When thinking about energy, the mistake is often made of considering it in isolation without establishing the connections related to how it is used, distributed, where it comes from, and what effect its generation causes. An example of this are the postulates that place solar energy as the solution to all of humanity’s energy problems, but without establishing clear criteria in terms of how to manage the use of that energy, or what effect it originates in the environment when produce it. In other words, when talking about energy, whether it originates from renewable or conventional sources, the concepts of energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions – carbon footprint – and climate change are being related in the same operation.
Energy Efficiency is the concept focused on establishing the necessary conditions to consume as little energy as possible, without affecting the operation of the facility: quality of products, services, or working conditions. Its main difference with Energy Saving is based on the fact that it simply focuses on generating consumption reduction regardless of production criteria, which can also be defined as Rationing . It is important to note that the term Energy Efficiency includes all energy sources (natural gas, gasoline, diesel, etc.), and not just electricity as many people express it.
Energy efficiency by itself in any field, for example industry, is complicated and demands structured solutions both at the level of infrastructure and user behavior. By framing this concept within what is the planning of a city – or metropolitan area – the challenge is enhanced since many simultaneous factors come into play that must be taken into consideration, making this one of the most complex topics in the field. world. In this article, efficiency will be analyzed within the main factors that make life in a city, to then delve into a subsequent delivery on the invisible cost, but very tangible, which implies not implementing mobility projects in the urban environment.
Life in the City
Cities can be seen as the conjunction in a finite space of a significant number of sectors that carry out activities simultaneously, among which it is worth mentioning: residential, commercial, industrial (with its different segmentations), service, construction, NGO, educational , political, banking, religious, among others. Additionally, cities are inhabited by people who work in the aforementioned sectors and must attend their workplaces, moving around it and making room for the transport sector and the concept of Mobility .
From the energy point of view, each one of the sectors and economic activities has a different operation, which translates into a distinctive energy consumption pattern, and therefore, necessary to know to define the strategies that best adapt to these. . The degree of complexity of the issue is such that there is even a maxim in the world of energy auditing that reads: “No two facilities are the same” ; therefore, even if they are companies in the same industry (automotive industry, for example) and they have similar operating conditions, the recommendations made to one will not necessarily be applicable to the other.
What can be done in such a diverse scenario? In the first instance, to characterize the consumption of the cities, that is, to know how much energy is consumed and from that amount to estimate the amount dedicated to the main services (lighting, electrical equipment, air conditioning, pumping, etc.) for each type of facility established in the city. An effort of this nature is possible, and it was proposed for the city of New York by Columbia University with an interactive map where consumption is considered in the different areas of the city, with the possibility of detail, parcel by parcel. , of the percentages allocated to each service.
With the information expressed in this map, it is totally feasible to define consistent strategies aimed at reducing energy expenditure, starting with the buildings in the areas with the highest consumption and the type of service that has the greatest influence on them. Such strategies can be based on the implementation of consumption taxes, or through the use of building automation or home automation technologies to regulate the facilities in specific periods, according to weather conditions, hours, etc. All these actions, in the medium term, always translate into a reduction in costs and the carbon footprint, both for the facility and for the planning entity, because it does not have to make large investments in generation or distribution systems to compensate for the increase in consumption.
The second way to address the issue of energy efficiency in cities is through the implementation of certifications and regulations related to the construction of buildings. This is one of the sectors with the greatest influence on the energy consumption of the facilities, not only during its useful life but also throughout the construction process, since the issue of energy performance is closely linked to the types of materials used, the orientation of the building, the amount of natural lighting used, among others.
As far as efficient building certification is concerned, the one with the greatest global visibility is the so-called LEED ( Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design ) developed by the US Green Building Council .). The LEED application consists of evaluating all aspects related to sustainability and respect for the environment in the construction and operation of a building, and categorizing it into four levels: certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum. Some of the criteria that must be covered are the following: energy efficiency (heat/cold recovery, intelligent lighting), efficiency in water consumption (rainwater harvesting, treatment and reuse of wastewater), indoor air quality , use of plots where the environmental impact is minimized and the use of materials of recycled origin, of local origin, etc.
Building Efficiency in Venezuela
In Venezuela, despite not having a significant energy efficiency culture, sustainable initiatives have begun to emerge, including LEED certification of buildings, such as the headquarters of the Venezuelan company of Integrated Projects, CA (VEPICA) in Caracas, of a level silver, being the first structure in the country to receive this recognition and reaching levels of water savings of the order of 80%.
In relation to the national legal framework, it is expected that by the end of 2014 (still without publication) the regulations of the Ministry of Popular Power for Electric Energy concerning the thermal performance that facilities must comply with, and the regulations for their design, will enter into force. , hoping that this is a magnification of the experience of the Maracaibo Thermal Quality Ordinance of 2005, where tax incentives were given to construction companies that came to comply with the parameters established in the legislation. In a similar way to LEED, the municipality granted the buildings four certificates: approval, bronze, silver and gold level, with the tax exemption being at the maximum level of 100%.
In conclusion, energy efficiency has to be the primordial north of any economy that wants to be better, more competitive and friendly to the environment, bearing in mind that something that is not known cannot be managed or improved. Determining the amount of energy allocated to different services, for example lighting, in city facilities is essential to be able to define government policies, always relying on the leading national and international certifications that govern the matter. Failure to apply this simply leads to rationing energy, affecting working conditions and the quality of the products or services offered. Finally, Mobility is a fundamental factor in any urban environment that must be considered from the perspective of opportunity cost rather than as an indicator of quality of life. This will be the focus of the following.
Published in: Venezuelan Commodities Magazine, 14th. Edition, p. 28-30 ( see publication ).