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BESIX, the construction company, and Elia, the grid operator, want to give smart buildings an active role in the electricity system

BESIX, the construction company, and Elia, the grid operator, want to give smart buildings an active role in the electricity system

  • 40% of our energy consumption comes from buildings
  • In addition to being more energy-efficient, smart buildings also carry great potential in terms of flexible energy management
  • Smart buildings strengthen the integration of renewable energy into the energy system

To achieve a climate-neutral society by 2050 as outlined in the European Green Deal, more than just an energy transition is needed. Other sectors can also contribute to the further decarbonisation of our society. Just as the advent of electric vehicles will have a major impact on decarbonisation in the short term, innovative changes are also being announced in the construction sector. For instance, the buildings of the future will not only be more energy-efficient, but also energy-smart. Thanks to flexible energy management, the energy consumed by buildings will be better matched to the variable production of renewable energy. The construction sector will thus support the energy transition without compromising on comfort. At the same time, consumers will be able to save on their energy bills.

To keep the electricity network in balance, supply and demand must be kept equal at all times. With the expected increase in renewable (and less predictable) energy production and the further electrification of our society, this challenge will become much greater in the future. To maintain the balance, there is a need for flexible balancing tools.

Today, flexibility is mainly provided by industry through increases or decreases in energy production. In the future, Elia also wants to use the flexibility that ordinary consumers will have through their control of electric cars, heat pumps, boilers and other applications. Digitalisation and market structure reform are both paving the way towards consumer centricity. The latter is a forward-looking concept that acts as a stepping stone towards the realisation of the European Green Deal.

In order to realise the climate targets, it is important that we cooperate with other sectors. In the short term, electric mobility is our big focus. The interaction of car batteries with our electricity system is occurring very quickly and in large volumes. But the next big step will be the integration of smart buildings. The cycle of innovation in construction is slower, but the impact will be all the greater, as 40 per cent of our energy consumption comes from buildings. By working together and using our combined expertise, we can test applications that will later be used in private homes. – Chris Peeters, CEO Elia Group

The construction and real estate sectors are not yet widely digitised. However, as technology becomes increasingly accessible, digitisation and automation in these sectors will grow in importance. The concept of smart buildings is central to this. A building is ‘smart’ because it combines a pleasant environment with efficient consumption through the use of technology. Consumers can relax, because it is the buildings themselves which make decisions to optimise their performance, for example in terms of energy consumption.

A lot of attention is paid to the renovation of buildings in post-Covid recovery plans. We must focus both on less energy consumption and also on smarter energy consumption. In this way, we will create more value for consumers, who will save on their energy bills and benefit from increased levels of comfort. Embedding a layer of technology in buildings is an important step towards a low-carbon society. A focus on this would give us Belgians an edge over neighbouring countries and it would highlight Belgium’s knowledge economy. – Rik Vandenberghe, CEO BESIX Group

Elia and BESIX have already worked together on the Internet of Energy (IO.Energy) ecosystem as part of the Enleash project. A pilot concept was tested, which looked at how large buildings with complex needs (such as offices and hospitals) could play an active role in the energy system. In future, they could do this by producing, holding or using their energy only when it is useful or needed.

BESIX and Elia will now work together on a joint vision statement and a project structure will be set up to share knowledge, identify opportunities and develop projects. The partners will also jointly promote the importance of smart buildings. Joining forces and the sharing of knowledge about smart buildings and electrical system operations are concrete steps that will further contribute to the much-needed energy transition.

Learn more about Enleash: https://www.ioenergy.eu/enleash