Why you should study energy flexibility in buildings
What is it? Is it useful to make preparations for it?
« On a fresh and sunny Monday morning in the winter of 2023, a huge iconic building, the headquarter of a well-known company, hosts 1500 associates willing to warm up and kick start the day.
Without knowing it, the building has been charged with heat energy between 3 and 7 a.m. and the heat production is set to be suspended for the second half of the morning. It will be launched again in the afternoon, harvesting the large proportion of solar energy supplied in the afternoons by the photovoltaic panels on the roof (self-consumed). It also taps into the abundance of renewables available on the national electric grid: on this cold, sunny day the 12 Gigawatts of photovoltaic built capacity in France work to their fullest potential. By contributing to absorb this significant energy production, the big building participates in the global grid resilience by increasing its ability to absorb renewables, which are intrinsically intermittent.
A week before, the glut of wind power in France had been enormously advantageous for the company, which accumulated heat energy during the week-end with very renewable and cheap electricity, making the building ready to start the week on a very low consumption basis.
Head of general services John X is happy: the fine tuning into the building power demand enabled him to sign a “flexibility-supply” contract with his supplier, providing him with a low-carbon energy which is 20% cheaper than average. Therefore, the company’s carbon footprint is better than ever. In order to make it operational, he developed a “dynamic optimization strategy” with his building operator and supplier.
The users of the building don’t realize this. They sometimes notice that some architectural lighting or an elevator screen are off. What they know, above all, is that they work in a highly virtuous building with a quite modern, certified, hedge breaking energy system. The indoor air quality is excellent (better than outdoors, given that the building is in the Paris area!) and the quality of indoor environments is great. What really matters is that people work well there.»
It is likely that you will study this prototype of the ¨building form 2023¨if you haven´t already done so.
You might even apply for this building permit soon. But for the rest of us, it is not science fiction. The energy transition is moving forward: the balance of renewable energy connections in France and in Europe is impressive, and by 2030 from 12 to 24 photovoltaic GW and from 22 to 37 wind-powered GW will be connected to the national grid. What prevents further movement? The ability of the electricity network to absorb the peaks and valleys of this renewable production.
Buildings are already a huge storage of thermal energy. The numerous uses of electricity in office buildings are opportunities for power management. Commercial buildings can therefore play this role of “power demand’s smart player” on the grid. At the present time, studies make tertiary buildings a “wellspring of flexibility” to be foremost mobilised.
Half a dozen “smartgrid” demonstrators currently contribute to increasing understanding of the engagement of the flexibility of buildings. As part of ISSY GRID*, the Tour Séquoia (ACCOR HOTELS) had its production of air conditioning disconnected for an hour, inducing a reduction of power of 450 kW. No one on board even noticed it. SMART ELECTRIC LYON will provide a great amount of information about flexibility in approximately forty commercial buildings.
The energy transition is on track and the time of energy as well as the time of buildings is quite long. There’s an urgent need to have some tips on what needs to be done, operationally speaking, to prevent constructing obsolete buildings.
You can join our experimentation of the flexibility capacity of existing commercial buildings here.
An IFPEB’s collaborative study brings together its members and guests who screen their project based on the technical specifications for flexibility which is jointly developed with the French electrical distribution network (RTE), in order to better study its energy flexibility. In short:
- A dozen recent or on-progress commercial-type/HVAC projects described in Dynamic Energy Simulation,
- Input data on grid need for flexibility, thanks to the RTE,
- Very (very) encouraging first results!
Planning: conclusions by the end of this year (2016).
You can still join the experiment! Non-members are welcome.
What is energy flexibility in buildings?
A way to modulate your power demand according to a network signal (or a signal from your supplier), in order to match with grid needs for variations.
Is it hard to achieve?
No, it isn’t, as big tertiary buildings already have a technical management and management in either material or human terms. But it has to be foreseen and developed as such, with little extra cost.
Do I have to provide for storage resources?
There’s inherently some degree of flexibility in a tertiary building. You should instead provide for precautionary measures enabling a flexible operation of the building (acquisition of a BMS (building management system), utility areas, inertia, etc.).
Will there be a business model available soon?
Energy suppliers are currently working on this supply for the “capacity” market. Alternatively, aggregators will set up to offer an additional service. IFPEB works are based on quasi pre-tariff data thanks to its collaboration with energy suppliers and the RTE.
What about legislation?
The French law about energy transition has inter alia prepared the future from a regulatory point of view. A decree is to come that defines the environmental label for new buildings on a voluntary basis, drafted by the French Direction for Housing, Urbanism and Landscapes (DHUP). It will notably celebrate a definition of BEPOS (Positive Energy Building) insisting on the optimisation of self-consumption matters: get ready for it!
*ISSY GRID is the first smart district system in France