Internet of Energy represents an important opportunity to perform energy management and energy exchange between buildings and areas. In a round table, various experts discussed the importance of development and the status quo: how far have we come in creating energy hubs and what innovations are needed to take us further?
To kick off the round table, the experts explain the essence and importance of an Internet of Energy. Maarten De Vries from TKI Urban Energy starts: “For me, the Internet of Energy is, among other things, managing energy supply and demand, which has several advantages. In this way, it can eliminate the imbalance in the electrical network, respond to energy prices and optimally use sustainably generated energy when it is crucial. Increased network congestion means that you can no longer automatically connect to the network. This offers a great incentive to start smart energy services within a building.” It is already worthwhile to intelligently control charging stations and large solar roofs (with storage), so that energy supply and demand are distributed throughout the day. According to him, we will also manage air conditioning systems and heat pumps intelligently in the long term. “If that doesn’t happen, congestion problems will increase and a lot of fossil power plants will be needed as backup.”
Harm Welleweerd agrees: “The latter is especially important, because too often we see the alarm only go off when it’s actually too late. Smart management of energy supply and demand is an important point, but making energy cheaper and more available carries equal weight.” Energy expert Arash Aazami has spoken about this before, including during the Sustainable Building Congress and Data Day for the Built Environment. Welleweerd continues: “In this new situation, energy will be cheaper for everyone and easier to share locally thanks to digitalisation. Then we went from centralized systems to decentralized systems. Ultimately, we are moving towards a network system.”
According to Arnaud van Beek-van Goor, his organization, Unica Groep, is already thinking about the future. “We try to include all our clients in this, because to solve problems you have to think and act progressively. In part due to current events surrounding rising energy prices, we receive questions about congestion management and no natural gas. In concrete terms, this means that there are customers who cannot install solar panels and therefore cannot generate sustainable energy, because there is no more space in the network”. That is why he believes that the energy market must be viewed intelligently. “Out-of-the-box solutions are not always available, but by continuing to talk to each other, we can connect solutions. For us, the Internet of Energy is therefore a collection of solutions.”
Also, it is not always a technical solution that will help us get rid of congestion problems, among other things. According to Aveco’s Pierre van Vliet of Bondt Sustainability Advice, the answer can also be found in the way we build. “Look at buildings in Switzerland, for example, that retain heat between 22 and 26 degrees Celsius without heating, cooling, or power. Throughout the year. I am in favor of a more comprehensive vision of the task and, for example, also including environmental impact and health in the considerations”. According to Van Vliet, there is a lack of strict legislation and regulations, which makes it difficult to find joint solutions. “That means you now rely primarily on people with guts and intrinsic motivation to tackle tasks holistically. So we must work together to raise awareness of that perspective. The technology is there. The challenge lies in putting solutions together.”
Fortunately, awareness and attention for this integrated approach is on the rise, as SPIE’s Linda Pennings knows: “With our Ecolution program we try to engage our customers in forward-looking sustainability. By this we mean the full spectrum from determining ambition to analyzing possibilities and writing a roadmap. Operating with a performance guarantee is also becoming more and more important and decisive.” According to her, the basis of intelligent solutions is that the facilities you have also work optimally. “Continuous commissioning can ensure that you not only optimally furnish the building, but also the area. What we are currently seeing in practice is that there are queries from customers who are at their maximum capacity to use the electricity grid and as a consequence, for example, it is more difficult to say goodbye to natural gas. We try to use intelligent systems so that the balance is restored and future-oriented steps are possible.”
Benjamin Wentink of MAIN Energie illustrates that there is still plenty of fruit to be picked: “We do a lot of analysis ourselves to uncover opportunities to make real estate more sustainable. It is important that we pick up that glove, because it is clearly noticeable that otherwise there is not enough movement. If the parties don’t get clear crossovers, very little happens. In addition, we see the tendency that they prefer to outsource the realization of different solutions to a single party”. There are opportunities to make a big step forward for almost all parties. “Almost any real estate agent can achieve significant savings with percentages of up to 50%. That information is extremely important, so we indicate what needs to be improved, for example, optimally installing and organizing new or existing facilities.”
It is clear that there are many opportunities for energy savings and better matching of supply and demand. But what should we stop doing today and what should we do differently? Van Vliet: “The link with the Internet makes us vulnerable, especially when all kinds of services and activities are linked on a large scale. We saw that become painfully clear recently when the NS did not run any trains for almost a day.” Welleweerd understands this question and clarifies it: “The Internet of Energy is a network in which knowledge is stored and made available in various places. There is no central location, so if the connection to the cloud is lost, there is a local safety net. The cloud is a means of exchanging that data, but don’t make your power system dependent on it.” According to him, the task must be seen from a perspective that transcends the building. Pennings notes that not all building owners are doing this yet, but that movement is visible: “We see that the level of scale on the building is becoming more and more important. Now more attention is being paid to what a neighboring company is doing and what is happening in the area, for example in regards to the Regional Energy Strategy and the deployment in the neighborhood plans”.
Upper scale level
The opportunities to implement an energy center or network at a larger scale level are clear to the participants. Van Beek illustrates how this can work in practice: “Find smart solutions and do this together to increase your influence. In any case, be sure to monitor and take the first step, possibly together with other organizations in the area. Find out what you have to offer in terms of facilities, insulation and harmful greenhouse gas emissions. That information is critical to determining which direction you’re going.” De Vries explains: “It starts with management and monitoring. Future-proof is a keyword here. The energy system is developing at lightning speed. So make sure that the facilities and systems you are now designing and building have the ability to control them intelligently. In this way, the buildings and facilities are prepared for the optimization strategies that will come into play in the future”.
Text: Marvin van Kempen, Image: Shutterstock