We could lead the worldwide household Energiewende

If we focused on the right things

Say a word about how technology will develop and tackle our challenges embedded in our renewable future, and a choir of skeptics is ready to machine-gun your wishful comments to the never-never land.

The press is full of negative thinking and doomsday prophets. Who ever make the gloomiest prediction of our energy future are to be praised for common sense.

Positive thinking seems to be out of fashion. Today it seems you’re the more credible the more desperate your statement is.

“Wind just does not blow all the time.”
“The sun doesn’t shine half the day.”
“Battery technology is not cheap enough to make sense.”

These are of course facts. “I have a flat tyre. It’s impossible to continue driving!” That’s also a fact. Oh dear, things are so bad!

Don’t just stand there.

Do something about this!

Luckily most people agree on one foundational idea – saving energy is a good thing.

When concentrating on this side of the story, actually things are better than ever. At least the potential of doing something is great.

  • Now here’s the good stuff.
    • 1st fact: Our houses are becoming more energy efficient than ever.
    • 2nd fact: You can choose to pay less by not using electricity during rush hours.

Previously the day and night tariffs tried to do the same – but with less volatility.

Guess what, according to a Finnish Energy Industry representative, hourly-based billing was first introduced in the world in Finland! This fact is not alone. Such advantages make a perfect set up for new innovative services!

There are sweet deals we haven’t discussed yet

As you might have noticed, I have blogged about electricity markets a few times already. Why? Because this stuff is important. Now. There’s something else. This matters to you and me personally.

Today when you live in an apartment house, your electricity bill is somewhere around 20 to 40 euros in a month. Right? The sum varies if you live on your own or have a large family, but on average your spending on electricity is still quite reasonable.

The heat is another thing. Even though you could call me some kind of energy geek, I have actually never though of the monthly “maintenance fee” for our apartment to be mostly heat bills!

According to Statistics Finland an average apartment spends over one euro per square meter on heating per month.

We’re now living in an old stone house. This is a small but cozy two-room apartment. The walls are thick. District heating runs through the basement. The windows have been renovated some years ago. Still the heat eats up in the order of 50 euros a month! That’s in general the second biggest part of the monthly bill after renovations. It’s also double the money we put on electricity.

In a detached house with electric radiators heating can actually make up to three quarters of your energy bill – including hot water.

We can easily state that in Finland most people spend more on heat than on electricity.

Still we tend to talk about Demand Response and other fancy electricity stuff. I admit I’d like to see these new and hip technologies to become part of our every day life. Why? Because I’m convinced that by doing so, we are able to cut down our consumption, and provide the rest of the world with tools to do the same.

We should not be fooled, however. Even though these fancy electrical services are awesome and undoubtedly mind blowing, the brutal truth is that the sweet spot today is in the heat sector.

And there are some cool appliances on that side too.

Surely this is nothing new to anyone active in the building sector. Heat pumps, insulation and triple or quadruple glass windows, heat recovery from exhaust air, smart appliances that adjust temperature in all rooms individually. These all are great examples of how to cut down the heat bill.

We know this stuff. It’s there for any of us to take into use.

And there’s more. Near Zero-energy technology is soon mandatory in all new projects. In 2020 all new buildings have to be insulated extremely well, and perhaps make some energy on their own.

This zero energy concept is not purely an energy wonderland when applied to real world. ­

People are talking about “plastic bag houses” with obvious associations. The good old stone or wooden houses were made to last – and to breathe.

Today the newborn buildings are immediately taken from their mothers – handy modern day carpenters of prefabricated houses. The new building starts its life in a medical ventilator. The machine breathes for the building. And what happens when the machine breaks and there’s no qualified nurse to come to rescue?

Okay, let’s not go into dirty details. That’s enough of a task to the educated HVAC-engineers in this country.

Let’s start solving

This however brings up some questions:

Should the new buildings aim for near zero consumption, or would it be wiser to aim for near zero net effect with some own energy production?

Does it make sense to fuzz and buzz about household electricity, when – looking at the numbers – clearly the focus should be in the heating sector?

As usual I’m not any wiser then you are in this topic. What I know is, there will be plenty of fish in the sea for anyone who can help us answer these questions.

It is certain that in the same way as the wind doesn’t always blow there are some issues in the Zero energy buildings. Energy storage is not cheap. Not yet. But hey, why did we educate engineers in the first place? Or why do we have our companies full of brilliant marketers, buyers and sales people? It’s because we know we can give to the people what they want.

And people want coziness, ease of living, security. Maybe they even want their children to be able to live in a cleaner world. We have all the possibilities to give them all this and more. When Henry Ford made the first car people did not even understand they wanted it – until the irresistible machine made it to our lives.

Let’s not focus on the negative. Let’s find the positive side of the coin and start solving.