Challenges in building renovation: Interview with the Andalusian Energy Agency

In this interview with Joaquin Villar from the Andalusian Energy Agency, we discuss the role of EERAdata’s Decision-Support Tool in tackling the Spanish region of Andalusia’s challenges toward the efficient use of energy and rehabilitation of old buildings.

What challenges are energy agencies currently facing within the energy sector?

Andalusia has evolved from a centralized system of generation based on fossil fuels to a more efficient one that takes advantage of renewable indigenous resources. However, there is still quite a long way to go in achieving the European Union’s strategy of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.

To achieve this goal, it is essential to train and inform society and citizens to make the best decisions around choosing a low-carbon fuel economy model and the efficient use of energy. For this to be feasible, they must have renewable energy at an affordable price, either through conventional networks, their own facilities or through new shared generation and consumption structures, such as local energy communities. We must also foster the transformation of buildings and spaces from a linear consumption model to a circular economy model as per eco-design standards.

From an economic point of view, we are aware of the opportunities in business, innovation and industrial development that energy transition can provide to Andalusia. This entails professional training in order to adapt to the continuous rapid technological evolution. It is also essential to attract industrial and business investments so that more energy projects are carried out in all autonomous communities of Spain, which is necessary to stimulate the market and give confidence to the different agents involved in promoting projects and energy sustainability investments.

Therefore, national and local authorities, including energy agencies, must work together to achieve a decarbonised energy model, identifying barriers and needs, setting priorities and acting accordingly.

What are your needs and how can EERAdata help play a part in tackling these challenges?

Andalusia has more than 4.3 million homes with great potential for energy improvement. Half of them, however, are older than 40 years and the results of the registered energy certificates show that to maintain healthy and comfortable conditions, higher amounts of energy are required, when compared to efficient buildings.

As for the public building stock in Andalusia, high energy consumption and low usage of electric vehicles and alternative fuels demonstrate that there is still room for improvement. Andalusia’s savings and self-consumption potential must be tapped in order to better the current energy performance.

Local entities are also large consumers of energy and must aspire to achieve sustainable consumption and intelligent models, in order to have optimal energy management of local services, which results in the well-being of its citizens and in the development of the municipal economy.

The energy rehabilitation of buildings in Andalusia is, therefore, a necessity and a priority that offers great possibilities in the transition to a new energy model. EERAdata can support us by providing evidence of the wider benefits of renovation, from a socio–economic and environmental viewpoint. It is important to gradually improve the decision-making process and have an innovative way of planning the renovation of buildings, as budget tends to be limited.

To that end, the scientific partners in the project will cooperate with regional stakeholders in three regional networks from Slovenia, Denmark and Andalusia, to develop a streamlined process for collecting data and producing a holistic assessment of the impact of energy efficiency investments in buildings. This process will be finalised into the EERAdata decision-support tool (DST) designed around the resources and data availability of the end-user.

How will the EERAdata Decision-Support Tool help the Andalusian Energy Agency?

The EERAdata DST will make the decision-making processes more rational for building owners and managers and in turn, help generate larger social benefits.

By managing this user-friendly tool, the Andalusian Energy Agency will be able to carry out its assessment in the public building stock with ease, using our own data as well as relevant open data sources (e.g., GIS data). We will also be able to merge data of different formats, in different areas like building characteristics, energy infrastructure, renovation activity, demography and economy that will allow us and other municipal authorities to plan energy efficiency measures through building renovation and assess its impact from a socio-economic and environmental perspective.

It is also of relevance to mention that we have taken advantage of the Andalusian Government Administration Energy Network (REDEJA Network), a tool designed to promote the principles of energy-saving and diversification in the Andalusian administration, as well as to implement renewable energies in buildings of the Andalusian regional government. Through the REDEJA network, the DST will be rapidly implemented in the regional building stock, which includes more than 4000 buildings.

As part of the EERAdata project, partner municipalities will participate in the design of the DST tool and test its application in regional pilots: how do you think these pilots will benefit the Andalusian Energy Agency, as well as the project?

One of the pilots will take place in Andalusia, where there is already practice to promote the renovation of the building stock through different incentive orders managed by the Andalusian Energy Agency (AEA) and financed by the operative FEDER program Andalucía 2014-2020.

During the pilot, we will have the opportunity to test the outputs of the DST first-hand, and as a result, guide the improvement of the tool to adapt it to our needs and requirements. Tool functions and interfaces will be improved by monitoring the pilots and by receiving feedback from the end-users.

Moreover, we have collaborated with the Andalusian Federation of the Municipalities (FAMP) and other regional ministries, and as a result, found that other municipalities and regional authorities in Andalusia also wish to participate as ‘secondary implementers’ in the design of the tool and dedicated workshops, which will prove highly beneficial for the project.

Specifically, at the local level, the Andalusian Energy Agency had the opportunity to present the project to different Andalusian municipalities in an event organized by the FAMP. We were delighted to hear that many of the municipalities at the event also expressed their interest in collaborating with the EERADATA project.

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 847101.