Portugal is presently facing major energy challenges such as the provision of long-term energy supply within a context of high dependency from energy imports or the need for an environmentally-sound energy system, within the context of the Kyoto Protocol. Dealing with these challenges is a matter of complexity, as conflicting interests arise when pursuing such a multi-variable optimization. It is fully acknowledged by governmental bodies worldwide that dealing with such complexity must necessarily pass by efforts to develop alternative energy systems that address demand locally, incorporate renewable and other domestic energy sources with emerging technologies of demand side management and contribute to sustainable energy consumption patterns, namely in the domestic sector.
The buildings sector represents 60% of the total electricity consumption in Portugal. Also in the EU, the sector’s consumption has increased significantly, over the last years, in response to increasing level of comfort and to the proliferation of appliances. The EU’s Green Paper on energy efficiency estimates that the current level of energy consumption could be reduced up to 20%, compared with baseline projections, by 2020. Energy efficiency is clearly mentioned as part of the portfolio of solutions. It is an urgent interdisciplinary problem to address energy efficiency and rationalize energy use in its technical and behavioral dimensions. Such process needs immediate, medium and long-term strategic approaches. An innovative approach as presented, tackles the need for long term solutions while addressing in detail short to medium term energy efficiency interventions within the school community. In parallel, the communication with the school population and its reflection on changes in energy consumption by the families involved, derived from a change in habits or technological implementations by the residents, are yet another essential way to address this challenge at a medium to long-term scale. Therefore, it is the scope of the proposal to address the school, the residences and the connection between both.
The interdisciplinary nature of the team assembled is thus explained by the complexity and diversity of the problem at hands that underlies a significant social dimension usually underestimated in energy studies, however totally justifiable on a sustainable systems approach. The case study develops about the Net Zero Energy School concept, giving emphasis to the impact of the energy efficiency actions implemented in the school and its expected effects in behavioral changes at residential level.
The project will start with a structural, behavioral and energy audits to the school which will be combined with an assessment of potential savings. Action plan will be prioritized according to the interventions potential contribution to decrease energy consumption of the school to a sustainable goal, which will incorporate the micro-generation technical-economical potential.
A key component to the study will be the communication strategy. The plan will convey the information about the impact of each intervention on energy consumption, to the school community, either through a web portal supporting the project, or using displays strategically placed in the school. Personalized information will be transmitted to registered users At residential level, the experiment is oriented to monitor the families’ response in relation to the energy efficiency action plan presented in school. Selected houses may follow their consumption on the project’s web site and assess a behavioral reinforcement scheme which will provide an analysis of consumption and environment impact assessment. A smaller experiment will consider the ongoing transformation of the electricity grids into “smart” grids which will support a number of interactions between electricity producers and consumers, such as close to real time feedback, distributed renewable generation, time-varying electricity pricing tariffs and the development of personalized energy services.
The experiment will involve a small number of families, where the level of comfort and operation will be declared by the residents, while an automated response of the support system will maximize energy efficiency in houses and will trade-off concurrent objectives (price, consumption or ecological footprint).