The need for power is declining across the globe. Grid operators and oil companies are reporting unprecedentedly low numbers on energy consumption; and it makes sense. Shopping malls are empty, industrial sites are being closed, and entire companies are being run remotely.
Italy has seen a 33% reduction in energy consumption in the last three weeks, according to data from Terna S.p.A; a Roman transmission system operator.
China’s energy demand is projected to decline by approximately 73 billion kilowatt-hours in 2020; according to research by IHS Markit. That’s almost equal to the power consumed across Chile, in a year.
Consumption trends in the U.K. France, and Spain are no different. Norway, however, stands as an exception. We are still burning through (roughly) the same amount of energy as a month ago. The graph below has been generated via Statnet’s data. It shows that power production and consumption trends between 12th February and 25th March haven’t changed noticeably.
Are Buildings to Blame?
It goes without saying that Norway’s anomalous behavior is counter-intuitive. Amid a national lock-down, where is the surplus energy going? Could buildings, albeit unoccupied, be a problem? After all, they are one of the biggest consumers of energy every year. Moreover, if a building doesn’t have an automated/remotely-programmable HVAC system, who will control its ventilation in the absence of maintenance staff?
Old Buildings — Heart of the Energy Consumption Problem?
We believe that there are many old buildings across the country where HVAC systems are still running on full throttle. They have been programmed with static set points, which means that their operation will not change without manual intervention. Since administrators and building owners have no way to remotely turn anything off, this energy wastage may probably continue indefinitely.
Smart Buildings — A Different Story
Conversely, buildings with smart HVAC management systems have the ability to update their ventilation settings in real-time. Smart building management solutions use sensors to determine building occupancy and regulate the HVAC accordingly. In addition to this, they also enable the managers and technical staff to have remote access to the system. To help you visualize this better, we plotted the CO2 data generated by ClevAir, for an office building and a furniture store. See below:
Clear downtrends can be seen following the start of quarantine in Norway, on 12th March. For both the buildings, ClevAir noticed a significant drop in occupancy, so it made the ventilation run with the minimum settings. This in turn reduced the energy consumption significantly, which eventually decreased the building’s carbon footprint as seen above. If the ventilation of all the buildings across Norway gets similarly adjusted in real-time, we too will observe a massive drop in energy consumption, like the rest of the world.
Norway aims to be carbon-neutral, come 2030. The vision will not be realized unless all Norwegians assume responsibility. Building owners need to ensure that their assets aren’t over-consuming energy using smart HVAC solutions. They need to keep benchmarking their carbon footprint as long as there’s room.
We, as a nation, see ourselves as solvers of global crises; let’s stay steadfast and collectively overcome these small setbacks.