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Interview Jan-Christoph-Maiwaldt noventic group

Climate-friendly and affordable living

Mr Maiwaldt, the noventic group describes itself as a pioneer in the field of climate-smart real estate. Where does this expertise originate?

“Our affiliates operate in the fields of decentralised energy supply and energy-related services. We have many years of experience in metering and billing individual energy consumption in properties. The restructuring of our group of companies in 2017 led to the further broadening of our skill-base into fields including the development and production of sensor systems, data infrastructures, digital applications and platform solutions. This gave us a foothold in the new IoT world of interoperability and networking, and raised our knowledge to a higher level of utility.”

What was your motivation?

“We wanted to combine energy efficiency and economic efficiency, to make climate-friendly yet affordable living possible. To do this we brought together leading experts from the fields of metering technology and metering services. Together we were then able to create intelligent climate protection solutions using the metering technology already installed in the existing building stock. That has enabled us to make a genuinely affordable contribution to achieving the climate targets.”

What is the next important step in the digitisation of the energy transition?

“Definitely the starting shot for the smart meter roll-out in December 2019. The smart meter gateway (SMGW) developed by our strategic investment PPC was the first one to be certified by the Federal Office for Information Security (Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik – BSI), exactly one year ago now. SMGWs are the central component in the digitisation of the energy transition. It is over these digital communication hubs that both real estate and networks first become genuinely intelligent.”

How important is digitisation for the success of climate targets?

“It is essential. According to the German Environment Agency buildings cause about 35 per cent of Germany’s energy consumption – almost one third of this is attributable to room or water heating. Unless these figures change radically the federal government’s target of becoming climate neutral by 2050 will be unachievable. By 2030 alone the target is for emissions from buildings to be 66 per cent down on the 1990 figure. It is already clear to everybody that we will not make the climate target for 2020, which is a 40 per cent reduction in national greenhouse gas emissions.”

To what extent can building data and networking that data on a central platform contribute to the energy efficiency of real estate?

“If we bundle together the various consumption meters in buildings, for example for electricity, heating and water, via an SMGW we can use existing infrastructure to lay the foundations for filling a new data platform. We can use this wealth of data not only to optimise the energy supply of buildings but also to help residents cut their energy consumption.”

Can you give an example?

“If we succeed in coordinating weather forecasts with individual energy requirements we can create a valuable database for digitally controlled energy efficiency. This would allow the energy just produced by a solar plant or wind power to be optimally integrated into the building’s power supply, so that heating systems can be controlled more energy efficiently. Moreover, this database allows us to lay the foundations for digital apps with which residents can directly check their own consumption and therefore be able for the first time to decide individually how much they want to consume. In our view that is a contemporary use of the all-year round consumption information for tenants.”

Does such a link-up also work for general electricity grids?

“Absolutely. The SMGW forms the basis for integrating buildings into the intelligent load balancing by distribution grids, the optimum storage of electricity from renewable sources or the provision of more flexible charge systems by energy suppliers.”

The key word then is platform economy?

“That’s right. We initially concentrated on what we know best, which is submetering. Next we combined the world of metering with that of submetering, thereby creating a multi-metering platform delivering considerable added value. However, this only works through the opening of closed systems, with corresponding agreements and standards: the first step will have to be the replacement of the present proprietary systems and recognition that the data belongs to the customer. Secondly, one has to accept customers’ decisions regarding which infrastructure best suits their individual situations. Thirdly, because of this we insist rigorously on open technology and interoperability.”

And where, would you say, does the noventic group currently stand on the road towards the platform economy?

“Taken individually the companies of the noventic group are all well down the road, and within the group as a whole we are already well advanced with our project of creating a fully digital and fully integrated platform which is connected over standardised interfaces with the platforms and systems of our partners. On top of that, our tenant app provides us with a very modern interface with the residents, the people.”

People is a good key word: demands for residential comfort are growing, they are changing. How can this be reconciled with climate protection?

“Precisely that forms the background for our tenant app. It allows residents to view both their electricity and their heating and water consumption at any time and take measures to reduce them if they choose. First and foremost it is designed to give transparency about their individual consumption. Studies such as the one done by the Central Association for the Real Estate Industry have shown that regular consumption information allows energy savings of up to 20 per cent, and that pays dividends for the tenant when it comes to utility bills. Transparency about consumption is therefore a central factor for increased climate protection in the buildings sector.”

In other words, sustained energy savings in the real estate sector can only be achieved if people are personally involved in the process?

“We are convinced of that. One physical example from the field of energy-focused renovation work: after such measures so-called rebound effects are often observed. Residents change their behaviour because they assume that energy is being used more efficiently after the modernisation work, and as a result they increase the room temperatures and therefore their consumption. Visual applications like our tenant app make a contribution here to raising residents’ awareness of their own consumption, in order to provide a basis for decision-making in the first place and thus counteract the rebound effect.”