Sustainable construction: the ‘Energy House’
The ‘Energy House’ is an energy-neutral housing concept which accounts for zero CO2 emissions. It is equipped with a combination of sustainable energy devices, such as a micro-wind-turbine, photovoltaic solar cells on the roof, and accumulators (battery cells) in the basement which store the excess electricity produced on particularly sunny or windy days. The Energy House derives large quantities of electrical as well as thermal energy from the sun: solar collectors are linked to a boiler and heat pump to provide (low temperature) interior heating, cooling, and domestic hot water. Any excess of heat or cold is stored in an underground water reservoir. Good insulation serves to limit energy losses, while a balanced ventilation system ensures a healthy interior climate. The overall concept acts as a local, independent energy generator.
(See Appendix 4, Figures 5 & 6 for a representation of the Energy House concept.)
Unique Selling Points
• Fossil fuels are in limited supply and are expensive. Sun and wind are inexhaustible and are entirely free.
• The Energy House renders the user (occupant) self-sufficient. He can generate and store energy while retaining all the comfort of a conventional house. There are also opportunities for communal generation, storage and use of energy by groups of houses connected by a ‘mini-grid’.
• The generation of sustainable energy at the location at which it is actually required (‘local-for-local’) greatly reduces transport costs and grid losses while increasing the independence of the users.
The current, outdated system of centralized electricity generation – in most cases using fossil fuels which account for major pollutions – is extremely inefficient. During the generation process itself and subsequent transport, approximately 65% of the potential energy yield is lost. There has been no significant efficiency improvement since the 1960s.
The use of decentralized, local generation results in greater efficiency, since the electricity is produced where it is needed, i.e. in (groups of) residential properties. If these houses share both the production and storage of energy, there are far fewer conversion losses and ‘grid losses’. When production is centralized, grid losses can sometimes be as much as 10% of output. Moreover, the Energy House concept has absolutely no ‘C-component’ (C for carbon, as in CO2). The Energy House is not just CO2 neutral but CO2 free.
Market parties and research institutes
Energyhouse B.V., Municipality of Veldhoven, Aert Swaens Housing Corporation.
Mansveld B.V., Gebr. van Hout B.V., Hurks Group B.V., Visietech B.V. Almkerk, Philips Lighting, and the Brainport Foundation
Best practice reference projects in the Netherlands
• Energyhouse B.V. entered into a partnership with the Municipality of Veldhoven and the Aert Swaens housing corporation to build and test the first full-scale project. The ‘Mirre Veldhoven’ Energy House was completed in late 2009.
Potential obstacles to international business
• Political interest: energy makes a substantial contribution to national income in the form of gas revenues, taxes, fuel duties, etc. Any large-scale transition to sustainable energy will force governments (and energy companies) to revise their business models.
• Awareness: there is a stubborn belief that sustainable energy is not possible, too expensive, fraught with problems, etc. While there are undoubtedly still some hurdles to be overcome, the opportunities for at least incidental usage are already far greater than many believe.
• Cost engineering: if sustainable energy is applied on a large-scale, the components can be mass-produced. They can then be produced to a higher standard and at lower cost. The objective is to achieve ‘grid parity’, whereby one kWh produced by a photovoltaic panel or wind turbine costs the same as a kWh supplied through the grid. As fossil fuels become even scarcer, prices are likely to rise. Grid parity will therefore be achieved even sooner.
• Financing structures: lenders must think in terms of ‘total cost of ownership’. The monthly outgoings (including mortgage repayments and energy costs) of an energy-neutral house can already be the same as, or lower than, those of a traditional house. Banks should therefore be encouraged to finance the purchase of an energy-neutral house.