Why stop at zero-energy housing? Go for energy plus+!

Why stop at Zero-Energy housing?

Innovations in the energy sector are providing housing associations with a fantastic business case, as blogged about by KPMG Innovative Start-ups consultant Ghislaine Bowier and KPMG IT Advisory manager Wilco Leenslag.

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Housing associations are facing a huge challenge. European and Dutch policy requires any new houses built from 2020 onwards to be as close to ‘zero-energy’ as possible. Zero-energy houses are ones which are so energy-efficient that the tenant ideally will not need to purchase any energy. In time (the government has set a guideline of 2050), all new housing will have to be zero-energy.

From a technical point of view, housing associations already find it challenging to limit the energy used by the many thousands of houses they own, and reducing this consumption will require a significant investment. Consider this: not so long ago, six housing associations decided to make 111,000 houses built between the fifties and seventies zero-energy houses. The cost per house: 60,000 euros. The total cost: 6.5 billion euros. And that was for 111,000 houses. The Netherlands has 2.5 billion housing association houses!

Clever associations can make money from being energy-efficient

It is possible to meet the government’s ever-increasing sustainability requirements. Clever householders can even make money from being energy-efficient, as recent innovations make it possible to go even further and have houses that generate so much energy that they are not zero-energy houses, but energy+ houses. In other words, they supply energy. Resulting in a different problem for housing associations and their tenants: not ‘Where do I get my energy from?’ but ‘How do I store my surplus energy?’

When discussing energy efficiency, people tend to think primarily of solar panels, but a number of start-ups have already gone way beyond that. The heat generated by computers will be used to heat the houses of the future (an idea from the start-up Nerdalize); floor tiles will collect the kinetic energy generated by people just walking around their houses (an ingenious invention by Pavegen); windows will also be used to generate solar energy (an innovation from PowerWindow). And there are many more such ground-breaking ideas. Combining all these innovations will lead to the greatest gains.

The greatest benefits will be achieved by combining all these innovations when using, generating and storing energy. Nerdalize’s heat-generation using computers will help cut energy costs: profiting from generating energy. The start-up Solar Freezer has developed a buffer bag which stores surplus heat below the house, while Tesla has developed the home battery: profiting from storing energy. Finally the start-up Bleeve has created technology that provides users with insight into their energy consumption and shows how they can improve it: profiting from using energy. In summary: win-win-win = energy+.

A fantastic business case

All in all, the considerable demands made by the government can be seen as a fantastic business case, especially for housing associations which own hundreds or even thousands of houses. Not only will they have the opportunity to supply their tenants with energy, if they’re smart they’ll even be able to sell surplus energy on to third parties.

In short, houses will be the power plants of the future.

 

Author: Wilco Leenslag, manager KPMG

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