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Fair Access To Data Will Unlock Electrical Contractors' Full Potential In The Digitalization Of Electricity

We have all heard of the soaring digitalization trends across the EU and the world that will change the way we live and work. As climate and energy policies are in the limelight and the focus of much political debate, digitalization is an opportunity that cannot go overlooked. The energy transition and digital transformation are among the main priorities of the new Commission, and they should not be addressed individually. Indeed, digitalization can be a driver of efficiency and it has been embraced as such by stakeholders of the energy sector. We should now strive to tap into the digital revolution to accelerate the energy transition and provide a fertile ground for the uptake of digitalization by all actors in the energy value chain.

We have seized the opportunity offered by a recent informal European Commission consultation on the digitalization of the energy sector to think about how digitalization impacts electrical contractors and about what is needed to allow our professionals to fully contribute to the positive outcomes of the digitalization of the energy sector.

Electrical contractors, positioned just upstream of the end-users in the energy value chain, are increasingly involved with digital materials and systems. They are far from limited to basic electrical wiring and have now expanded the scope of their expertise to cover the full integration of connected devices and machines, often controlled by energy management systems. In these integrated systems, several different components have to interact smoothly as well as safely in order to reap the full benefits of the increased efficiency and savings associated with electricity.

Electrical contractors’ involvement starts with the design and planning of a project, it obviously covers the installation of electrical systems, and extends to the operation and maintenance of these systems they know all about at this point.

This holistic approach to electrical work puts them in a unique position to support energy transition efforts related to user-level electricity systems, whether it is in buildings, mobility or infrastructure. Electrical contractors now deliver a portfolio of digital solutions and services to consumers and larger entities, needed for current and future climate objectives.

Data

In order to bolster the portfolio and quality of services they can offer, electrical contractors have an increasing need for access to data.

In particular, they need easy access to non-sensitive energy-related data produced by the multiple devices they deal with, especially to offer high-quality operation and maintenance services.

The swift development of a limited amount of standardized open platforms, with few user-friendly access points (e.g. websites) covering the most connected devices possible in a given building will be critical for electro-technical service companies to provide first-class operation and maintenance. Platforms making this data available to relevant actors should be supported by a third-party oversight body, where users could lodge complaints in case of difficult and discriminatory access. The governance for access to smart meter data is already in place in some European countries, however, efforts need to be strengthened when it comes to other connected objects in buildings.

Data, and especially at a large scale, is a powerful tool that all industries and sectors now have to and do take into account. This is easily illustrated by the tech giants, who have become such giants because the nature of their business allows them to collect enormous amounts of data. The energy sector is now starting to grasp the potential behind mass data.

Data will be useful at the source of the energy value chain by delivering efficiency through better management, but the same applies further down, at the electrical contractors’ level. Here, efficiency is just as important and the potential for it is ubiquitous. It will be key in smart home services that depend on complete energy management systems. The latter will be able provide end-users with a reliable and real-time source of information regarding their energy use (e.g. via in-home displays), raising their awareness and enabling them to fully take part in the energy transition. Smart homes are also meant to work by themselves, anticipating consumers’ needs thanks to usage data. For instance, smart home systems can learn when the user usually is at home and his/her energy consumption patterns in order to adapt heating and cooling also taking into account meteorological conditions.

E-mobility data will also play a major role in the efficient deployment of smart charging and the benefits associated with it. Electrical vehicles are set to become the norm as their uptake is inevitable for transport decarbonization, meaning that soon we will have an enormous amount of EV batteries connected to the grid. Smart charging or vehicle-to-grid systems will allow the grid to tap into the stored electricity in EV batteries. The data from these charging stations will be necessary to manage the bidirectional flow of electricity but also to ensure their smooth functioning thanks to predictive maintenance. The scale of the upcoming charging network will rely on a system of predictive maintenance that can only function with easy access to data for electrical contractors offering this kind of services.

Buildings will be the “smart nodes” where sector coupling will be enhanced. They will and already house decentralized renewable production, electricity storage and EV charging, all interconnected. At this point, incentives are necessary for consumers and property owners to invest in smart homes with all the aforementioned features. There must be a pricing system that internalizes environmental costs, which will in turn show how these technologies are good for the environment and for the economy.

Digital & Green Skills

While investments in digital and green technologies are needed, investments in human capital cannot be neglected. The workforce that will carry the deployment of energy transition solutions needs to be equipped with the digital and green skills to handle these constantly evolving technologies.

The professions covered by electrical contractors are among the most impacted by technological changes. As mentioned before, the integrated nature of electrical systems requires a more diverse and modern skillset, and particularly digital skills.

Another area of concern is cybersecurity, which is especially relevant in integrated systems featuring multiple interconnected devices. As electrical contractors are in charge of the installation of these systems, made up of devices from differing manufacturers, they will most likely be the first contact point for consumers in the event of a cyberattack. For this reason, electrical contractors need to be involved in the implementation of cybersecurity legislation and need to be furnished with the relevant skills.

