Opinion - 20/April/2022

Soaring energy prices call for more energy efficiency

Two things have made energy-efficient solutions more in demand than ever: the invasion of Ukraine, which has sent Europe’s energy prices skyrocketing, and the green agenda, says Lars Erik Knaack at Novenco Building & Industry

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of FORESIGHT Climate & Energy

Before the situation in Europe made energy consumption and supply a burning hot topic, the climate agenda was the main driver behind the transition to greener and more energy-efficient solutions

Regardless of the driving force, we now must act upon the fact that there is vast building stock in Europe that guzzles energy. And we need to update this building mass with equipment requiring minimum energy.

As energy prices increase, the payback time on installing new equipment becomes shorter. The benefits of energy renovations are simply larger and realised faster.



Let us start with a few facts: In the EU, there is a 40% energy efficiency goal, but more than 35% of the European building stock is over 50 years. About 75% of this stock is energy inefficient, wasting a large part of the energy used, and 85-95% of it is forecasted to still be in use by 2050.

The built environment is the single largest energy consumer in the EU, accounting for 40% of the energy consumption, and it is one of the largest carbon dioxide emitters with 36% greenhouse gas emissions. This is why they must be upgraded with more energy-efficient solutions—and fast.

If we renovated the existing built environment, we could reduce the energy consumption by up to 6% in the EU. But less than 1% of the building mass is renovated each year. That needs to be at least doubled to meet the EU climate and energy targets.



Old and inefficient fans installed in ventilation systems occupy up to 60% of the total energy consumption of the buildings. Therefore, retrofitting old ventilation systems with new high-efficiency fans will drastically reduce energy consumption and huge energy savings have been proved in several retrofit projects. For example, JK Tyres in Chennai, India, retrofitted the existing HVAC system in its tyre manufacturing plant with more efficient products and achieved energy savings of more than 50%.

Though upgrading existing building stock with new technology is often thought to be cumbersome, replacing old fans with high-efficiency fans is usually done quickly and without high refurbishment costs. At Keppel Bay Tower in Singapore, an existing centrifugal fan was retrofitted with a high-efficiency axial fan, resulting in energy savings of 43%. This exchange of fans led to a 22.3% reduction in the annual energy consumption of the building—a massive improvement for a retrofit operation that was completed in just 10 hours.




New constructions are equally important to consider. Using high-efficiency fans based on the latest technologies, building owners and occupiers will benefit from fans that operate quietly for more than 20 years with zero downtime and a fan efficiency level of 92%. On top of that this type of fan is 98% recyclable and fits perfectly as per the sustainability requirements for new builds.

The numbers speak for themselves. Exchanging ventilation systems in large buildings like hotels, hospitals and airports is a significant contributor to a massive reduction in energy consumption.

High-efficiency fans also enable us to soften the hit from the soaring energy prices. The more we can reduce our energy consumption by implementing energy-efficient solutions, the more we can turn to renewables and be less dependent on Russian gas, where prices are going through the roof.



Europe’s reliance on imported natural gas from Russia has again been thrown into sharp relief by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In response to the situation, The International Energy Agency has recently issued a Ten-Point Plan for reducing reliance on Russian supplies by over a third while supporting the European Green Deal.

One of the points in the plan urges us to accelerate energy efficiency improvements in buildings and industry. Ramping up energy efficiency measures in homes and businesses would reduce gas use by close to two billion cubic metres within a year.

The Ten-Point Plan and the ever-present green agenda make energy efficiency projects highly urgent and all sectors have strong incentives to engage.



Even though European governments have official statements and objectives regarding climate goals in place, we still need more clear-cut plans detailing how we are to reach the green targets. It is not clear how and with which means we can reach the targets and reap the benefits.

Professional expert organisations working in the field of energy efficiency, renewables and electrification recommend looking at prioritising energy efficiency as a means to reach the targets of climate neutrality—both because the technology is readily available and because it enables us to complete the transitions at the pace needed.

From our point of view, we have seen building owners harvest huge energy savings when using high-efficiency fans. We have seen how the climate footprint of a building is heavily reduced from day one of operation. And we have seen the financial benefits in terms of a short return on investment.

What is left now is for the official bodies to support the building and construction sector with clear plans for building green in every corner of the building operation. •


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