The EnergyHub system for Public Housing

Pioneers in connecting properties for more energy-efficient cities

Örebrobostäder (ÖBO) is a public sector housing company and has long been working to develop the technical systems in an innovative way with the aim of reducing both energy usage and power consumption in its properties. By doing this, they also want to create the best conditions for realising the vision of the smart city.

The first step is to treat buildings as a living resource in an energy-efficient city – for a resource-efficient Sweden, which contributes to the smallest possible climate footprint.

It is also important to maintain the city perspective, which means starting with individual buildings, before considering neighbourhoods and districts, and then embracing entire cities. This approach requires visionary thinking, the desire to create change and the courage to be able to implement future solutions in the highly innovative field of energy.

“At present, ÖBO’s buildings are connected not only to each other, but also to the grid and the district heating network, thanks to a cloud service where energy and power resources can be managed and administered in a flexible way, based on the demand situation,” says Jonas Tannerstad.

He points out that the first step was not to start controlling and defining the output, but first of all to make sure that energy consumption is reduced through energy efficiency measures. ÖBO had already done this basic work back in the early 2000s, since then they have been able to take the next step in the development and connect buildings to be able to store and share energy. They soon realised that there were bottlenecks and lock-in effects in their property system that limited the opportunities for development.

This was the trigger for a rethink about their restrictive system for property automation and instead a switch to the kind of open systems used in industry. This has been crucial in achieving 100% control paired with flexible development opportunities. Now, all control and energy management take place on the basis of an open, independent platform for property automation, which they have developed together with the innovation company Power2U.

It is interesting to note that the platform is open for others to use, and ÖBO would like to see more property owners follow in their footsteps.

In 2015, it was necessary to review the market for new innovative energy systems, as the need for real-time measurement of energy flow and control of power consumption started to become more pressing. They started to become aware of a lack of available output in the grid. They soon came across Ferroamp, which for a few years had been developing a system for both phase balancing and control of loads and power.

– The EnergyHub system from Ferroamp is now becoming the standard solution in both “ROT” (renovation, rebuilding and extension) projects and new production within ÖBO, even though we do not always install solar cells from the outset.

Jonas Tannerstad, ÖBO

“The EnergyHub system from Ferroamp is now becoming the standard solution in both “ROT” (renovation, rebuilding and extension) projects and new production within ÖBO, even though we do not always install solar cells from the outset,” says Jonas Tannerstad. “On the contrary, it can be a good idea first of all to measure, analyse and evaluate energy usage and power consumption in the building, in order to be able to make the right decision in the next step ahead of continued energy investments, for example in solar cells or battery storage.”

ÖBO follows the principle of Produce, Store and Share, which Jonnas Tannerstad believes should be the new normal approach to all energy management in the future. A simple principle that means that the energy available is distributed, the surplus is stored and that more energy is produced and supplied to the system as required. It provides a good overview, is cost-efficient and provides better base data for decision-making ahead of future energy investments.

Another important part of their work on digitalisation has been the visualisation of energy data. In this area, Ferroamp’s cloud-based service EnergyCloud has helped to provide their operations technicians and engineers with a visual interface that provides both a clear overview and energy data at a detailed level, which facilitates their everyday work to optimise energy and power.

Old building standards and outdated legislation in the field of energy have also presented difficulties to ÖBO in being able to realise the full potential of Ferroamp’s technology. Together with Örebro Municipality and the electricity company E.ON, a collaboration has been initiated within the framework of the totally new district of Tamarinden, where smart, future-oriented energy solutions will be implemented on a bigger scale. The area comprises around 700 apartments, two pre-schools and a few shops, where renewable electricity will be produced, stored and shared between properties. A DC-based grid is part of the solution. Work is currently underway on land preparation and the laying of some infrastructure underground. The plan is for construction to start next year, in 2022.

The new Tamarinden district will be a pilot project, not only to implement the new technology from Ferroamp and others, but also to challenge the law and legislation in this field. First of all, the Swedish Energy Markets Inspectorate must approve the pilot project for the new district as a test facility. In the unlikely event that approval is not granted, the local grid company will instead have the right to build and operate the grid – which is ÖBO’s Plan B solution.

“It’s a systematic and legal mistake that new buildings – and for that matter also existing buildings in need of renovation – are not provided from the outset with all the opportunities presented by new technology,” says Jonas Tannerstad. “The risk is that buildings – even within one single property company – will be provided with different technological solutions in the field of energy, which will present difficulties when the different systems in the future have to be connected on a common platform in a comprehensive overall property system.”

One interesting aspect is that property companies in the future can also become local power companies, with the capacity to provide Svenska Kraftnät with both resources for frequency regulation and capacity for power balancing. ÖBO has made such attempts, with partners including Stena Fastigheter. It is a prerequisite for these kinds of collaboration that the partners are within the same electricity price area.

Ferroamp believes that they have a major role to play for the future in the energy transition and the transformation of the Swedish electricity system, with both solar cells and future battery storage being essential elements.

“Cost calculations for battery storage are getting better, while their price is falling. There are many factors contributing to a good cost calculation for battery storage – for example an increase in owners’ use of solar electricity – less dependence on electricity companies’ price-raising tariffs for future power consumption – and the fact that batteries can be used as a part of aggregated energy services, where a number of batteries are brought together in a so-called battery pool (which at present must be able to provide at least 100 kW). There are proposals from Svenska Kraftnät that battery pools should not only be paid to provide power, but should also be able to receive payment for power received from them,” concludes Björn Jernström, founder and CTO at Ferroamp.