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Theme 1: Buildings & Energy

26 September, 2018

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This theme focuses on the challenge of producing affordable, comfortable, healthy and productive building environments while reducing energy, carbon emissions and power demand by 20% by 2030.

Oreszczyn, UCL

This theme focuses on the challenge of producing affordable, comfortable, healthy and productive building environments while reducing energy, carbon emissions and power demand by 20% by 2030.

To achieve UK carbon targets the energy delivered to the built environment needs to reduce faster than it has over the last 4 decades. To do this the UK must go further than before by addressing the challenge of mass deployment of “high hanging fruit”, such as solid wall insulation, heat pumps, district heating. Reducing delivered energy to buildings has been the focus of building efficiency since the 1970’s (1st Age of Efficiency-Energy), over the last two decades the challenge has also been to reduce carbon emissions (2nd Age of Efficiency-Carbon) including the carbon content of energy supply. For buildings, the key carbon challenge is heat produced by natural gas, hence, the first UKCRED Challenge – Decarbonising Heat, which this theme will support. However, a future challenge will also be reducing power demand (3rd Age of Efficiency – Power). The future will require building energy efficiency to help a decarbonised energy system become more resilient and flexible by reducing the demand for power during periods of competing demand or under- and over-supply from more variable generation sources.

Sub-theme 1.1 Co-benefits of reducing energy demand and improving energy efficiency: Health, comfort, and system resilience

The evidence for the importance of building energy demand reduction is generally well understood: the challenge is establishing, demonstrating and communicating its value to decision makers and stakeholders who must be sufficiently influenced to act. In many cases the value of energy saved alone is not enough to drive action but the balance can be tipped when the co-benefits of health, comfort and upstream power production efficiencies are properly considered:

Project 1.1.1 Health

Hamilton, UCL

There is growing evidence that energy efficiency can improve health. In recognizing this impact, the BEIS National Housing Model has incorporated health impact assessment to allow policy makers to evaluate the health cost benefit of different energy efficiency technologies (NHM-Health). In many cases, health savings are greater than fuel savings. However, the NHM needs to be grounded in more robust empirical evidence, the UK is uniquely placed to do this as it has world-leading databases of health, temperature, energy use and energy efficiency interventions, which if linked can develop our understanding of the relationship between temperature, energy demand, energy performance, and health, particularly among vulnerable and fuel poor households.

Research Question (RQ): What is the impact of building energy efficiency, energy demand and temperatures on health (physical and mental) and wellbeing? And, what health and wellbeing metrics have direct causal links to energy efficiency? Sub questions: What are the potential deleterious effects of isothermal temperatures on humans? What is the impact of cold homes on physical and mental health? What are the health implications of improving lower EPC band housing?

Methods: This research builds on the energy epidemiological methods developed under CEE (Hamilton et al, 2013, 2016, 2017) incorporating: building science, epidemiology and statistics methods.

Outcomes/Impact: this research evidence will feed directly into the National Household Model, NHM-Health, (HiDEEM) and hence into all policy evaluation of residential domestic energy efficiency policies.

Project 1.1.2 Comfort & control

Huebner, UCL

Energy and power profiles of buildings are driven, in part, by the range of temperatures occupants find acceptable or are deemed to be acceptable. Current standards and industry practice are trying to control temperatures within ever tighter bounds, with sometimes as little as 1˚C or 2˚C difference between when the heating cuts out, and the air-conditioning cuts in. It is now well established that widening this dead-band is one of the most effective ways of reducing energy consumption and peak power demand in buildings. Many factors impact on acceptable and realized temperatures, such as the physical form and fabric of the building (including thermal mass), the heat delivery technologies, the design and provision of controls, and the social context.

RQ: How can buildings be retrofitted to maximise the range of temperatures occupants find thermally acceptable? Sub-questions include: What physiological changes result from experiencing a wider range of temperatures, and what are their consequences? What impact can relaxing tight thermal control have on energy saving and demand side response? What impact may future active cooling have on temporal energy demand?

Outcomes/Impact: The research will quantify the potential of temperature control for demand side response, the potential additional comfort taking the UK built stock and future change in temporal energy use due to active cooling.

Project 1.1.3 Resilience in Power

Hamilton, UCL

Resiliency in the power supply and demand system is critically important for our future energy system. The impact energy efficient technologies have on annual energy demand is reasonably well known and reasonable predictions of fuel savings can be made. However, for a decarbonised energy supply the impact on the power system during peak periods of demand or minimal periods of generation are less well known and yet will have considerable impact on the capital cost of generation, carbon emissions and resilience of the system. The upstream value of building energy efficiency needs to be costed if the correct incentives are going to facilitate the rapid transition to a low carbon future. By default, new energy technologies may be expected to change energy use and occupant behaviours, temporally and otherwise. Understanding the temporal impact of efficiency technologies is critical to being able to value and plan a future energy system.

