Government Europa discusses the benefits of hardware and software installation in enabling energy optimisation, and the future of self-sufficiency.
In building and construction, the World Green Building Council notes that the sector is responsible for almost 30% of global energy consumption, and subsequent associated emissions. With such, the demand for self-sufficient and optimised buildings is ever-growing, and old structures are upgraded with automated temperature controls, smart meters, photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, as well as new builds that consider energy optimisation measures from their inception.
The future of a zero-carbon building is one which is upheld as the ideal of energy-efficient construction, with aims of countering the depletion of energy resources. Pan European Networks discusses the potential for retrofitting existing structures, and building new facilities which are enhanced with energy efficient measures, to achieve energy optimisation.
A new direction
The EU Energy Efficiency Directive – established in 2012 – enforces a set of measures to support the EU in achieving the 20% energy efficiency target by 2020, and 30% by 2030. The directive outlines measures for: ‘energy distributors or retail energy sales companies … to achieve 1.5% savings per year through … implementation of energy efficiency measures’; ‘the public sector in EU countries should purchase energy efficient buildings, products and services’; and ‘energy consumers should be empowered to better manage consumption. This includes easy and free access to data on consumption through individual metering’.
European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefcˇovicˇ spoke at a EURACTIV conference in Paris, France, saying: “We need to present our vision of how our countries will produce, distribute and consume energy in 2030, and we need to demonstrate how we plan to build a carbon neutral economy by mid-century.”
Monitoring, control and optimisation
The two facets integral to the concept of energy optimisation are monitoring and control, whereby monitoring enables operations within a building to be analysed, whilst control facilitates a response to change. Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) are tools which can help achieve energy optimisation within a structure. Offered by a variety of energy suppliers, BEMS monitor and control heating, ventilation, lighting and air-conditioning, in efforts to ensure that buildings operate as efficiently as possible, and by reducing energy wastage and with such, any subsequent costs. OEM Trend notes on its website: ‘The optimal level of efficiency is achieved by continuously maintaining the correct balance between operating requirements, external and internal environmental conditions, and energy usage.’
The benefits of BEMS can be associated to financial savings as a result of controlled energy use and an awareness of the energy being used, as well as any complications or issues within the chain. By connecting the building to a central computer, whereby power can be turned on or off, and temperatures and humidity can be monitored and controlled. UK Newspaper The Telegraph records how a conventional heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and lighting (HVAC) system consumes, on average, 40-60% of the total energy use of a building. However, by using a BEMS, and managing HVAC through this, enhanced efficiency can be ensured.
David Grundy, director of strategic accounts at E.ON, said: “BEMS is … one of the best conduits for delivering substantial and quick energy efficiency improvements in a building … Simply by adopting the existing system and then optimising the plant-operating parameters, a return on investment can take as little as six months.”
Smart meters and sustainability
Backed by legislation, smart meters are replacing conventional meters with energy enhancing benefits. With additional control, smart meters allow homeowners and businesses to monitor energy usage, and with data collection tools, identify trends and restrict unnecessary spending. The precision of smart meters as hardware for data collection will end the historic practice of estimated billing, enabling further savings. Despite the benefits for the end user, the industry will also be forced to be more competitive due to comparison and switch services.
In November 2016 the UK government released its quarterly report on smart meters, announcing that around 1.2 million smart and advanced meters were installed by larger energy suppliers throughout the third quarter. The government announced a commitment to ensure that every home and small business in the UK is offered a smart meter by the end of 2020, and as part of the rollout, Smart Energy GB are overseeing this transition.
Out of the available structural installations to a building – solar power, roof tiles, wall panels, windows, on-site generators for geothermal energy and for gas power, and kinetic energy – solar panels have become the most accessible. Dr Chris Horne, head of origination and business energy solutions at E.ON told The Telegraph: “Price is certainly an important factor when considering new technologies. The significant reduction in PV installations following the changes to feed-in tariffs demonstrates just how sensitive the market for new technologies is. Some companies are continuing to install PV at much lower volumes – with further improvements in PV performance and price we may see more panels being installed in the future.”
The benefits of the installation of PV cells range from increasing home value to their environmental benefits. Using solar energy from sunlight, the photovoltaic cells convert solar energy into electricity for homes and businesses. Any excess energy not used to power the building will be sent to the National Grid, offering an approach to optimising energy use.
Preventing the transition
Despite technological efforts, an aversion within the business sector is preventing the uptake of energy optimisation – as is uncertainty regarding how actions could have subsequent effects upon current structures, such as in systems, productivity and financial impacts. As a result, the causal effects are the ones being seriously considered in the transition to enhanced energy efficiency. Furthering this is the perception that with sustainability comes an added cost. However, despite preconceptions, pre-existing buildings do not require new equipment to be energy efficient, as opposed to the BEMS, which are able to optimise energy consumption.
This article will appear in Pan European Networks: Government 24, which will be published in January, 2018.