Motivation: Dealing with environmental problems
In last decades, the exponential growth of world energy use has already increased the overall concern over supply difficulties, exhaustion of energy resources and each day more tangible environmental impacts (ozone layer depletion, global warming, climate change, etc.). The global contribution from buildings and built environment towards energy consumption, both residential and commercial, has steadily increased reaching figures between 20% and 40% in developed countries, and has exceeded the other major sectors: industrial and transportation. Growth in population, increasing demand for building services and comfort levels, together with the rise in time spent inside buildings, assure the upward trend in energy demand to continue in the future.
In order to prevent the negative impact of the above sketched trend, the energy efficiency becomes one of the main means that can help us to achieve the important goals for our future existence on the planet. These challenging goals include the rational consumption of available resources and the reduction of the environment pollution. They could be achieved by following two strategies. The first is to include more environment-neutral and renewable energy sources to reduce the share of the resource consuming production and the second is to decrease the energy demand to allow reducing the overall energy production. However, the successful real-life realization of these strategies faces problems due to human factors. The problem space in this case is multidisciplinary, i.e., a combination of aspects from sociology, technics and economics. These problematic aspects are mainly the prediction of the demand generated by the end users, their acceptance for the proposed technical solutions as well as their willingness to adapt own energy consumption and to cover some additional costs of the technical solutions. And since the users represent diverse attitudes, their level of involvement or participation in reducing the environment pollution, i.e., being more energy efficient, differs as well.
The aim of the e-balance project is to address these environment problems by considering the different aspects of the energy efficiency in present and future smart cities in order to provide flexible and holistic technical solutions and to carefully validate these solutions under real world conditions.
How do we expect to fix these problems?
1. A holistic approach
Diverse technical means for dynamic energy balancing, support for distributed energy production and storage have been researched recently resulting in a number of standards and concepts. We want to use these results obtained in diverse contexts and combine them into a holistic approach that considers the end users, business, law and standard influence.
2. Social aspects assessment
Within the project we want to research the social aspects associated with the energy efficiency. We want to investigate the necessary conditions to increase the users’ willingness to reduce or adapt their energy consumption and to get more involved. These conditions include also economic aspects, e.g., some benefits for the user’s involvement. On the other hand, law enforcements can cause broader and faster deployment of some specific solutions, but may also cause users’ reluctance.
3. Market-oriented solutions
We want also to investigate the features the users require from an energy management solution in order to accept it, as well as those features that make it more attractive to them. The investigation here includes the user data related concerns, but also social networking and user interface aspects. The solution shall be flexible, in order to address all the needs of the users. The social research will be based on user studies and surveys. These will be realized in Poland, Portugal and in the Netherlands.