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Energy Management in Commercial Buildings

Energy efficient initiatives for Bhutan's socio-economic development.
  • Namgyal Gyaltshen
  • |
  • October 19, 2021

Energy efficiency is not just low-hanging fruit; it is fruit lying on the ground. 

~Stevan Chu, Former US Energy Secretary.

The idea of efficient energy use is not a novel one. Emerging first as conservation initiatives, and marketed heavily through a “save it” mentality, the concept of energy efficiency has globally shifted through various phases of conservation, management, and reduction. Throughout this timeline, the interest generated by the field has only multiplied. As the focus on the role that energy efficiency could play in meeting international energy and climate goals has increased, policy interest in the area has also grown over the past decade.  

With Bhutan making strides towards socio-economic development and growth, the concept of energy efficiency becomes increasingly important for us to confront as a nation. There are many projects and industries to achieve this through. The International Energy Agency estimates that globally, the building sector is responsible for the most electricity consumption at 42%. Given this and the upward trajectory in the opportunities that commercial buildings hold and the rising number of buildings, the building sector happens to house many of the “low-hanging fruit” initiatives for Bhutan. 

Potential Starting Points for Efficient Energy Consumption

In trying to understand what kind of energy efficiency initiatives and interventions might be successful for buildings in Bhutan, it is also important to understand the biggest drivers behind energy consumption. As brief points of reflection, the following are a few common issues that impede a building’s potential in achieving energy efficiency and solutions and best practices from around the globe to help mitigate the issue. 

  • Insulation: Proper insulation is a key factor in achieving energy efficiency. In most cases, this is done through double glazing of windows, insulation material to the wall, roof and floor, and new materials and coatings for external doors and window frames. With technology, contemporary building products like Insulated Concrete Forms exist and help to create more durability and insulation. Increasing insulation is feasible for most buildings, and most buildings do have room for improvement with insulation. 
  • Heating & Cooling: Energy consumption in homes is largely influenced and driven by heating and cooling. The most obvious reduction in energy consumption in heating and cooling comes from the choice of energy efficient appliances and systems. In addition to that, more and more smart home technology solutions are being offered. In most cases, by connecting an IoT sensor to your meter box, you can not only receive real time consumption data, but a few of such systems have been automated to have the authority to turn off lights, and heating and cooling based on the data already collected about use patterns. 
  • Lighting: Over the years, LED light bulbs have become a popular choice for buildings. They use less electricity and last longer and perform better. In addition to LED bulbs, the installation of dimmable lights can allow for targeted energy use, based on external lighting conditions. Other lighting control tools also include timer controls, PIR (Passive Infrared) sensors and ultrasonic sensor-based controls; all of which allow for lights to be turned off when not in use.  In addition to artificial lighting, many buildings also incorporate into the design, the potential to use natural light to light up the building. An extreme example, the Harvard House Zero Prototype has specifically custom designed roof and window treatments to ensure 100% daylight autonomy, with no artificial light needs during daylight hours. 
  • Intelligent Systems: The idea of self-regulation in the face of energy efficiency is an interesting one. According to a study by the French Environment and Energy Management Agency, 9 out of 10 French people change their daily habits to reduce their energy consumption. Through different technological solutions and startups, users can track and analyze their consumption data in real time, leading them to make more conscious decisions.

In Bhutan, the building sector alone consumes 41.6% of electricity (International Renewable Energy Agency). There have been various initiatives by local actors, both exclusively and in partnership with an external party. The Department of Renewable Energy under the Ministry of Economic Affairs has consistently published reports. The most notable, the Energy Efficient Roadmap finds that the government could bring in an additional revenue Nu. 336 million by improving energy efficiency across buildings, appliances, transport and industry. InnoTech’s DRIVE center has been involved in prototyping projects under our Smart City Initiative. One of such projects is an efficient energy management system that attempts to tackle various issues with our current energy system. 

All these initiatives point to one thing: change is coming, and change must come. In a world that is racing to reap the benefits from solving the different puzzles presented by energy efficiency, we need to ensure that we are placed strategically in the equation. Perhaps one day, we might be the pioneers forging ahead, but in order for that future to exist, Bhutan must first work its current state of energy use. 

English (UK)