Nominated by: Femke de Jong, European Climate Foundation
Louise Sunderland is a perfect candidate for the Roger Léron Award 2022, her expertise covers energy efficiency and sustainability in the energy and buildings sectors, with a strong focus on the consumer and issues of equity in the energy transition. Throughout her career, she has worked closely with the energy industry and the design and construction industry, the non-profit sector, with policymakers on research and policy development, and she has also been active at local level in an energy community.
She has been pivotal in raising awareness and in leading the conceptual development of every energy poverty policy at EU level, through her thought leadership, report writing and as an expert advisor to the Right to Energy Coalition, an energy poverty umbrella organisation which includes trade unions, anti-poverty groups, social housing providers, NGOs, environmental campaigners, health organisations and energy cooperatives.
Much of Louise’s work has focused on improving EU legislation to tackle energy poverty more effectively. This includes in particular in the EU Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) and the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) and proposals on carbon pricing in the buildings sector. She is now focusing on a socially just decarbonisation, for example on a fair heat transition.
Louise pioneered and is a leading voice in Europe on Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS), demonstrating through numerous publications and articles how they can tackle inefficient housing and be an essential measure for the European Union to achieve a net-zero economy by 2050.
A good example of Louise’s research and leadership skills on energy poverty issues is her work done for the Regulatory Assistance Project in the SocialWatt project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme, which aims to enable obligated parties under Article 7 of the Energy Efficiency Directive to develop, adopt, test and spread innovative energy poverty schemes across Europe. In particular she delivered a report on the Status quo of Energy Poverty and its Mitigation in the EU and successfully coordinated and supported seven utilities in delivering their energy poverty action plans and then providing a thorough assessment.
Moving from theory to practice, she is also active as a non-executive director in the South East London Community Energy (SELCE), a community energy cooperative developing renewable energy in SE London and helping local people to reduce household energy consumption through advice on energy efficiency and their home retrofit service, as well as combating fuel poverty through advice and referral services.
Louise’s leadership role on energy efficiency means that she is a sought-after expert to help shape the development of EU legislation, both by policymakers and stakeholders. She receives numerous requests for input on how to improve the Energy Efficiency Directive recast and the revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), in order to maximise energy savings and tackle energy poverty. The proposals to revise the energy savings target includes a ringfence equivalent to 6% of energy savings for energy poor households. That is directly inspired by Louise’s work as we as even more ambitious amendments by the EU Parliament.
Louise has pioneered the concept of Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) and how to best introduce them across the EU, resulting in the European Commission introducing this policy tool in the EPBD revision to spur Europe’s renovation wave with legal requirements for renovation of the worst insulated buildings beginning in 2030. Through her research and communication skills, her ability to influence public opinion and raise awareness on the need to accelerate energy renovations, MEPS are now seen as the EU’s central tool to upgrade its worst energy performing buildings while tackling energy poverty.
Beyond Louise’s vast influence on the design of energy efficiency policy, she is also facilitating its implementation at the local level. As SELCE’s non-executive director, she for example supports people to reduce their energy demand. SELCE raised over €600,000 to install solar arrays on a selection of community buildings including primary schools, leisure centres and a church.
Louise motivates everyone around her to take action to save energy and tackle energy poverty. Her optimistic outlook, kindness, willingness to help others and ability to make research understandable to a wide audience makes her a person whose impact is not just limited to her achievements, but whose imp act stretches beyond what she can directly do as one person, as she inspires many others to take her ideas forward. She works well with a wide range of stakeholders, including individuals from policymaking, industry, environmental and social groups, trade unions and energy cooperatives, and practices active listening to strengthen ideas and collectively advance towards energy efficiency.