At the moment, it is important to identify the needed skills and any skills gaps. The EU has launched an initiative to address this issue called “Blueprint for Sectoral Cooperation on Skills” with a subheading on “Energy Value Chains – Digitalization”. This is a decent starting point which will need to be followed by targeted investments in education and training that will effectively close skills gaps. Educational systems will need adaptation to address the new skills needed and to dynamically adjust the training offers to the fast-developing energy labor market.

 


Electrical Safety & Energy Transition: Preparing Buildings For A Safe Energy Transition

Article 2 AIE fully supports electrification as the way to decarbonize our economy and has done so since its existence. We need to accelerate the energy transition and leave fossil fuels behind, which entails a drastic increase in the use of and reliance on electricity. The debate surrounding the transition to new types of energy has been ongoing for a while now, but the topic of safety has largely been left out of the discussions.

AIE, in cooperation with ECI - the European Copper Institute, CECAPI - the European Association of manufacturers of residential and commercial electrical equipment, and FISUEL - the International organization for safety of electricity users, are putting electrical safety at the center of the electrification debate. We are jointly organising a conference on November 20th titled: “Preparing buildings for a safe energy transition”. The conference will cover the theme of electric safety in (residential) buildings and will be held during the European Fire Safety Week. The objective of the conference will be to exchange information and best practices about electric safety in residential buildings in Europe.

We will start with institutional representatives who will overview the role that electricity is poised to play in our buildings. An expert panel will then present data about accidents, and specifically, fires, in residential buildings originating from electrical installations. Participants will understand how relevant the electrical safety issue is, what the causes for electric hazards are and which challenges need to be addressed in the future.

This will be followed by discussions on ways to avoid any accidents and electrical fires at both installation and product level, by looking into inspection regimes for installations and market surveillance for products.

The final panel discussions will focus on the main trends in buildings that are rapidly reshaping the concept of electrical installations in homes. On-site electricity generation and storage, the uptake of electromobility and the transition to DC are some of the case studies that will be discussed during the session. Participants will have the opportunity to hear what key experts have to say about trends and safety aspects related to these electrical technologies in buildings.

The conference will be immediately followed by AIE’s rebranding reception. Make sure to stick around for (free!) drinks and celebrate the unveil of our new name and logo (more information in the article below)!

When : November 20th 2019, from 12:00 to 17:30

Where: “L42”, rue de la loi 42, 1040 Brussels

Register here for the conference and here for the drinks.


AIE Is Rebranding! Join Us To Discover Our New Identity And The Priorities Of Our Sector

Article 2 This is a time of change. Whether it is the energy transition or the digital transformation, our society is evolving quickly, and electrical contracting businesses are keeping up with the pace. Their work is at the nexus of digitalization and decarbonization, putting it at the center of the current regulatory plans for the future of Europe.

 

The urgency of climate action has pushed the electrical contractor to the vanguard of the energy transition and the digital revolution is changing the way systems work and harness efficiency. The digitalization of the energy sector is key for climate objectives and this is exactly where electrical contractors come into play. Digital energy solutions are needed for the decarbonization of buildings and transport, which is contingent on the work of electrical installers. Indeed, they are striving to adapt to these modern needs and to respond to these societal challenges the best way they can: with electrical installations. They are no longer limited to wiring lights and doorbells and have stepped up their services to match the rising need for low-carbon and digital electrical solutions.

AIE is the voice of this sector at EU-level and it is our responsibility to represent the renewed ambition of our members accurately. As they have acquired a new role, new responsibilities, and offer new and innovative solutions, we have felt the need to update our identity. We will thus go through a complete rebranding, with a new name, logo, and mission matching the leap forward electrical contracting has made.

AIE will shed its skin on November 20th and assume its new name and identity at an evening reception, held in Brussels at the heart of the EU.

When: 20/11/19 18:00 to 22:00

Where: L42, rue de la Loi 42, 1040 Brussels

Register here!


Collective Self-Consumption Across Europe: France, Italy & Spain Under the Microscope

Article 3 With the revised Renewable Energy Directive, the EU has now provided citizens with the right to self-consume the electricity they produce, both on an individual level and by joining forces with other consumers (so-called “collective self-consumption”). We want to investigate the way this can be and is done collectively across Europe through a webinar series jointly organized with SolarPower Europe, where we investigate how so-called “collective self-consumption” is regulated in different EU countries and what lessons can be learned from pioneering EU Member States.

The first webinar we held before the summer looked at Germany, Greece and Switzerland. A few days ago, we held a second webinar focusing on France, Spain and Italy.

