The Role of Energy Efficient Buildings

15 October 2015:  New study by those excellent boffins at Ecofys for European insulation trade body Eurima which highlights that “Beyond the main benefits of energy efficiency, such as reduced energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency in buildings also has the potential to reduce costs and increase efficiency on the supply side.

Why would that be the case? It’s due to the amount of heating that is anticipated to shift from gas to electricity (boilers to heat pumps) over the coming decades:

“The expected growth of electric heat pumps to supply heating (and cooling) energy to the EUs building stock will require significant investments in electricity production capacities and a respective strengthening of the grid. These investments can be reduced by energy efficiency measures that lead to a decrease in the energy demand of buildings.

Highly efficient buildings are thereby beneficial for the power systems in two ways: by reducing the energy demand and by providing a higher flexibility to the grid. The study found that in a high efficiency scenario, 57 GW in peak load can be saved compared to a low efficiency scenario by the year 2050, which equals the current total electricity production capacity of Austria and the Netherlands combined. The impact of energy efficiency on the flexibility of the power systems leads to an additional reduction in peak load of the EU power system of around 12 GW.”

So – as increasing electrification occurs – ensuring London’s buildings are better insulated would reduce energy bills, decrease carbon emissions, help with grid stability – AND also offset increased spend on new electricity distribution infrastructure (new investment for cables/transformers to carry this electricity – reducing the need to dig up roads!).

N.B. The government’s 2011 Carbon Plan first set out a vision how the UK might shift more of its heat sector from gas (and transport sector from oil – through the introduction of electric vehicles) to be fuelled by electricity. Both the heat pump and EV sector have, however, progressed much slower than the government had predicted. In contrast, the Carbon Plan is almost silent on solar PV, where of course there has been a huge take up.

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One Response to The Role of Energy Efficient Buildings

  1. David Savage says:

    I have been involved in the construction industry for over 40 years now primarily on the design side and have seen significant changes over that time. However what causes me real concern is that in terms of progress for our building designs we are trailing behind our sister industries in Europe and to some extent internationally. We should be designing buildings that provide:-
    •Increased Quality of living/working (i.e. air quality)
    •Minimal environmental impact (i.e. low carbon emissions)

    The UK approach to energy consumption/generation is to assume that we will keep on wanting more. What is required is major rethink on tackling energy demand at source rather than making short term decisions in terms of fracking, nuclear energy, etc. to increase or even maintain current energy use. Instead of tackling the poor performance of buildings (energy and comfort levels) head on, the UK have been tinkering with the subject for so long now that each ‘initiative’ introduced has invariably backfired or at least not delivered the desired results.

    Buildings are responsible for some 40% to 50% of C02 emissions in the UK depending on which statistics you read. A large city such as London this figure will probably be a lot higher. For example Brussels estimated that buildings were responsible for 70% of their C02 emissions.

    There is a proven design methodology / solution for buildings which is Passivhaus and this methodology has been adopted by a number of cities and regions in Europe. Passivhaus is mandatory for all public buildings in Hannover, Frankfurt, Vorarlberg, Austria and Brussels. Next year Passivhaus will be mandatory for all buildings in Brussels.

    In the UK the adoption of Passivhaus is currently dependent on informed clients and/or design/construction teams. So the question is when will those who have the power and/or influence within Government / Local Government step up to the plate?

    The four key issues being:-
    •Global warming – compelling evidence of climate change. Buildings are responsible for 50% of carbon emissions in the UK.
    •National Energy Security – the UK are becoming more reliant on importing energy. Instead of looking at nuclear generation, fracking, etc. shouldn’t we be making our buildings more efficient?
    •Fuel poverty – reduction of energy use by 90% not only benefits the occupiers in terms of cost but also national interests in terms of energy demand.
    •Of 40,000 UK public buildings the DEC data would indicate an annual energy bill of £4.3 billion (based on 2012 tariffs). If all these buildings were to Passivhaus standard the annual saving would be £3.4 billion.

    As a resident of London I find it surprising that one of the richest cities in Europe if not the world has not already adopted similar initiatives such as those in other European cities and regions listed above? Is it not time that those in power (and with the vision) in the UK pick up the baton and start thinking about a long term solution?

    If you are interested and wish to know more please go to for information

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