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Eesti Energia’s new solution to increase the energy efficiency of buildings

Estonia’s energy company Eesti Energia is testing a solution together with Tallinn University that would enable connecting commercial and office buildings as part of the energy system, increase the energy efficiency of buildings and provide more renewable energy to the grid by smartly managing their electricity consumption through digital solutions.

Consumption in the power network must at all times be equal to the production of electricity. According to the company, the energy consumption of powerful heating, ventilation and cooling equipment often accounts for the major part of the maintenance costs of commercial and office buildings.

The innovative solution being tested would enable these devices to be connected to the energy system by means of Eesti Energia’s Virtual Power Plant and managed based on the current needs of the Estonian energy system so that the money spent on heating and ventilation is reduced without compromising indoor air quality.

“The share of renewable energy in our energy system is constantly growing, but at a time when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining, intelligent control of powerful electrical equipment can cover at least part of the energy needs without having to start power plants or buy expensive electricity from the market,” read the Group’s statement.

“The greenest energy is the one not produced,” commented Alex Kaska, Business Development Manager at Eesti Energia. “In order to ensure the security of supply and energy security, for example, to keep rooms warm and the lights on, we must make the most of the smart devices at our disposal or add smartness to the existing ones. It is undoubtedly cheaper than building backup equipment that costs millions of euros.”

Electric cars and heat pumps in Eesti Energia’s product range for household customers will also become part of the energy system in a few years, supporting the buildings to become more energy-efficient. When managing heating and ventilation equipment, the most important thing is to maintain its comfort for the people using the building as well as a healthy indoor climate.

“Therefore, we combined Eesti Energia’s vision of future services and innovative solutions with TalTech’s top-level research competencies in order to develop a useful and convenient service for customers, which at the same time supports the energy system,” continued Mr Kaska.

Central to the solution is Eesti Energia’s Virtual Power Plant – smart devices and algorithms that digitally communicate with them and that can respond to the network’s needs in real time by calculating the free capacity in the building’s equipment to cover this need.

According to Martin Thalfeldt, professor at TalTech, managing the utility systems of buildings according to what is happening in the electricity market has long been considered important, but there are few innovative applications.

“Cooperation with Eesti Energia provides an excellent opportunity to develop and test such an application,” Mr Thalfeldt said. “One of the biggest challenges and opportunities of the project is its interdisciplinarity. Researchers from six research groups in the faculties of IT and Engineering are involved, whose knowledge will help to ensure a good indoor climate and security in the buildings, as well as the integration of various utility systems with each other and with the Virtual Power Plant.”

Industrial companies can already now connect their large equipment to the Virtual Power Plant. Depending on the field of activity and the equipment, energy costs can be reduced by up to 15 per cent per year by using the service.

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