If commercial and government buildings are empty for most of the year, why do they consume so much energy?
A report from Greensense, an Australian sustainability software developer, estimates that buildings in its country are vacant for about 72 percent of a year, between off hours and holidays. Still, those buildings consume about 55 percent of their annual electricity use during those periods. The report indicates that figures are about the same in the U.S.
Buildings account for 40 percent of total energy use in the U.S., which is more than the transportation and industrial sectors, according to the report.
"In many cases, this has meant more than $100,000 a year spent powering an empty building," said Will Turbet of Greensense.
The report suggests that analysis of data is the easiest way for building owners and tenants to make properties greener. The three main energy suckers during a building's off hours are heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, lighting and plugged-in appliances. Those three account for 75 percent of usage.
Since HVAC and lighting systems are often centralized, plugs should be the main focus and starting point for those seeking efficiency. It most likely will come down to a change in behavioral patterns.
Graphic credit: Greensense
"For the most part, as building users we give little thought to how our daily choices impact energy efficiency, yet we’ve seen time and time again that, by increasing occupants’ awareness and providing feedback in a relevant, actionable way, it’s possible to realize significant savings," the report reads.
Here are a few tips and questions building operators should ask themselves:
- What’s our biggest out of hours opportunity? Is our main energy user plug loads, lighting, HVAC or maybe the server room?
- If plug loads (most likely), what are the biggest offenders?
- Are there any devices that are left on but not used at night? Can we upgrade, use a power saving mode or simply turn them off?
- Armed with this information, which building occupants and champions should we engage to see the biggest results?
- What data will people need to be aware of and how can we provide it in an engaging way?
- What other relevant information can we provide to educate and motivate people? Remember to always frame any data you’re sharing in a way that your staff can easily understand and relate to.
- How else can we encourage behavior change? e.g. an energy saving competition or a tie-in with an event such as Earth Hour or the Global Corporate Challenge.
Graphic credit: Greensense
"There will likely be a number of (often competing) project options, whether it’s covering the building in solar panels or turning up the set point on the [air conditioning]," the report reads. "While many of these projects will have merit, a number will present significant obstacles such as upfront cost (solar panels) or push back from building occupants (air conditioning tweaks).
"By starting your energy saving quest by focusing on out of hours use[d], you remove most of these barriers."
A "trash tsunami" has washed ashore on the beaches of Honduras, endangering both wildlife and the local economy.
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More long-finned pilot whales were found stranded today on beaches in Tasmania, Australia. About 500 whales have become stranded, including at least 380 that have died, the AP reported. It is the largest mass stranding in Australia's recorded history.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
In another win for climate campaigners, leaders of 12 major cities around the world — collectively home to about 36 million people — committed Tuesday to divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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