Commercial property must ‘get fit’ for energy transition

By Parag Mendiratta

Good intentions can be tough to translate into practical action but that’s what the commercial
property sector must do to meet the Global carbon Net Zero targets.

The building sector accounts for over 20% of global energy consumption and is recognized
as one of the sectors for which the transition is not nearly so straightforward, because they
either lack the technology or its cost remains prohibitive, from the climate-neutrality
perspective.

Electrification of buildings is seen as a possible pathway to climate neutrality. Electrifying
processes, systems, technology, and equipment in buildings, while concurrently transitioning
the electricity mix to renewable energy sources, can lead to necessary emission reductions
in this sector.

Borrowing from the EU’s Fit-for-55 legislative programme, developers and building owners
must soon start complying with new or updated regulations to curb carbon emissions, that
have been set up by different countries.

Maintaining the value of buildings by preparing them for a fossil-free future can be a great
buy-in for potential tenants with the increasing shift towards green energy solutions. The
Government of Kenya, for instance, has committed to constructing housing units compliant
with the Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies (EDGE) standards. This is the globally
accepted minimum standard for the design of climate-friendly homes. According to
Architecture 2030, current non-green buildings generate close to 40 per cent of annual
global carbon emissions.

Another immediately attractive outcome is the potential for swift, definitive, reductions in
energy costs which can be attained by developing a sustainable commercial building power
strategy to support on-site renewable generation, energy storage, and the like.
It is clear why the concept of ‘energy transition’ is gaining traction, with legislation and
regulation – both within and outside the EU.

Develop a get-fit strategy
Regulatory schedules are important both in planning new builds and scheduling renovations.
In our experience as power management experts, regulation raises questions.
Installing electric vehicle charging infrastructure has come much more sharply into focus. It’s
no longer a question of ‘whether or not’ to install EV chargers, it’s more a matter of how
many chargers will be needed, how quickly, and where will the power come from?

Currently in Kenya, this is picking up with EV charging stations in a few malls and this is
projected to expand more with increased consumer uptake of electric vehicles. With the likes
of Nopea Ride leading the way in electric vehicles expansion in Kenya and BasiGO, having
launched Kenya’s first electric-powered public transport buses for the pilot stage.
A strategic approach is vital, and we believe it is better to start the energy transition journey
now, than wait for new regulations to come into effect, not least because there are immediate advantages. A simple start – storing low-cost energy for use when prices peak – is
a sure way to save money and by spreading the load, it eases grid congestion.
Energy storage technology is well proven, and it can be installed in most commercial
properties, but its value in the energy transition, particularly to help ease grid congestion, is
only now being fully realised.

Sector-coupling

The root of the equation that makes energy storage so valuable in helping commercial
buildings get fit for the energy transition is ‘sector coupling’ – making the most efficient use of
energy, particularly renewable energy, by coupling consumption with production. The
resultant smoothing of demand peaks and troughs helps balance the grid, too.
In a commercial building, sector coupling is likely to mean combining energy storage with on-
site generation, and EV charging infrastructure (which can store energy, as well as consume
it, and presents the building owner with the opportunity to levy vehicle charging fees).
This type of strategy provides buildings with a degree of self-sufficiency, making it possible
to reduce the amount of energy purchased from the grid, store low-cost energy for use when
prices are higher, and of course comply with many of the regulations that are likely to
emanate from the Fit-for-55.

Building owners should always check local regulations to ensure compliance. Legislation
and regulations are part of complex policy initiatives, so there will be differences in
interpretation in every country or region but all with the same desire to achieve Net Zero
globally.

Above all else, however, there is another reason to opt for an early approach to energy
transition, and it’s this: every well-prepared building brings carbon Net Zero closer.

The author is Parag Mendiratta – Eastern Africa Regional Manager at Eaton Electric
Ltd

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