SABINA: a prime example of the twin transition to a sustainable and digital economy

  • On 29 October 2020, DIGITAL SME hosted an online event titled “Digitalisation in the Energy Sector: Thermal Energy contribution to the Green Deal”, focussing on the SABINA project that tries to enhance buildings’ energy consumption through thermal inertia

  • Digitalisation of the energy sector brings tremendous benefits in terms of energy efficiency and climate neutrality, positively contributing to the Green Deal

  • Experts agreed that data sharing, standardisation, and interoperability are crucial enablers of market efficiency and competition, leading to the introduction of innovative solutions to achieve the “Twin Transition”

The objective of a climate-neutral economy presents enormous challenges for the energy sector. Renewable energy—including thermal technology—is one of the solutions to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. Finding a way to effectively “turn buildings into batteries” by interlocking their thermal inertia with the energy grid is the goal of the SABINA project.

Four years of work, one step towards the Twin Transition

On 29 October 2020, DIGITAL SME organised a Policy Webinar onDigitalisation in the Energy Sector: Thermal Energy contribution to the Green Deal”. This event highlighted the past four years of work done within the SABINA project. It presented the possibilities of scaling up energy-related technologies that use IoT standards to reach maximum benefits for producers and consumers in the energy market while increasing climate neutrality at the same time.

How can technologies such as SABINA contribute to the overall energy efficiency of buildings and extend such benefits to neighbourhoods and even cities? And how can digitalisation and standardisation address these challenges? At the Policy Webinar, experts in energy, construction, and digitalisation engaged in an interactive discussion to discuss and answer the questions above.

 

First, Antonio Kung, CEO of Trialog, and a key partner in H2020 project InterConnect underlined that to create a positive impact in the energy market, new technologies should be developed through a flexible and interoperable ecosystem in two main areas: energy and ICT. In addition, Mr Kung gave his vision on how policy and standardisation can help the energy domain, providing guidance for IoT use cases, semantic interoperability, IoT data frameworks, IoT trustworthiness and interoperability. He also asserted that digitalisation in the energy sector shall contribute to an enhanced ecosystem that provides benefits to all stakeholders and enable them to better understand the market needs.

Next, Andrew Bolitho, Senior Energy Management Consultant at SMS, presented the achievements and the benefits of SABINA. He said that “If we want to achieve climate neutrality, then the entire energy system has to be decarbonised. Moreover, our behaviour and interaction with the market have to change significantly.  SABINA is essential in addressing these objectives”. Mr Bolitho stressed that SABINA is effective in creating flexibility and highlighted its strong capability in managing energy costs. He concluded his speech with a call for action to governments to provide policies that support flexibility.

Achieving the twin transition thanks to the digitalisation of the energy sector

Then, the Policy Webinar continued with the roundtable discussion which saw the interesting contribution of participants from the public and private sector. They brought their knowledge and experience concerning how different stakeholders could contribute to the EU’s energy targets by embracing digitalisation in their core activities.

The construction sector is facing several challenges related to the green transition, firstly in relation to the turnover rate of buildings that should be higher than 2% per year, as stressed by Vittorio Cossarini (President of AssoESCo – Italian Association of Energy Service Companies). Mr Cossarini affirmed that digitalisation is important with regard to the way we design and build, as well as the prediction of energy consumption in buildings using Artificial Intelligence. Pietro Bertelli from Alperia Bartucci highlighted how AI and a higher level of automation can help Europe reach its climate neutrality goalsThrough the presentation of “The Concrete Initiative”, Francesco Biasioli (Secretary General of ERMCO) explained how thermal inertia works in buildings. “We need to work with systems which allow dynamic energy modelling and SABINA is doing exactly that”, Mr Biasioli explained before stressing the need for architects and people involved in planning and execution of construction to take into consideration solutions that help to optimise the use of thermal energy, transforming buildings into “batteries” and enhancing energy efficiency.

Figure A: Scaling up energy efficiency using IoT and Smart Cities

Omar Dhaher from the European DIGITAL SME Alliance discussed standards identified for the project and their role in enhancing data-sharing and interoperability with other stakeholders’ systems and solutions. According to Mr Dhaher, the real value of solutions such as SABINA is their ability to share and use data to provide better information to consumers, prosumers, and producers. However, for SABINA and similar digital solutions to effectively work, policymakers need to acknowledge the need for accessible, fair, and open data. Standardisation in the area of data exchanges and interoperability can be strategically viewed as a vehicle to promote and strengthen competition in the energy markets.

SABINA and similar IoT solutions can act as a middle-ware between smart cities and the common European data spaces, a key element of the EU Data Strategy to enhance access to data. At the same time, allowing access to data will provide more information regarding de-carbonisation and contribute to the Green Deal goals. As such, SABINA is an interesting manifestation of the twin transition, i.e., providing environmental solutions through digital transformation.

The importance of data sharing and standardisation in the energy sector

At the end of the session, speakers unanimously agreed that data sharing and interoperability in the context of Smart Cities and Common European Data Spaces can achieve more flexibility in the energy mix and increase competition for efficiency. In this framework, standards come into play as key enablers of innovative solutions, which enable the energy market to grow and achieve the Green Deal by 2050.

For more information on the SABINA project, visit the project website here: https://sabina-project.eu