Report: EU nations struggling to foster smart city transition

The majority of European Union (EU) members are showing "little progress" in developing smart built environment policies that encourage the uptake of energy storage or demand response initiatives, a new report has found.

The Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE), a not-for-profit think tank focusing on the energy performance of buildings, released a new report today (16 February), outlining how current EU legislation is failing to foster innovative and intelligent smart city upgrades.

The report highlights that the efforts of Member States to promote smart buildings cover a variety of initiatives, but only the roll-out of smart metres has been commonplace across the bloc. Even then, only Sweden, Finland and Italy have completed their nationwide deployment of smart meters. In the UK, ranked as a “follower” rather than a leader in the report, the Institute of Directors has attacked the smart meter rollout for being too complex and costly, despite public support for the scheme.

European legislation is also listed as a mechanism that is failing to encourage and promote smart building scale-up. The report names the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) – which sets a nearly-zero energy target for all new buildings by 2020 – and the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) – where EU countries must complete renovations to at least 3% of buildings own and occupied by central government – as two policies that fail to overcome barriers to enable smart building growth.

“As consumers are at the centre of the EU’s legislation for a low-carbon, healthier and more comfortable building stock, they should be empowered to take control over their energy consumption and production,” BPIE’s executive director Oliver Rapf said.

“Smart and efficient buildings can deliver direct benefits for citizens in terms of lower energy bills and more comfortable homes, and wider benefits for the European economy triggering innovation and creating new job opportunities.”

Optimally-designed smart buildings allow flexible connectivity to energy systems through efficient energy consumption, production and storage. Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark have all been listed as leading countries in the report, due to their enabling policies, but are still failing to account for the potential of demand response and energy storage.

To overcome deployment barriers, the report calls on Member States to create electricity markets with flexible prices. Empowering consumers and offering incentives for increased renewables production, self-consumption and energy storage should also be considered, according to the report.

Smart consumers

In November last year, the European Commission proposed a package of measures to ensure that EU consumers receive a better choice of supply, access to reliable energy price comparison tools and the chance to produce and sell their own electricity. The Clean Energy for All Europeans package was welcomed by the report, although concerns were raised over monitoring levels to ensure that consumers get a fair deal.

The report arrives days after Smart Energy GB, which runs the national advertising campaign for the smart meter roll-out in the UK, launched a new framework to place consumers at the heart of the smart city transition.

The firm has previously suggested that the smart city transition will be “essential” to combating rising energy demand as populations grow and urban density expands.

Matt Mace

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