Power to buildings: get ready to decarbonise your city in 3 grid-friendly steps

News Article

The choices we make in our daily lives when renovating our house, heating the office or driving a car are intrinsically part of the energy transition.

And this is not small business:  Siemens’ study confirms that electrifying around 100 million buildings and getting them equipped to charge the same number of electric vehicles would reduce CO2 emissions by 500 megatons/ year and help displace natural gas and oil by 15% to 25% by 2030.

How do we unleash such untold potential?

Scaling up these solutions will require massive rates of electrification with an unprecedented degree of decentralisation. Balancing energy supply and demand will be an increasingly difficult task. This is why the adoption of these devices must come with a behavioral shift towards demand-side response to support the grid with increased flexibility of our consumption. 

Eurelectric’s business hub “Power to Buildings” has started to look into this. In their first meeting, they have identified 3 main steps to accelerate buildings’ decarbonisation, while being friendly to our power grids.

Step 1: Rooftop solar panels

Any household or business wishing to contribute to the energy transition can start by generating their own energy via rooftop solar panels. The next step is combining panels with a battery system to store excess energy and connect that battery to the distribution network to feed energy back into the grid at times of peak demand.

We have less than 3 decades to decarbonise millions of buildings but not all projects have the same impact in terms of CO2 and financial return

- says Martial Genolet, Solar Business Development Manager at Romande Energie.  

Industries increasingly employ digital tools to identify the most rewarding projects and optmise their planning, simulation, and implementation. Data factories and digital twins can in fact help utilities, vendors, and consulting firms to locate high potential areas and identify the best buildings in terms of geography and installation costs. Generative design services can then support grid operators by simulating what impact installing solar PV across a city could have on the distribution grid.

Step 2: Heat pumps and smart thermostats

Electric heat pumps are the best alternative to emitting gas boilers for a building’s heating and cooling needs. Being at least four times more energy efficient than gas and oil boilers, heat pumps allow households and businesses to cut around 75% of their emissions

Beyond the immediate benefits of improved air quality and higher energy savings, heat pumps can also become sources of flexibility to the grid when coupled with smart thermostats and intelligent energy management systems. These tools can provide real-time readings of a consumer’s energy usage. Access to such information incentivises consumers to shift their energy demand to when the energy supplied is cheapest, and to reduce consumption at times of peak demand when the energy is more expensive.

Demand-side response can thus benefit both utilities end users with reduced energy costs and improved grid resilience and reliability all the while managing the challenge of renewables integration.

Step 3: Energy communities

Energy communities are growing in Europe. More and more consumers are willing to come together to invest in renewable generation assets and share that energy amongst themselves. Excess energy can then be sold by the community directly to the grid. This allows entire regional areas to significantly reduce their carbon footprint while incentivising households’ customer engagement in the green transition.

Today several barriers hamper the full development of these communities. A complex regulatory framework, capacity constraints, and the lack of legal framework for companies to form energy communities in many Member States exemplify the roadblocks. Energy communities also face challenges when it comes to allocating the responsibility of ensuring the security of supply to their members. Close cooperation with distribution system operators is therefore paramount for system planning and balancing extra generation.

Another untapped opportunity for buildings’ grid-friendly decarbonisation is to leverage interbuilding flexibility in local markets. This means sharing a building’s excess energy with another before feeding it back to the grid. This peer-to-peer energy trading creates economic and social benefits to the community as they match generation and demand locally, minimise grid interaction, and enable demand-side flexibility. Consumers and prosumers can therefore prioritise local production, maximise social savings, and reduce grid losses.

These three steps clearly hint at what cities of the future can look like in Europe. Eurelectric is committed to this future and, with its Power to Buildings Hub businesses spanning across a number of sectors, can pave the way for achieving it.