The French collective self-consumption scheme is the oldest one presented here. However, while self-consumption is growing steadily at individual level, the collective level has not experienced real growth. Enerplan, the French solar power association, attribute this slow uptake to low returns on investment. This is explained by excess electricity production not being remunerated and self-consumed electricity being subjected to high fees. Yet, Enerplan are optimistic as the revised Renewable Energy Directive will have a positive impact on the ongoing debate on a potential downwards adjustment of these fees. Additionally, the collective self-consumption perimeter is likely to change from the distribution grid segment underneath the medium to low voltage transformer to simply cover a 1-kilometer distance. Local stakeholders have welcomed this prospect.

In Spain, the regulatory framework for individual self-consumption is undergoing reform and a new framework for collective self-consumption is currently being established. The new rules are expected to revive the Spanish PV market, as it has been stagnant since its boom in 2008. According to UNEF, the Spanish association for solar power, 4GW of installed capacity are expected this year. Some of the reforms transpose the new Renewable Energy Directive into national legislation. They will simplify administrative and grid connection procedures as well as make self-consumption more attractive to individual prosumers. Spanish authorities are cancelling the infamous “sun tax” and are lifting barriers to the installation of battery storage. Collective self-consumption will take place in the same perimeter as in the current French scheme, covering the distribution grid downstream of the distribution transformer.

In Italy, prior to the recent change in government, there was a debate on opening self-consumption to multiple users and building configurations by lifting the long-standing constraints on this market. Italia Solare, the Italian solar power association, is looking forward to this change, although it remains to be seen how much of a priority collective self-consumption will be for the new government. The industry has called, among others, for collective self-consumption to be extended to all building features that use electricity as well as to users depending on new direct lines that have to be built, all with a streamlined administrative procedure. The Italian solar and installation sectors have also asked, mirroring their peers from Spain, that grid fees be reformed in order to reach a better balance between fixed and variable components and allow greater savings from self-consumption projects.


Electrical Contractors’ Expertise On Ecodesign And Energy Labelling Matter For The Energy Transition

Article 4 When it comes to ecodesign and energy labelling, it is often products meant for consumers that are concerned. Consumers are the main group interacting with these products on a daily basis and energy labels are meant to provide information and guidance to them as well. Electrical contractors are in a unique position, compared to other actors in the energy value chain, as they are directly in touch with the end-user and benefit from a level of trust that can only be achieved by local professionals, as opposed to large corporations. This means that they are the only professional users of these products. Indeed, they are the ones actually manipulating them and have an exclusive insight into the way they perform in their final environment.

Recently, the Commission has held a consultation on the product policy measures for solar photovoltaics. This is a prime example of how electrical contractors should be consulted as they have a distinct perspective to offer. Electrical contractors support ecodesign for PV modules and inverters as this will help installers choosing the right product. However, we have raised concerns over the fact that ecodesign should not be aimed at efficiency of the products but rather at the overall environmental impact of such products, covering also manufacturing processes. As solar becomes a mainstream technology, it is increasingly relevant not to focus exclusively on maximizing energy yields, but to consider also the system-friendly solar deployment, e.g. with East and West orientations.

We have also given an electrical contractor’s insight into a consultation pertaining to energy labelling, this time for heating products. Electrical heating is quite common in some European countries and, as we have mentioned before, electrical contractors have the field experience that other actors lack. In this case, the Commission is considering merging the energy labels for air-to-air heat pumps and electric “space heaters”, both use electricity to produce heat for homes. AIE’s position is that this merger would not be advisable. Again, this comes from electrical contractors’ proximity with the end-user, who will choose the desired products for his home, matching his needs. The problem is that the two serve a similar purpose, heating, but are used in a very different way. Heat pumps are used to heat entire houses, while space heaters are used to heat single rooms. This means that, while space heaters are less efficient, they could be the most energy efficient solutions if only one room needs to be heated. As the consumer will be in the market for either one or the other of those, it does not make sense to have a label aimed at comparing both technologies, especially since all heat pumps would be in the top classes and all space heaters in the bottom ones. Whereas separate labels will allow the consumer to choose the most energy efficient heat pump or space heater.

These examples illustrate the need to tap into the knowledge that electrical contractors can offer, based on real-life field experience gained by working with consumers. Solar power and heating both weigh heavily in the debates surrounding the energy transition and decarbonization efforts. It is thus imperative to ensure that all stakeholders’ views are well represented in the regulatory strategies aiming at making these technologies as compatible as possible with energy and climate objectives, whether they are producers, end-users or the ones in-between: electrical contractors.


The Smart Readiness Indicator: AIE Provides Recommendations

Article 5 Buildings account for an estimated 36% of CO2 emissions and 40% of energy consumption in the EU. The magnitude of these figures has prompted the EU to tackle this carbon intensive sector head-on with the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). The latter was revised for an entry into force in 2018, with more modern provisions reflecting current needs.

