The digitisation of the energy transition
Rising energy and utility supply costs, the supply crisis and the rising cost of (construction) raw materials, a shortage of skilled workers and a backlog of orders confronting the contractors carrying out the work: the owners and managers of buildings face many challenges when attempting to administer their building stock in an energy-efficient and sustainable way. Under these circumstances there is little chance of rapidly achieving lasting results through modernization work. Nevertheless, there are a number of ways in which the housing stock can be put on an efficient and energy-saving footing as quickly as possible and at a manageable financial outlay, and digitising the energy transition is the key here.
The first step has largely already been taken, as consumption data facilitating transparency and comparability between households and buildings has been available to the housing industry for some time now. However, we are still failing to benefit from what has now become a pretty impressive body of data. It is high time, then, that we moved on from simply recording the data to actively using it.
In focus: residents’ behaviour and cooperation
But before building owners and managers start investing, they need to be aware that their efforts will be in vain without the cooperation of residents. They want to be brought on board, informed and involved. The good news is that, in times of huge increases in energy costs and seemingly incalculable advance payments, they are more than willing to make their contribution. This is shown by the study on the “The Role of the Tenant in Climate Protection in Residential Housingˮ by Professor Andreas Pfnür of the Technical University of Darmstadt. More than two-thirds of tenants regard efficient climate protection in the housing industry as impossible without their involvement. The respondents are certainly willing to make greater efforts in this respect within their own four walls, provided the cost and convenience are acceptable and the measures can be used intuitively. The digitisation of energy consumption is central to achieving this.
Smart heating thanks to the digitisation of energy consumption
Owners and managers must provide residents with the necessary means here. The most widespread such means is the digitisation of energy supply, specifically digital applications and services such as residents’ energy consumption apps. These provide feedback on one’s own energy consumption and encourage people to use the available resources consciously and responsibly. Another example is smart thermostats. These are operated by the residents either via smartphone or a control app. However, energy-saving assistance functions such as automatic open window detection and pre-programmed room-specific time settings can also be operated locally, without cloud or app support, making heating much more efficient.
In order to press on with digitising the energy transition, the broad mass of the population must be involved. Clearly our efforts will fall short if we offer these products exclusively to technologically minded tenants. Accordingly, it must also be possible to run smart heating solutions locally, without a permanent cloud connection, and also without being connected to a local Wi-Fi network, via secure and reliable professional wireless systems. Alongside the assistance functions mentioned above, other customisable functions include a mould warning should humidity levels rise, which the resident receives without any data being passed on to the owner.
Such simple-sounding measures can have an enormous effect. Implemented correctly, digitising thermostats not only increases living comfort but also cuts radiators’ average energy consumption by some 15 to 20 per cent. As well as reducing energy consumption, smart thermostats also cut CO₂ emissions from buildings.
Digitisation also possible in small steps
These usage scenarios show that digitising many smaller processes can have a major impact. Bundling together a range of building data and consumption figures for electricity, water, natural gas and heating creates a solid data base that can be drawn on for further processes such as digital heating system control and the optimal integration of locally generated renewable energy. This significantly increases the energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness of buildings.
For all the current importance of these measures, they are about much more than saving energy in the short-term. The data collected at building level helps to create transparency and comparability of buildings, for example by visualizing energy consumption. This in turn means they provide a vital basis for choosing the right renovation measures, as well as assisting in identifying potential for energy savings and CO₂ cuts. This is a key indicator of particular relevance for a larger portfolio with plenty of potential for savings, while also laying the foundation for efficient, reliable property valuation.
Solutions from a single source
For building owners and managers who want to make their portfolios digitally fit for purpose, it is advisable, right from the outset, to think holistically about the process and to consider the networking of building-related solutions.
The radio equipment for the multi-utility metering point, the smart meter gateway connection, as well as the integration of all data on a data platform, ideally open system, with corresponding downstream digital applications, must all be able to communicate seamlessly with each other. This is the only way to ensure that the building data can be stored securely, naturally in purely pseudonymised and anonymised form in aggregated clusters, then being turned into useful information by smart applications. This is how digitising the energy transition works towards the climate-smart buildings of the future!