Institute website for more information. To learn more about how this works in the Walloon region, just go to energie.wallonie.be.
Subsidies for eco-friendly investments
There are many subsidies for eco-friendly investments available from your commune or region and from the federal government. Interesting to know is that in most cases both renters and owners are eligible. Both commune and region refund up to 50% of the bill, whereas the Belgian federal government only gives financial support by way of tax deductions (more information is available at the finance ministry's website). Make sure you find officially recognized companies doing the job (see below for tips) and that they also take care of the paper work - after all, this is Belgium!
In Flanders, you will find the list of partially reimbursed investments on www.energiesparen.be/subsidies and - if you know Dutch well enough - have a look at www.premiezoeker.be. In order to find the right people to do the job, many useful addresses can be found in the database of distributors, contractors and architects recognized as eco-friendly by the Vlaams Instituut voor Ecologish Bouwen en Wonen.
Energy subsidies in Brussels for both renters and owners are listed on the website of Brussels Environmental Institute. The procedure seems quite straight-forward:
- Do your investment and make sure it is eligible for a subsidy.
- Fill in a special form with all the specifications (e.g. bill, technical documents, pictures) in time before the deadline.
- Send the file to Sibelga.
- Get your money within six weeks (unless some info is missing).
If your house is older than 30 years, you might be eligible for an additional renovation premium - just check www.prime-renovation.irisnet.be. A list of independent energy experts to make energy audits in Brussels is available on their website, too.
Did you know that you can even get subsidies for buying a compost bin or rain collector in some of Brussels' communes? More details can be found on the website of the Brussels Environmental Institute, which also offers lots of different technical and practical information (called "info fiches"). You can also call them on 02/775 75 75, but brush up your Dutch or French before. Officially registered companies for Brussels can be found here. If you want more advice and information on the types of renewable energy available in Brussels, you can contact the APERE, the Association for the Promotion of Renewable Energies. Should you require more personalized technical information, get in touch with Le Centre Urbain/Stadswinkel.
Green electricity certificates
There are many financial incentives to install solar panels for energy production:
- lower monthly energy bills;
- subsidies for the installation of solar panels from your Region (in Brussels, for example, up to 50% of the bill is reimbursed), from your Commune and from the Federal government (tax deductions)
- Groene-stroom-certificaten (green electricity certificates) as a reward for reducing your CO2 emissions. These green electricity certificates are handed out by the regional regulator (VREG for Flanders; BRUGEL for Brussels and CWAPE for Wallonia) and given to owners of solar panels producing energy.
The green certificate - or rather your actual renewable energy production - has a value which can be exchanged for money on a regular basis. Just to give you an idea: Your income from a green electricity certificate would be about 500 Euros per year for a solar panel surface of 10m2. Again, the situation is different from region to region. In Flanders you can sell them to your distribution network operator (e.g. Iverlek; you can check the one operating in your commune on the VREG website). In Brussels or Wallonia you can sell them to your energy supplier in (e.g. like Electrabel or Lampiris). Both the operators and the suppliers are obliged to buy a certain amount of certificates per year and are thus eager to pay you for it. What you need - in addition to your solar panels - is another meter and you also need to inform your regional regulator of your production level of energy (regional differences may apply...). Good luck!
This article was first published in the February 2010 edition of the Sunbeams Newsletter.