INTERVIEW/According to the Minister of the Environment, Marie-Pierre Gramaglia, some measures announced in the White Paper on energy transition are imminent. Whether in relation to launching a wooden state-owned housing operation, solar cadastre or new thermal regulations.
What are the priorities of Monaco’s environmental policy and energy transition?
Our priority is to comply with the commitment we made by signing the Paris agreement. Namely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. We therefore need to act on the main sources of greenhouse gases in Monaco. Three sectors have been clearly identified. These are fossil fuel energy consumption for heating, household waste-to-energy schemes, and fuel consumption for transport – at one third each.
Without being exhaustive, to achieve this goal the government has for example just issued new regulations on waste sorting, requiring the implementation of selective sorting for new buildings and in under 5 years for existing buildings (with possible adaptation on a case by case basis). Similarly, the total ban on fuel oil heating has been in existence for new buildings since 2008. We will abolish fuel oil in public buildings as soon as possible and are considering doing the same for old buildings, a priori in under 5 years. The final timetable has not yet been set. This adaptation will generate costs for co-owners. State financial contributions to go with this change are under review.
In the White Paper on energy transition, you have also announced the construction of a positive energy public building in Monaco i.e. one generating more energy (thermal or electric) than it consumes. What is it, in concrete terms?
The State has just acquired Villa Carmelha, located at 12 avenue Saint-Roman, for 30 million euro. On its right of way we will construct an exemplary positive energy building, with a wooden frame (R + 10). On the roof of this interim operation for some twenty state-owned homes will be a vegetable garden or greenhouses. It will be the first prototype of a positive energy building launched in Monaco!
When will this operation be launched?
Very soon! We just need to fine-tune the practicalities, for example clarify whether or not it will be constructed in delegated project management. It will be a highly technical achievement.
Is building with wood more or less expensive than concrete?
The cost of a wooden frame is not really lower than one in reinforced concrete but the gain is in terms of speed of execution, a low-impact site and carbon footprint.
Monaco’s energy regulations need updating. When and in what way?
Indeed, we will change the thermal regulations before the year-end – this measure enables us to regulate thermal aspects of new buildings and state their maximum energy consumption (heating, lighting, sanitary hot water production, ventilation and air conditioning – Ed.) The White Paper on energy transition has shown us that this responds to calls of co-owners and property management companies to encourage individuals to carry out renovation, change their windows, install photovoltaic panels on the roof etc. Subsidies to go with these measures should also come out by the end of 2017.
Will that really reduce Monaco’s total energy consumption? Is the trend already downwards?
The total increase in energy consumption, 39% compared to 1990, stabilised in 2005. Local energy generation (mainly from heat pumps) has risen 67% since 1990 and fossil fuel combustion (gas and oil) has fallen by 8%, so we are moving in the right direction. In fact, one goal of our Energy and Climate Plan, to end at the close of 2017, was to lower unit energy consumption by 20% in 2020 compared to 2007. We are already at -26%!
Is Monaco’s particularity its energy dependence on France?
Yes. In 2015, Monaco’s annual energy consumption was 1109 gigawatt hours. That corresponds to 48% imported electricity, 29% fossil fuels and 23% local production.
Without going as far as self-sufficiency, is Monaco going to increase the share of local production?
We plan to build two thalasso-thermic loops at Larvotto and La Condamine, to supply the seaside districts using the heat pump system. The Fontvieille one will soon go as far as the hospital.
Can we envisage offshore wind turbines?
That’s not an option. There is significant visual pollution, people worry about disturbances, and there is not enough wind to make it lucrative. In contrast, the goal is to develop solar energy. We are equipping more and more buildings with photovoltaic panels, while trying to preserve the town-planning and aesthetic side. Therefore, we may use panels that look like orange roof tiles, which would have a less negative impact when seen from above.
Do you also plan to make a solar cadastre public?
Before the year-end, a solar cadastre will be accessible to all. Everyone will be able to know the solar energy potential of their home, as well as the cost-efficiency of energy supplied in relation to the building’s exposure to the sun. This is a highly innovative tool made available to Monaco residents. Very few cities in Europe have these.
Will there be the opportunity to consume one’s own solar energy?
Homeowners can consume their photovoltaic energy or feed it into the grid. In plain language, the building can consume it but not store and produce energy for others. There is the need to reflect on developing smart grids in Monaco.
Have all these energy transition measures been budgeted?
The main appropriations have been calculated over the next 10 years. The first item, namely support for the thermal regulations and improvements to buildings, will cost 20-30 million euro (from 2018). We have allocated 5 million euro to mobilisation and training of players (property management companies, the construction industry etc.). Thermal renovation works on State buildings have been allocated 30-40 million. As for development of renewable energy in Monaco and abroad, a 30-35 million euro range has been estimated. All this will be funded from the green fund, fuelled by the budget surplus and Smeg users.
Is the introduction of a carbon tax planned?
Not at the moment. We are in discussions with the National Council. All tax creations require a law. This is the last point for finalising the assessment of the environment code.
This environment code is a long-running story…
There is a common desire to bring out this code at the end of the year.
Is the call for tenders for the incineration plant scheduled for end 2017?
That will be the case. It will be a call for tenders for a waste-to-energy plant. Although the existing system appears to be the best solution given the Principality of Monaco’s configuration – namely the small size of our territory – we have committed to the National Council to open up this call for tenders to any technology. Perhaps even innovative technologies we’re not yet familiar with…
What is the timetable?
There will be 6 months for responding to the call for tenders, then we will analyse the proposals in contention. We will create two alternatives in the call for tenders. An alternative for reconstruction of the plant in situ, that will cause the incinerator to cease operating for a minimum of 6 months and involve in particular the need to come to an agreement with France to handle the waste. Also an alternative in the perimeter of Fontvieille, that has the advantage of not stopping the plant’s operation. That would be easier, quicker to build, and cheaper. We are currently considering another site on Ilot Charles III.
_Interview by Milena Radoman