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As the world grapples with the escalating effects of climate change, the urgency to reduce carbon emissions has never been more apparent. In this context, the real estate industry has a critical role to play, given its substantial carbon footprint. From 1 January 2023, all offices measuring 100m2 or more must hold at least an energy label C, otherwise they can no longer be used as an office. Companies that own, have invested in, or are looking to invest in real estate must consider and comply with such legislative requirements as well as the associated environmental responsibilities.

Opportunities for companies: combining TESs and solar panels
In the quest to making existing real estate more sustainable, two key technologies have emerged as game-changers: Thermal Energy Storage-systems (TESs or ‘WKO-systemen’) and solar panels. These technologies can serve as integral components in the transformation of buildings into sustainable assets.

TESs leverage the earth's stable temperature to provide heating, cooling, and hot water for buildings. Retrofitting existing buildings with TESs offers the opportunity of replacing aging and inefficient central heating and HVAC systems (heating ventilating and air conditioning) with a sustainable alternative. While the upfront costs can be substantial, the long-term energy savings and reduced carbon footprint can make it a worthwhile investment. Additionally, governments often provide incentives and subsidies to encourage the adoption of TES technology. 

Solar panels are a cornerstone of sustainability efforts in real estate, as they reduce a building's reliance on the grid, lower energy bills and mitigate carbon emissions. Installing solar panels on roofs and adjacent land can also provide additional benefits, such as feeding excess energy back into the grid for additional savings and potential income, although the latter is problematic now due to congestion of the grid. Alternatives, such as the use of batteries, are currently being explored in the market.

The synergy between TESs and solar panels is particularly compelling. TESs provide energy-efficient heating and cooling, while solar panels generate clean electricity. Together, they can create a holistic and sustainable energy system for a building. 

The role of companies: taking a proactive stance
In the realm of sustainability, the onus is increasingly on companies to take a proactive stance in transforming real estate. It is imperative for corporate leaders to set ambitious yet realistic sustainability goals, as companies are both catalysts for change and subjects of scrutiny. Their actions, or lack of them, affect their own bottom line as well as the global effort to combat climate change and promote sustainable practices.

Therefore, real estate investors and project funders will increasingly want to see proof and legal confirmation of the ESG elements of project. Companies that embrace their role in advancing real estate sustainability will benefit not only in terms of reputation, but also in contributing to a greener and more resilient future.

As a firm with extensive knowledge on the parallels between property law and sustainability, we provide our clients with tailored advice on all legal aspects of the sustainability transition of their real estate, from permitting to contracting and property law structuring to (green) financing.

What it means for you:

  • Review your asset portfolio in light of your corporate climate policy and goals for transparency and accountability.
  • Develop a comprehensive plan to improve the sustainability of key assets with customised recommendations on how to make your current real estate more environmentally friendly, reducing carbon emissions, and cutting energy costs. 
  • Seek legal advice on the regulatory requirements that apply to your asset portfolio and the opportunities to invest in a more sustainable future. 

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