RQ: How do different energy efficient technologies impact on resilience in power supply- demand system and what is the upstream value of this resilience under a range of future systems? Sub-questions: What impact does fabric efficiency and forms of construction have on power demand and what is its role in peak load shifting? How do integrated building energy and service demand user controls affect resiliency of the power network?

Outcomes/Impact: The result of this analysis will feed into the modelling sub-theme 1.3, and the Flexibility Theme projects 4.1.1 and 4.2.3, and enable a Resilience Value sub-model to be developed and integrated into the National Household Model, thereby providing direct impact on all residential energy efficiency policies.

Sub-theme 1.2 Disrupting the system performance and deployment of low energy/power retrofit and new build – through digital, business and market innovation

The uptake and rate of deployment of energy efficiency technologies is constrained by their performance within the system in which they are installed. In-system performance is often much worse than idealised component efficiency specifications suggest, and is generally unquantified so cannot be valued in a manner similar to generation. The availability of digital technologies has the potential to disrupt this model by facilitating market and business innovation. Opportunities range from outcome based regulation facilitated by smart meters and the internet of things, to performance based contracting, to realising the full potential of demand side management (DSM) in support of a future smart grid. These innovations have the potential to transform the market, through creating customer demand to close the performance gap, and empowering customers to both participate in DSM and engage with service providers.

Project 1.2.1 What analysis and data is required to deliver digitally generated in-use building efficiency certificates, consistently outperforming Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs)?

Elwel, UCL

EPCs were introduced to support energy demand reductions in the built stock, yet they don’t close the performance gap because they are not based on in-use energy data and have been repeatedly shown to be inaccurate (DECC, 2014). This project will develop data analysis methods to automatically create in-use EPCs from smart meter data that are more reliable than those derived from site survey and SAP calculation. It will enumerate the energy performance of the property and the uncertainty in the result, plus the improvements to the accuracy and insights available from additional low-cost data streams, such as internal temperatures. This is likely to result in three critical innovations: reducing the cost of an EPC to almost zero; the ability to automatically update EPCs after interventions; and the generation of EPCs based on real energy performance, rather than the design intent. Such in-use EPCs could transform the sector by facilitating feedback loops to close the performance gap, and incentivising builders and contractors to achieve the energy performance expected by customers.

Outcome/Impact: A cheaper, more accurate, In-Use Energy Performance Certificate method, reliable enough to reduce the performance gap and support new energy efficiency/heating service business models. Developed algorithms will feed into full scale testing as part of SMRP.

Project 1.2.2 How can we construct a Demand Side Management (DSM) availability baseline for an individual property that can predict the reduction in power that may be offered as a service, for the forthcoming 30 minutes and 24 hours, with 90% accuracy?

Elwell, UCL

The full potential of DSM to provide services to the energy system can only be realized if the available load reduction and duration of response is well characterized. The power and energy reduction potential from dwellings will change according to many factors, including time of day, day of the week, the temperature differential, solar gains, and preferences of occupants.

Outputs/Impact: This project supports innovation in the operation of the electricity network, to facilitate a widespread uptake of DSM to minimize system and individual costs. Outputs from this project will feed into sub-theme 1.3 and the low carbon heat challenge.

Sub-theme 1.3 Future building energy and power demand pathways (modelling UK built environment demand and its interaction with the energy system using empirical data) (Ruyssevelt, UCL)

Output/Impact: To provide the tools for central and local decision makers and stakeholders to plan the future development of the built environment to reduce energy and power demands and deliver low carbon outcomes.

Research Questions: What is the current building heat demand and how is it geo-located and varying in time (diurnally and seasonally)? How will future energy efficiency programmes alter spatial and temporal energy use? How large are the uncertainties in NHM predictions using EHS data compared to 3DStock data? The sub-theme will be run as one project with 3 work packages:

  • Applications: First and foremost, the needs of potential users must be understood and the potential applications of a building stock model evaluated to establish a clear brief for the next stage of development. Potential users from central government, local government, utilities, property developers and property owners will be engaged to commence a process of co-creation which will specify and, over time, review the adaptation, extension and enhancement of the 3DStock and SimStock models to meet a set of agreed application objectives. These could include: national and regional retrofit programmes; district heating and cooling demand profiles; optimal location of renewable energy systems; responses to changing patterns of use; and dynamic demand response at scale.
  • Data: Opportunities exist to improve the models via additional data. BEIS is currently consulting on the question of corporate reporting on energy use leading to more comprehensive non- residential data. SMRP will provide additional high frequency data for residential buildings.
  • Models: The core 3DStock and SimStock models exist. 3DStock automatically assembles several empirical data sources to generate geo-located 3D forms in which use types can be identified and to which energy meters can be linked. SimStock takes the output from 3DStock and automatically generates dynamic building simulation models for buildings and combinations of buildings.

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