Energy Transition in the Building Sector: Why Should It Be a Priority in 2023?

For 2023, the SET Award has unveiled two new categories to encourage innovation in areas vital to the energy transition: ‘Industry’, and ‘Buildings & Construction’. We have already looked at why ‘Industry’ is important for a net zero future. Now we turn to an area that is arguably even more direct and tangible to our lives: buildings and their construction.

What do we mean by ‘Buildings & Construction’ and why is it relevant?

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), 53% of the world’s population lives in built-up areas. This makes buildings and construction relevant for many of us. According to IRENA, buildings account for around 3 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year. Electricity use and associated fossil fuel combustion for district heating increases that number to 10 Gt. 

Meanwhile, according to the International Energy Agency, about 8% of global energy- and process-related CO2 emissions come from buildings’ fossil fuel usage. Another 19% comes from the generation of electricity and heat used in buildings. On top of this, 6% comes from related processes, such as cement, steel and aluminium production.

Therefore, the buildings sector accounts for around one-third of global energy- and process-related CO2 emissions. Innovation here is vital.

How can the sector reach net zero?

The solutions are varied and complex. Some will address new constructions, others will innovate existing building stock. But key areas where SET innovation can occur could be:

  • Energy efficiency that decouples usage from floor area growth: heat pumps are a popular solution here. But could there be others? Or are there solutions that increase heat pump installation in markets outside Europe?
  • Clean energy start-ups developing new building technologies: while energy management systems have thrived, there is room for growth. This comes not only with designing and using new materials but also in developing new solutions for heating and cooling systems.
  • Integration with existing and new infrastructures: Once zero-carbon-ready buildings are achieved by 2030 (through new construction or retrofitting), they still need to fit into systems and infrastructures. These include in-building distribution systems, energy networks, energy storage, as well as EV charging hubs. What will solutions here look like?

The SET Award and the building sector

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Over the years, we’ve seen many innovative solutions come to us that directly address buildings’ energy efficiency and energy usage,” explains Pia Dorfinger, Head of Digital Technology & Start-Up Ecosystems at the German Energy Agency (dena). “From smart metering to accessible heat pump technology, we’ve seen how big the potential for change in this sector is. Added to this, we’re seeing more solutions from across the value chain. Whether it’s the materials used or planning and modeling in the construction cycle.” Pia adds: “Our new ‘Buildings & Construction’ category wants to encourage start-ups who have been unsure if their solutions fall under ‘energy’, but who still know they can contribute to a net-zero future in the built environment.”

With our partner the World Energy Council, the SET Award is excited to see what solutions will emerge this year. Solutions that prioritize high social impact with the technology to reach net zero will be judged highly.

Apply for the SET Award and join the global SET Community

Apply and get the chance to win:

  • €10,000 in prize money;
  • a speaking slot at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue 2023;
  • an opportunity to attend the World Energy Leaders’ Summit in Rotterdam;
  • a profile across the World Energy Council’s global energy network of 99 countries;
  • priceless other networking opportunities and event invitations throughout the year and beyond.

See all prizes here. The application deadline for the SET Award 2023 is 16 January, 2023.

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