The energy shortages that emerged in Europe when demand increased due to the post-Covid economic recovery were aggravated by the war in Ukraine, leading to unprecedented tensions on the availability of energy (electricity and gas). This context explains the permanent efforts of the European Union and the countries to strengthen energy security.
Reducing carbon emissions also remains a priority. The United Nations COP27, held in November, recalled that while energy security is crucial, climate change remains a key issue. The building sector in Europe must take these challenges into account in order to meet future demands. Five major trends are emerging:
Improved energy management
Governments around the world are working to reduce energy demand and deal with this unprecedented situation. The independent laboratory Bruegel has drawn up a report of the different measures adopted by country, thus showing the diversity of approaches depending on the nation. Yet building owners around the world share the common goal of managing energy differently and carefully.
The strategic use of energy storage systems is set to become an increasingly preferred option. With energy storage, a business or home owner can store energy from the grid during off-peak hours, as well as energy they produce from renewable sources, for later use. . This change in energy use patterns, which was already taking shape, was accelerated by the energy crisis and rising prices. It is therefore to be expected that the demand for energy storage systems will increase in 2023.
Actions to reduce energy consumption are guided by regulatory deadlines, and efforts to meet them will intensify in 2023. EU countries are tasked with implementing the Fit-for- 55, designed to support national economies towards a 55% reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Certain requirements were revised upwards in 2022 in order to support the REPowerEU initiative. Thus, this program must accelerate Europe's progress in terms of energy security, in particular by increasing the levels of production of distributed energy from renewable sources. 2023 will therefore be a pivotal year for building owners who will have to find ways to reduce both their energy consumption and their emissions.
Electric vehicles and renewable energies
Building owners are sometimes surprised when the notion of electric vehicle (EV) charging is associated with the notion of renewable energies. Indeed, it is not easy to understand at first sight how an electric vehicle charging infrastructure (IRVE) can improve the energy efficiency of a building. This is made possible thanks to sector coupling, which consists of linking energy production and consumption more closely for optimal use of renewable energies.
This approach for commercial and industrial properties, or residential properties, makes it easy to transform a building into an energy hub. We can expect more building owners to adopt this approach in 2023 as the phase-out deadlines for gasoline and diesel vehicles draw closer. Calls to allow two-way charging on national networks will therefore increase, as owners of charging stations are aware of the potential profits that the sale of energy to the network will represent. (Two-way charging is already allowed in Norway).
Renovation and modernization
2023 will see renewed interest in renovation, with building and home owners looking to reduce the impact of high energy prices by upgrading insulation and fittings such as solar panels. Additional incentives for modernization will come in the form of national regulations that will stem from government initiatives such as the new EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). The EPBD aims in particular for countries to make EV charging mandatory in new and renovated buildings in order to accelerate the transition to electromobility.
Renovation will play a major role in the energy transition, as around 35% of buildings in the EU are over 50 years old, almost 75% of the building stock is considered energy inefficient and only around 1% of the building stock is renovated every year.
Tackling the skills shortage
Specialized skills in the field of electricity are lacking throughout Europe. Training the workforce to install the infrastructure necessary for the energy transition is a priority. European countries will need to redouble their efforts in 2023 to ensure that the tertiary, industrial and residential building sectors have the necessary skilled workers.
Implementing strategies to replace fossil fuels with a new energy mix with a strong focus on renewables will require a lot of infrastructure work, as well as people to carry it out. Automation and the adoption of efficient and repeatable work processes will allow less qualified professionals to accomplish more tasks.
Tribune by Laëtitia Tran-Rodeghiero, Commercial Buildings Segment Manager – Eaton Electrical France (LinkedIn).