This revision partly aimed to promote smart building technologies as a key instrument in the energy transition for buildings, which led to the introduction of the Smart Readiness Indicator (SRI) in the new EPBD. The SRI is a unique tool designed to raise awareness among building occupants and owners about the value of building automation and electronic monitoring of building systems, as well as increase the trust of occupants in the energy performance of these systems. The SRI is optional as the EPBD leaves it up to the member states to implement this or not.

AIE offered a reply to the recent EU commission consultation on the SRI, providing the electrical contractors’ take on this innovative initiative. As the latter are at the core of the energy transition for buildings, actively involved in replacing aging installations with more efficient and modern electrical equivalents, they will be designing and operating most of the technologies covered in the SRI. Keeping this in mind, they have the best position to make smart readiness assessments and provide the SRI certificates that will inform occupants and owners about their buildings.

In order to maximize the impact of the SRI, AIE has formulated some noteworthy remarks.

First, the SRI is currently optional, meaning that not all member states will necessarily adopt it. However, this does not mean that dialogue between states is unnecessary. If the SRI is to be assessed accurately, implementing countries will need to have a unified approach to the implementation of the SRI to ensure comparability.

Second, the Sri needs to be adjusted according to local weather conditions in order to remain comparable. Indeed, the energy needs of northern or southern EU countries will vary as their climates are very different. Climate-related adjustments have to be made in advance to prevent inconsistent implementation.

Third, the SRI will have to work smoothly with other similar instruments. Energy performance certificates and the potential building passports have a slightly different scope than the SRI but they should all complement each other. A set of instruments such as these all working together and mutually reinforcing will avoid confusing the end-users and enhance trust.

Third, the SRI will have to work smoothly with other similar instruments. Energy performance certificates and the potential building passports have a slightly different scope than the SRI but they should all complement each other. A set of instruments such as these all working together and mutually reinforcing will avoid confusing the end-users and enhance trust.

Finally, the SRI should be able to evaluate and encourage the actual ability of the different smart building systems to interoperate. It is important for the SRI to be able to assess how well separate building systems (performing different functions) are able to interact. Further, the development of the SRI has to be concomitant with the creation of standardized open platforms guaranteeing the safe transfer of data from different devices.

While the aim of this version of the SRI is to evaluate the presence of smart technologies and the level of sophistication of the latter, we see this evolving towards a tool able to assess how well these technologies actually work, once they are installed and operational.


The Application Phase Has Opened For The KNX Awards 2020

Article 6Big award ceremony on the 10th of March, 2020 in front of over 2,000 trade visitors at Light + Building in Frankfurt am Main

BRUSSELS, 20 SEPTEMBER 2019 – The search for the world's best Smart Home and Smart Building projects has begun: the KNX Association has officially launched the bidding phase of the prestigious KNX Awards 2020. Only the most innovative and groundbreaking KNX projects receive the most important award for home and building system technology. And taking part in the competition is worthwhile: after all, the "best of the best" is guaranteed wide-ranging attention and high demand. Selected by a top-class jury of experts, the winners of the KNX Awards will be honoured in the coming year in front of an international trade audience at a major ceremony at the most important trade fair: Light + Building (l+b). Applications must be submitted by the 30th of November, 2019 at https://projects.knx.org.

Promoting innovative spirit, ingenuity and know-how Known as the Smart Home and Smart Building World Championship, the KNX Awards, which are awarded every two years, have firmly established themselves as an institution in the industry. "With the competition, we want to particularly honour the spirit of innovation, ingenuity and know-how in the implementation of ambitious KNX projects. We are therefore proud to continue the tradition and the extremely successful history of the competition and look forward to the many exciting projects that will compete for the coveted KNX Awards this time," explains KNX President Franz Kammerl.

Grand Prize Ceremony at l+b The competition for the KNX Awards is characterised above all by its diversity. The world's best KNX projects will be identified in five categories – International, Energy Efficiency, Special, Public and Youth – each with prize money of 1,000 euros and a trophy. At the same time, the award winners will have the opportunity to use the competition as a platform for a comprehensive presentation. In addition to the People's Choice Award, which is organised by the entire KNX community, the winners of the individual categories will be selected by an experienced jury of experts. Awards will be presented on the 10th of March, 2020 at a large-scale central event at the most important trade fair, Light + Building, in Frankfurt am Main in front of over 2,000 guests.

Announcement of nominations in January 2020 The KNX projects submitted for the competition are evaluated regardless of their size. A mandatory requirement is that they are based on the world's leading standard for intelligent building networking. The evaluation criteria include ease of use and acceptance, flexibility and extensibility, as well as the use of products from various KNX manufacturers in one application. The nominees will be announced in January 2020. The vote for the People's Choice Award will take place in February 2020. Further information on the KNX Awards 2020 at https://award.knx.org


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