The introduction of renewable energies in the housing process still have to face several barriers, that have been identified by the group during some workshops in different meetings.
The main barriers identified are:
- Tax Laws that in some countries specially (e.g. Germany and Sweden) prevent Social Housing Companies from direct energy production;
- Split benefits between landlord and tenants: often the cost is only on the owner but the benefits are mainly for tenants. This means that in many cases it’s not possible to have a proper return of investment. This barrier might be overcome with a cooperative approach.
- Maintenance: who is in charge of the correct system maintenance? If this represent an extra cost for the housing company, it could be a barrier.
- Decommissioning of some renewable energies is still unclear in terms of procedure and costs.
- Some technologies, such as photovoltaic still have a low efficiency.
- There are sometimes conflicts between different renewable energies, i.e. solar panels are in conflict with district heating.
Anyway, there are also some interesting opportunities linked to this topic that can be resumed in:
- Need to refurbish energy plants: in many collective buildings the heat generator needs to be changed. This is an opportunity to install a new combined (heating + electricity) generator;
- New models of ownership: as mentioned in the “barriers” section, new models of ownership are being tested, such as a cooperative model, with a shared ownership of the system;
- Technology is running fast: there has been (and still there is) a big advance in technology. For example, there is a new generation of turbines with a stronger magnetic field. This can help rising the overall system efficiency.
- Storage is becoming more and more easy, thus problems like the time shift between production and consumption can be overcome.
- Electrical production: with technologies like heat pumps it’s much more efficient to use the electricity for all energy uses in the housing sector. For this reason, renewable electricity should be the preferred renewable energy source. There is the UK exception where the government is pushing towards renewable heat.
More in detail some of the available renewable energy sources have been analyzed:
- Wind generator: some companies (in Sweden) own a wind turbine covering part of their energy consumption. There is a problem with social acceptance of wind farms. A way to overcame this barrier could be the social share of wind farms. There are some experiences of this kind in France. Micro turbines seem not a “mature” technology yet.
- Waste to energy: there has been a quite strongdebate within the group member about whether to consider this as a renewable energy or not. The group didn’t get to a conclusion, so it’s an open topic.
- Biogas to produce energy: it’s an opportunity (maybe not for social housing). Also biogas from waste water should be considered. In some countries it’s under discussion the possibility to sell it directly to the gas network.
- Photovoltaic: it’s maybe the most common energy source, its application can grow widely with the diffusion of good storage systemsand if the modules efficiency rises.
- Ground heat: the use of ground boreholes in combination with heat pumps has been experimented by several countries, it’s considered generally a good but expensive technology.