Heating buildings is one of the least efficient activities all around the world. In general, losses are high, especially in old buildings, and rehabilitation investments are costly, requiring decades to depreciation. In addition, the inertia of the building (the distance in time between changing flow from the heat source and the actual ambient change in the apartments) is great, which translates into a day/night cycles with excessive consumption, followed by excessive corrections, again.
An intelligent system for balancing energy consumption is proposed by the Swedish company eGain International. The solution is now in Romania, through Krobath Romania SRL. In short, this is the promise of tens of percent savings in energy use, with minimal or no investment costs on the part of the beneficiary.
Taming of the Energy Shrew
Thorbjörn Geiser, Founder and CEO of eGain International presented at Bucharest his solution to reduce consumption, costs and environmental impact with building heating. After working for 30 years in the automation and heating, Geiser has launched his own company in 2003. He started from the idea that over 90% of the residential buildings we will use in 2050 are already built today. And the systems for heating control we use today operate on 30-40 years old principles. Specifically, an outdoor sensor temperature controls the boiler responsible for the thermal comfort of occupants.
eGain system (video) uses an external sensor that measures the atmosphere temperature, but also the humidity in the air. Data are collected simultaneously inside the building: 5-6 apartments in a building with 40-50 apartments. The collected data are transmitted via the Internet or mobile server in Sweden, where they are analyzed by a smart software, with self-learning capacity.
Weather forecasts issued by specialized institutes and information obtained from an exhaustive analysis of the building are also used. In calculating the so-called energy balance there are also of interest the following: the year when the building was completed, technical standards, glass surface, heating system, ventilation, the form of the building, its location (valley / hill, exposed to sun / protected etc).
“Buildings are slow,” explains eGain founder and CEO Thorbjørn Geiser. “Heating a large building is like steering a supertanker at sea.”
According to Thorbjørn Geiser, the software’s algorithms ensure its continuous improvement. However, it takes at least a year – a full cycle of seasons – for the software’s “recommendations” to produce solid results.
eGain system is used in over 220,000 buildings in 11 European countries (including Sweden, Germany, Norway, Finland, Switzerland, Austria, Poland). There are over 72,000 calculations made every day for balancing the energy consumption and the result is an average of 12 kWh per square meter in savings, for the entire portfolio.
eGain partners in Romania (and Austria) with the experts at Krobath Romania SRL. One of the few companies active in the energy contracting, Krobath modernizated the hospital in Bisericani, through a contracting energy partnership – a type of contract still extremely rare in Romania.
“Together with the partner company in Sweden, eGain, we bring to Romania a novelty, a system for regulating heat installations in residential buildings, based on weather forecast data. Thus, we maintain a more even indoor climate, the tenants comfort increases, while savings of energy and money are made”, said Maximilian Jantsacher Lorenz, the Austrian representative.
Thomas Dolliner, director of Krobath Romania, said for energynomics.ro, that during the winter 2014/2015 several pilot projects will be implemented, mainly in Bucharest. Overall, Krobath prepared an investment of about 200,000 euros. In spring, the savings will be considered and further action will be decided. For now, Krobath signed partnerships with two housing associations in Bucharest and convinced several distributors of thermal energy, RADET among them.
Thomas Dolliner’s stated goal is to introduced eGain systems in all blocks in Romania. The financing formula is advantageous for beneficiaries; an EPC (energy performance contract), which allows the investor (Krobath) and its customer to split the savings, which ends in reducing heating costs with no extra cost. On average, the introduction of the minimum required equipment (outdoor sensor, indoor sensors and the connection to the server) costs around 3,000 to 6,000 euros. Thomas Dolliner estimates that for equipping all blocks in Bucharest 50 million euros would be necessary. and Krobath Romania wants to obtain this money from European funds.
The presentation event was attended by nearly one hundred representatives of associations of residents in Bucharest. Some have identified situations that can threaten the replication in Romania of the success eGain system had in the Nordic and Central Europe countries. Most blamed the poor quality (low temperature) of the the heat supplied by RADET. Others requested clarification on the formula that allows savings to be made and if it is more than simply reducing the average temperature in the apartments.
Perhaps the most thorny issue raised is the existence of many situations where a building has more than one thermal energy sources (centralized – from a distributor, a thermal unit for the building, several small thermal units in the tenants apartments). For these cases, it will probably be necessary more than one eGain systems to be installed, in order to individually control each heater.
It’s useful to remember that the eGain system is designed, tested and has maximum efficiency at buildings facing temporary excess heating, because of the lack of performant monitoring and control systems.
The ambassador of Sweden in Bucharest, Anneli Lindahl Kenny, said she sees great potential in the Romanian market, as Romanian companies are interested in energy efficiency solutions and in reduction of the carbon dioxide emissions.
“Reducing emissions should not be made on the back of economic growth, and Sweden managed this. During the last 16 years, we have reduced carbon emissions by 9%, while recorded a growth of over 40%. Stockholm was a very polluted city 50 years ago, and now it is now one of the cleanest cities in the world,” the Swedish diplomat also said.
However, the economic attaché at the Austrian Embassy in Bucharest, Rudolf Lukavsky, mentioned the good economic relationship between Romania and Austria.
“Our billateral trade reached 3 billion euros and Austrian investments in Romania totaling more than 11 billion euros, or 18.5% of total foreign direct investment,” said Lukavsky.
He also mentioned that Romania has, as of this year, a new law on energy efficiency, and the authorities target savings of 1.5% per year until 2020.
“It is very important to invest in energy efficiency, as the price of energy is becoming higher”, added the Austrian embassy’s representative.