Is Europe ready for the smart buildings revolution?

Mapping smart-readiness and innovative case studies
16 Feb 2017

The European building stock and energy system are at the initial stages of a journey towards becoming smart: moving from a centralised, fossil fuel-based and highly-energy-consuming system towards one that is more efficient, decentralised, consumer-focused and powered by renewable energy. The international law to limit global warming to below 2°C following the Paris Agreement puts a renewed emphasis on the need for Europe to accelerate the smart energy transition. For the European building stock to effectively contribute to the global climate target, the built environment must undergo a deep transformation and become both smart and efficient.
The Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE) assesses aspects such as dynamic operability, energy-system responsiveness, renewable energy uptake as well as dynamic and self-learning control systems to judge how well prepared Europe is for an increasing share of smart buildings.
Smart buildings are flexibly connected and interacting with the energy system, being able to produce, store and/or consume energy efficiently. The leading countries in terms of a smart-readiness, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands, have implemented enabling policies. But most countries show little progress in opening the market to demand response or in encouraging the penetration of energy storage capacity in buildings. The report presents a series of progressive policies and innovative front-runner projects which prove the economic viability of smart buildings. The key takeaways from this report include:
All EU Member States must ensure that their building stock, energy infrastructure and regulatory and financial framework are future-proof, in order to reap the benefits of the pending smart building revolution.
’Smart infrastructure‘ is not yet in place. Only three countries, Sweden, Finland and Italy, have completed their deployment of smart meters, with nearly all consumers equipped with smart meters.
The leading countries in terms of a smart-ready built environment (Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands) have implemented progressive and holistic approaches to decarbonise the energy system, including taxes, subsidies and stringent building regulations.
Several case studies illustrate the importance of dynamic and self-learning control systems, which empower occupants with control over their own energy consumption and production. Today, these systems play an insignificant role in the residential building sector, but the importance of this technology is set to grow quickly.
Adaptive solutions - such as demand response - are only in their infancy, especially in the residential and commercial sectors. Only three countries (Finland, France and the United Kingdom) have a commercially-open demand response market.
Data quality and availability of smart building indicators (such as dynamic and self-learning control systems) are currently not adequate to foster an optimal science-based development in this sector.

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