“We are going to create the biggest virtual power station in the world” announced Jay Weatherhill. Southern Australia’s prime minister now has something to be congratulated about. During a press release on the 4th of February he revealed the signing of an agreement with Tesla to install solar panels connected to power packs on no less than 50,000 roofs in the region. Linked to a virtual power station, this vast energy network would constantly produce 250 megawatts, enough to slowly release Southern Australia from its dependence on fossil fuels. Why, then, should the home not be the spearhead of the transition to renewable energies across French and European cities alike?
A bitter realisation
Buildings pollute, and not just a little. The French Government was able to attest that “in 2015, almost a third of total energy consumption came from homes. This is a 50% increase over the last 25 years.” Eurostat tells us that on a European scale home consumption rates at a quarter of energy costs, not a third. Home consumption is lower than industry and transport consumption, but just as with these two sectors a greener and more energetic approach should be promoted towards homes.
NZEB; a glimmer of hope
The NZEB or net-zero energy building, is still an ambiguous project. Even the ADEME, the agency for the environment and control of energies, gives us a cryptic definition by explaining that “no regulation details the operational scope of net-zero energy buildings. We can however, define them as buildings that produce more energy than they consume.” For the time being, there are only 437 in France, all of which are mapped out on the NZEB observation site. However, from 2020 onward, thermal regulations will demand that all new French buildings be NZEB.
Save the furniture
Net-zero energy buildings could play an important role in the transition to renewable energies. As experts from the CDE website tell us, the excess energy collected by these buildings “could perhaps be stored to be then used elsewhere or even be sold as electricity.” This would mean that residents could use solar energy for power during cloudy days, and use wind energy on windless days. Who knows, this extra energy could even be used to charge the householder’s car.
No Tesla on the horizon, but Centrales Next
Hypothesis of Tesla’s building network depends of course on the connection provided by a massive virtual power station. While France does not (yet?) benefit from Elon Musk’s backing, it can already count on its first virtual power station, Centrales Next. Among other aspects, it allows for the adjustment of renewable energy production. So that if solar or wind energy dwindle due to the weather, hydraulic energy production can be increased and vice versa. There are therefore reasons for hope.