Building as active elements of energy systems

University dissertation from Västerås : Mälardalen University

Abstract: Buildings account for approximately 40% of the energy demand and 33% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union. Accordingly, there are several efforts that target energy efficiency in buildings both at the European and Swedish levels. The role of buildings in climate change mitigation, however, is not limited to energy savings. Buildings are expected to become key elements of the future smart energy systems by supplying and using energy in a more flexible way. Reducing the energy demand in buildings effectively and shifting the role of buildings in energy systems from ‘passive’ consumers to ‘active’ prosumers, however, require close interaction and cooperation between the energy and buildings sectors.Based on the data collected from interviews and a web survey, this doctoral thesis investigates the relationship between the energy and buildings sectors in Sweden at the inter-company level, presents key stakeholder views on smart energy features in buildings and investigates the opportunities and barriers for their adoption in Sweden and Hong Kong.The results of this thesis suggest a potential for improving the cooperation between the Swedish energy and buildings sectors, which was identified to be influenced by the following factors: district heating monopolies; energy efficiency efforts in the buildings sector; unsuccessful technology-neutrality of the building regulations; self-generation systems in buildings; and energy use patterns. Shifting the focus from self-gains to mutual gains appears crucial to strengthen the inter-sectoral cooperation, as there are several opportunities for achieving mutually beneficial solutions for the two sectors. This would, however, require significant changes in current practices and business models as well as the introduction of new technologies, which would allow for a more flexible energy supply and use. Accordingly, technologies that target flexible energy use in buildings are considered the most important smart energy features in buildings. The current high costs of technologies, such as home automation and smart electrical appliances, however, create the strongest barrier to adoption. Therefore, the introduction of new business and ownership models and the elimination of the institutional and regulatory barriers are crucial to achieve a wide-scale development of smart energy features in buildings. The results from Hong Kong suggest that institutional and regulatory barriers can particularly create strong hinders to the adoption of technologies.It is possible to achieve more sustainable energy systems, where buildings are active elements of networks that supply and use energy in a more flexible and ‘smarter’ way. Cooperation between the energy and buildings sectors can play a key role in the adoption of smart energy features in buildings and pave the way for the smart built environment of the future.

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