The implementation of a sustainable energy management system can be accompanied by various challenges. Technological wise, the lack of DSO certified meters on the market as well as distribution grid infrastructure that is not suitable for high PV penetration, may provoke difficulties.
On a social and behavioural level, user adaption, scepticism, difficult communication with tenants (especially in a social housing context) and a lack of political interest and commitment are some of the most common barriers. Other reasons for difficulties may be the lack of end user support to take responsibility of their own energy management, and the strategic interest of energy providers. (Read our dedicated page on Citizen Engagement to learn more.)
The challenges on a regulatory and juridical level should not be underestimated. Compliance with GDPR in data collection and aggregation as well as the complexity of the approval process for heritage retrofitting must be taken into account.
Often the regulatory framework is protecting the electricity utility. DSOs still have quite some power, causing smaller structures – like energy islands or district management systems – to find a barrier on implementation. Project owners also mention that electric utilities in some cases only want to connect their own monitoring devices, and are therefore hindering the market uptake of other solutions. Besides, the existing policy often is not up to date to face new technologies and the value added service market. Given all these challenges, specific attention should go to transferring and applying the knowledge gained after a project has ended, so that next generation project can benefit from it.
The workshop participants agree that regulation for smart meters should pay attention to privacy and that accessibility to the data should be flexible. Also, citizens should have access to their own data. On the other hand, some of them suggest to loosen up GDRP legislation, since it makes the roll-out of solutions relying on data much more complex. Towards project owners, the advice is to aggregate data in order to comply with GDPR. Policy makers should speed up the certification process for smart meters (in this case the example of Germany was given), they could setup more economic incentives in the energy sector and support the creation of cooperatives using incentives based on the results achieved such as energy or CO2 reduction and the amount of services or flexibility provided to the energy market.
User incentives mentioned include facilitating stakeholder engagement, incentivizing through challenging or incorporating economic incentives. One could get tenants’ acceptance of higher rents by showing the added values of an energy management system. Communication, co-creation, trainings and mediators are important tools to be used.
It is also recommended to involve energy companies and energy utilities as well as to improve the participatory process in order to increase stakeholder engagement. Besides, the added value of the sustainable energy management system for tenants and city planners should be clearly shown. More attention should be payed to including the demand side in research project to support embedding solutions: these actions can be supported through EU funding such as Horizon 2020. After such research projects, it should be made sure the acquired knowledge is transferred to the market so that it can be used in the future.
To comply with data protection regulation, it is recommended to aggregate data. Policy makers can also support the creation of cooperatives using KPI incentives such as a target for minimal renewable energy production by local energy communities.
Plan for Implementation
As next steps, cities will scale up to replicate the solutions that have been developed to other buildings in the city and work towards an integrated system by combining the different available components. Instead of deploying only consuming or producing energy structures, thinking from a system perspective should be considered to manage the balance of energy required at the building level, taking into account the renewable energy production forecasts and the needs from the grid.
Moreover, it has to be better defined who is using the Sustainable Energy Management Systems as well as who is benefiting from them. Some cities will develop an application for citizens, provide information sessions and better communication, others will organize co-creation workshops and trainings. Tenants should be trained after a refurbishment in order to be able to interact appropriately with the new Energy Management System.
City-planners have to include new technologies in their plans and should expand Energy Management Systems to all municipal owned buildings. As part of a longer term strategy, reaching out should be considered as part of a holistic approach. Sustainable Energy Management Systems should also be incorporated into cities’ strategic planning, their Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plans, and the Covenant of Mayors. Issues and best practices should be shared with follower cities. In the end, two approaches should be combined: home energy management systems for small users and district energy management systems for energy planners and city managers.