Last week on September 23, three HESTIA partners (Duneworks, ENERGIES2050, and Albedo Energie) participated in an interesting virtual webinar dedicated to the digitization of energy in the building sector, an event organized within the frame of the EDIFICAT project of the European Cross-Border Cooperation Program INTERREG POCTEFA. The event was supported by Cluster Digital of Catalonia in collaboration with EDIFICAT Project partners: CEEC (the Efficient Energy Cluster of Catalonia), the Derbi Pole Competitiveness Cluster, and the Digital 113 from Occitania (France).
The event aimed at generating a joint reflection session, synergies, and networking between participants. HESTIA partners had the opportunity to present their expertise, solutions, and current projects in the “pitch sessions”, a specific part dedicated to showcasing innovative SMEs developing digital-based solutions in the current changing scenario of the European energy sector. All three partners explained their specific approaches, objectives, and perspectives about the current status and future trends of the energy sector, but most important they highlighted their participation in HESTIA and the high level of alignment that the project has in regard to the energy transition in Europe.
All of the participants shared a common vision about the big challenges faced by the sector at multiple levels. On one side, the pitches and following discussions, allowed us identifying several current challenges:
• Our challenge of contributing to transform our neighbourhoods into more engaged agents, with the big goal of learning new ways to use and generate energy, and to create new collaborative environments never seen before the new “energy communities”.
• The challenges of communicating in personalized ways and languages, the benefits but also the responsibilities of this parallel energy transition processes, the upcoming new business models, and the required tools and legal frameworks to activate them.
• The challenge of accelerating this process in the most efficient ways, in order to meet the European climate goals that will secure not only a better and much fair distribution of the energy, but the development of sustainable infrastructure in Europe, a low carbon economy, and a “net-zero emissions“ and “climate neutral” continent by 2050.
• The versatility of the European market, which evidences that each country, each region, each city and village, and each neighbourhood, must go through an individual path but at the same time opened in order to share best-practices, escalate the use of technologies, and validated solutions, and several approaches in terms of legal and regulations, to facilitate these processes.
On the other side, these new concepts and ideas that we are getting used to hearing but still hard to see every day: user engagement, collaborative solutions, energy communities, demand-response services, flexible smart grids, etc. require new tools and methodologies in order to engage these users and to create and validate solutions adapted to their needs. H2020 projects are the spark that is kicking off this process, but we need further efforts to achieve our ultimate goal.
We must elaborate on new solutions to improve the way we collect and manage data, how we analyze this new valuable asset (information), and how we make it useful in order to understand the use of energy, the dynamics within the buildings, and about the comfort at home. The overall building and configuration aspects of the households are becoming one of the main elements in the definition of more flexible and balanced smart grids, the next generation of demand-response services, and the trigger to develop new energy sector value chains.
HESTIA concentrates most of its efforts and activities on understanding and involving end-users and the energy and economic communities they represent. Among all the aspects being considered and developed, new enabling and ICT-based technologies to increase energy efficiency, new models that can be easily fragmented and scalable, new development plans in order to reduce the overall footprint of the building sector, etc, we cannot forget the most relevant factor, the human one, and the behaviour of the users in relation to the use of energy.
Having this factor in mind, developing the right tools, creating awareness about the necessity and benefits of Energy Communities will allow users to access, gain control, monitor, decide, and share the energy they consume and produce. Energy Communities can promote a more social and solidarity-based economy, energy sustainability and innovation, improve local acceptance of RES and energy efficiency in end-use at local and regional levels.
This will require new discussions, new efforts, and new platforms to engage users while coordinating all the efforts from H2020 projects, and stakeholders, establishing new scenarios to promote solutions and foster cooperation. HESTIA is ready, and one example is the workshops “Fast Track on Energy Communities” organized within the Sustainable Places 2021 Conference, held this week in Rome, which will gather more than 25 projects together with HESTIA, to discuss about Enabling Technologies, Business Models, and Energy Community Engagement.