REPLACE Highlight Austria – Web-based one-stop-shop for fuel oil & gas boiler replacements launched mid-July 2022

After over a year of stakeholder consultation and implementation work, a web-based one-stop-shop for residential boiler replacements was developed for the first time in Austria – from oil/gas/direct electricity heating systems towards renewable-based and district heating systems.

Young families taking over a house often do not have the time to manage a replacement of its old heating system. At such an occasion, they cannot manage the consultations with the manifold crafts needed. At the same time, elderly people, living in houses built back in the 70ties and 80ties with an old, outworn oil or gas boiler in the cellar, often are not prepared for a changeover. Sometimes hoping that “the next generation shall solve that problem”. In order to offer people everything they need for a heating changeover, via one central supplier or one contact person coordinating all issues, a one-stop-shop for boiler replacements was developed.

The idea was born in the course of REPLACE, back in 2020, during consultations with the local REPLACE working group in Austria, consisting of experts in the field of residential heating. Implementation was lead by the Austrian Energy Agency, supported by financing and experts of the Federal Ministry for Climate Protection and the Department for Energy Economics and Energy Consulting of the Office of the Salzburg Provincial Government. At the beginning of the process, the three lead partners developed an all-around carefree package (ARCP) for boiler replacements. The ARCP was aligned with and agreed on by local installers, (over-regional) boiler manufacturers, equipment wholesalers and Energy Service Companies (ESCOs).

The core idea of the ARCP is that the ARCP supplier coordinates and supervises all crafts via one contact person, on-site and provides all contracts needed or acts as a general contractor for the household. An ARCP includes all services needed for a heating system replacement in 90 % of the cases and defines obligatory quality assurance and energy efficiency criteria. Criteria include e.g. obligatory public energy advice to implement solutions that fit best for the site, minimum energy efficiency/saving measures and the offer of mobile heating devices for emergency breakdowns within 24 hours after contact. In addition, voluntary ARCP services – including thermal renovation of building(s) (components), cellar or attic clearing, PV, solar thermal, etc. – can be offered.

The web platform went online in July 2022, enabling matchmaking of households and ARCP suppliers. Via a simple search form, users are able to easily find ARCP suppliers nearby, delivering the services identified as appropriate by energy consultation or needed in addition. The platform initially was developed for the REPLACE pilot region Province of Salzburg and can be extended to other Austrian provinces.

Potential ARCP suppliers currently are reluctant to sign the terms of participation and offer their services, however. Because of the energy crises and a high demand for boiler replacements, the order books of installers (usually the bottleneck in the value chain) tend to be filled a year in advance. Moreover, many components can currently only be delivered in 9 to 12 months’ time, so that binding prices are often not known for the time being. At the moment it is difficult to even get an offer from an installer, without waiting a long time; waiting lists for households are common practice. The current excess of demand has resulted in the heating exchange turning into a seller’s market, where installers can hardly meet the demand and have less incentive to offer comprehensive services due to the resulting lack of competition. The ARCP or the terms of participation (binding) for ARCP suppliers, respectively include quality assurance items and procedures. The ARCP thus provides a good basis for boiler replacements in energy poor households in the future, as those households in Austria receive up to 100 % of the replacement investment refunded via a (capped) one-off subsidy. Quality assurance procedures and the obligatory ARCP services fit to these special requirements. It is to be hoped that market conditions will soon relax, so that experience can be gained with this unique pilot action in the near future.

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