Energy “vigilant” citizens
People are increasingly testing smart control systems to curb energy use, while maximising the amount of renewables employed in the process
When temperatures are low, the temptation to take long, scalding showers and turn electric heaters to the maximum is high. And not knowing how much energy we spend, when we unthinkingly do these activities, makes it difficult for us to decrease our consumption.
“For a long time, cars didn’t have speedometers. But now that they do, we know how fast we go. The same is true for energy consumption, awareness is the first step,” said Marcus Olofsson, operation manager at Fortum, speaking at a panel discussion on how smart control can increase the energy performance of buildings, during the last Smart City Expo in Barcelona. The energy company is partner of the EU project GrowSmarter, which in Stockholm equipped 54 apartments with smart gateways that measure electricity, water and heat consumption. “The meters are wired to our gateway, which is placed close to an electricity cabinet in each flat”.
These kind of devices can “help consumers visualise how many different energy sources they’re using at a time and plan accordingly, and also enable the energy provider to more precisely manage the load variation,” confirms May Endresen from Triangulum. In Stavanger, Norway, the EU project will be fitting 100 homes and two public buildings - a school and a nursing home - with smart gateways whose services include heat and light control.
The solution, which aims at reducing the energy consumption by 20%, is moving with the times as the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate decreed that all electricity consumers in the country will have smart meters by January 1, 2019.
Throughout Europe, buildings are responsible for 40% of energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions. While newer buildings are being constructed with energy performance in mind, the older stock built as long ago as the 1950s - which make up approximately 35% of all buildings in the European Union - is still churning out high rates of expended energy and waste.
Generally, experts agree that one of the keys to improving buildings’ energy performance is making sure tenants are conscious of how much energy they’re spending. And smart control systems can be useful tools to achieve this objective.
An innovative building energy management system (BEMS) has been developed under BRESAER. José L. Hernández García, from the EU project, explains that the device looks at weather forecasts, among other predictors, to estimate what energy demand will be in the upcoming hours. It then also considers how much energy can be generated from that building.
“Having both inputs, a decision making process takes place in order to balance the sources in the most effective way, maximising the usage of renewables. The system should also ensure the comfort levels for the occupants,” says García.
Among the biggest challenges, he concludes, is “how to integrate the existing energy sources and the newest ones. Interoperability is the pivotal aspect to deal with”. The project is set to be demonstrated in a building belonging to the University of Burgos in Spain in the upcoming months.
By Meaghan Beatley