Last month the European Commission (EC) issued a bundle of legislative proposals for ways to strengthen and standardise the European Union’s energy markets. The ‘Clean Energy for all Europeans’ directives, known as the Winter Package, also outlines ways to improve energy efficiency especially in buildings.
The revision of Directive 2010/31/EU on the energy performance of buildings paints a clear picture of the role that the construction and facilities sectors can play in cutting energy use and carbon emissions.
The EC research finds that the building sector is the largest single energy consumer in Europe, absorbing 40% of final energy. While only about 75% of buildings are energy inefficient and, depending on the Member State, only 0.4-1.2% of the stock is renovated each year.
Ambitions for the sector are high however. To help the European Union meet its target of developing a decarbonised energy system by 2050, the directives state that countries and investors need milestones. “In order to ensure this decarbonised building stock by 2050, Member States should identify the intermediary steps to achieving the mid-term (2030) and long-term (2050) objectives.”
Turning the building sector 'smart'
Schneider Electric’s Matthieu Mounier believes there are three stages that the buildings market must go through to reach maturity and ultimately the EC decarbonisation goals.
Mounier, who is Vice President for Prosumer Business at the energy management company, says the first step is introducing energy efficiency measures, which should result in a quick return on investment - usually within two to three years.
But Mounier cautions that the more advanced a building is, the harder it is to see benefits from basic energy management systems. He says: “If you have a building that is well optimised with a good facility manager, it’s harder to make savings so this is when a customer can move from building to workplace management and still halve their energy consumption.”
How smart is your smart building?
The next stage is making the building flexible. Mounier defines flexibility as a building’s capability to integrate renewable energy into the daily demand-supply balancing as well as adapt to new occupants and services. “The building should perform well whether the office space is used by a large company headquarters or by several smaller companies,” he comments.
The Winter Package directive on the energy performance of buildings highlights the need for a “smartness indicator”, which should be used to “measure buildings’ capacity to use ICT and electronic systems to optimise operation and interact with the grid”.
Schneider’s Mounier agrees that interaction with the grid in terms of supplying a surplus of self-generated energy alongside sensors to allow automated control qualifies a building to be ‘smart’ or ‘intelligent’.
The third stage of a smart building, says Mounier, is when it is connected to its neighbourhood and “is able to interact with and provide services to the community.”
“We believe the value is in the diversity of building usage in one district. There are lots of possibilities to share resources and best practice in an area where you have both residential and commercial usages because they can complement each other. If you only have one type, people will have the need at the same time and you can not create a sharing model.”
Intelligent buildings and community grid
An example of such a community is France’s IssyGrid, which also illustrates Mounier’s three phases of intelligent building development. Schneider first worked on IssyGrid, south of Paris, in 2008 when it implemented a building management system in legacy buildings that halved energy consumption.
Three years later, Mounier said the team was able to cut consumption further by introducing a workplace management system that draws on sensors to detect building usage and calculates how to configure physical office space for optimal energy savings.
Schneider then worked with a network of partners to implement a set of technologies to retrofit buildings, install energy storage and smart street lighting and involve end users.
IssyGrid, the urban smart grid in the Business District of Issy-les-Moulineaux, which at completion will include 5,000 residents and 160,000 m² of office space, constitutes three solar power generation facilities, a public electrical distribution substation, two energy storage systems, a solar power forecasting system and 14 interconnected information systems.
IssyGrid claims that the system, which came online in April 2016, is able to smooth consumption peaks and ensure that the grid balance is maintained at all times.
Residents connected to IssyGrid can access their average electricity consumption data throughout the day, and understand how much solar power generation is available on an hourly basis, six hours in advance, allowing them to choose the best time to shift electricity consumption, according to the team behind the project.
Such a project demands a flexible regulatory framework to manage several end users benefitting from a shared resource without public infrastructure. However, Mounier concludes that regulation is keeping pace with new business models so the building sector could be in for a boost when the Winter Package directives are transposed into national law by the end of next year.