Construction: A sector in need of change
As a first point of interest, Marc Dillen from Embuild reiterated the impact of the construction sector on emissions in Belgium. He subsequently pointed out the need for more sustainable construction practices to reduce the sector’s footprint. These will include drastic energetic innovations and the adoption of non-fossil fuel sources. He also underlined the importance of good data-driven asset management and monitoring systems to facilitate this change.
Beyond the living unit: A local, decentralized and community driven transition
Much buzz currently exists around shared, decentralized, and cross-sector solutions to climate change in cities. The city of Mechelen is at the forefront of this kind of thinking, and councilman Patrick Princen affirmed the need to extend the energy transition beyond efficiency, into network building.
Mechelen aims to reduce emissions in mobility, households, and the materials used in their city. They plan to raise energy circuit efficiency by densifying the city while preserving green spaces, investing in collective renovations, and repurposing areas.They intend to do so by actively investing in energy data measurement, personalized coaching, and financial solutions to support renovation projects, with ongoing initiatives like ‘Raghens’ and ‘de Nieuwe Vesten’.
Picking up on this evolution, Fluvius, represented by Joris Soens, revealed their long-term investment plan, which mainly focuses on electrification and grid expansion. They encourage the installation of PV systems to support the transition to sustainable energy but note the need for investments in the energy network because of the extra strain it will impose. They underline the importance of solutions in local management to accommodate changing demand patterns arising from electric vehicles (EVs) and new building types.
Solutions: Data driven approaches
As challenges are many, several innovative companies have proposed solutions, some of which are listed below. Viessmann introduced home energy management systems (HEMS) to efficiently manage batteries, EVs, PV systems, and heat pumps. Calculus demonstrated data analysis systems for managing construction fleets and achieving carbon-neutral construction sites. Lastly, Knaufenergy presented sensor-based systems that quantify buildings’ energy performance.
An energy- and digital transformation: Key take-aways
In summary, the 14th Energy Congress proved the energy transition is to be rolled out on many fronts. Key takeaways are the following:
The construction sector is in need of smart management to lower its emissions and become more sustainable.
On a building level, energy transition means renovation! To raise the rate of successful renovations, parties need to be supported in both financing and knowledge gathering. Changes in the legal framework are needed to further drive the transition.
Communities and cities are crucial in the energy transition: decentralization and community building combined with continued increases in renewable energy sources necessitate grid expansion. The ensuing electrification will require structured communications between parties and systems.
Many companies propose solutions to these challenges and needs; most of them revolve around data gathering, analysis, and (local) management using that data, further elucidating that the energy transition is one of digital transformation too.