By Constantinos Psillides
MAKING homes energy efficient could boost the economy by up to €2 billion and create 30,000 new jobs, the Technical Chamber (ETEK) argued on Tuesday while proposing the creation of a loan fund to shoulder the projected expenses.
ETEK along with the Cyprus Energy Agency, the Environment Commissioner Ioanna Panayiotou and the Association of Building Contractors submitted their proposals to President Nicos Anastasiades, asking the government to take swift action on the matter.
According to ETEK’s head Stelios Achniotis, around 100,000 homes in Cyprus are not energy efficient, costing their owners a lot of money in heating and related expenses.
Achniotis argued that there was a market demand for making homes energy efficient and that the state should do everything in its power to encourage businessmen in that field.
“By strengthening productivity and encouraging competition the state won’t endanger future generations but will secure a better future for them,” said Achniotis, urging the government to also cut back on red tape to make it easier for companies to conduct business.
According to the ETEK’s head, each homeowner in Cyprus must spend €6,000 to €10,000 to make their house energy efficient. Recognising that these are dire financial times for Cypriots, Achniotis proposed establishing a loan fund with low interest for people who want to invest in reducing energy consumption.
Acnhiotis claimed that a €160 million starting fund should cover the initial cost. As to where the money would come from, Achniotis asked the government to sign a loan with the European Investment Bank (EIB) for a €100 million and secure another €60 million from European structural funds.
“This loaning mechanism can be self-sufficient. The money collected from people paying back their loans can be utilised to give out new loans and once the programme is done, that money can be used to pay back the loan secured by the EIB,” explained Achniotis, adding that commercial banks could greatly benefit by joining the loaning mechanism.
The head of ETEK argued that the benefits of implementing a comprehensive energy efficiency policy can be immediate, so it should be a top priority for the state.
Anthi Charalambous, head of the Cyprus Energy Agency said that buildings were responsible for 30 per cent of the island’s energy consumption; the vast majority of those buildings did not fulfill basic energy efficiency standards. “By investing a sum of €6,000 to É10,000 once, a house in Cyprus can reduce its energy consumption by 40 per cent,” noted Charalambous, adding that a family of four spends around €3,000 annually on heating and energy bills.
Charalambous pointed out that similar programmes already existed in other countries, like Greece, and have been widely popular and successful.
The head of the Association of Building Contractors, Costas Rousias, said that the construction sector was facing many difficulties, and if they were not overcome would spell the end of several businesses. Rousias said that the proposed plan could save the contractors, if the state also invested in making public building energy efficient.
Rousias claimed that the biggest obstacle construction business face at the moment was securing bank loans. “By making it easier for construction companies to receive loans, the government opens the road for projects in Cyprus, such as making homes energy efficient, and will also make it easier for companies who are based in Cyprus to secure contracts for projects in other countries,” he said.