Thermal inertia in buildings: An opportunity to increase the share of renewables in the European energy system

The last week of September was held in the Technical University of Vienna the workshop titled “Energy Flexible Buildings: Potential and Performance”. This workshop was organized in the run-up of the 5th working meeting of the IEA EBC Annex 67 “Energy Flexible Buildings” in Graz, a research project within the Technology Collaboration Programme “Energy in Buildings and Communities” of the International Energy Agency (www.annex67.org).  It aimed at bringing together international experts and the Austrian building and demand response community for know-how exchange and discussion on the topic of energy-flexibility in buildings and its role for smart grids. The focus was on thermal and electricity based flexibility potential of buildings and practical experience with first implementations and demonstrations.
 

Cover of the IEA EBC Annex 67 Report about test facilities edited by Thibault Péan (INCITE ESR 2.1) and Jaume Salom, IREC.

Cover of the IEA EBC Annex 67 Report about test facilities edited by Thibault Péan (INCITE ESR 2.1) and Jaume Salom, IREC.

 
The talks and discussions during the workshop highlighted how important is to consider the energy flexibility that buildings can provide when we are planning and rethinking our urban environment in Europe. As we are designing new districts or retrofitting existing districts towards Zero-energy or even Positive-energy districts, it is important to increase our knowledge how activate and control energy storage in the mass of our buildings in a future context with  a high share of renewables in the electricity mix. A recent study by 3E, an INCITE associated partner, shows how concrete buildings, thanks to their thermal mass, can provide “structural thermal energy storage” and balance variable renewable energy. Also, several EU H2020 projects, like SABINA, are aiming to develop new technology and financial models to connect, control and activate thermal inertia in buildings as a storage asset in demand response strategies (http://www.ieadsm.org/). Several institutions around the world have ideated laboratory facilities to test energy flexibility in buildings which are described in a recent IEA EBC Annex67 report. What it is clear is that activation of flexibility in buildings usually comes with a slight increase of energy consumption due to a rebound effect. So, it makes sense as the final objective and benefits achieved -economic savings and/or reduction of CO2 emissions- bring more positive effects to our society and energy system.

 

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