Gerardo Fortuna

Ever since we are kids, we are taught that things like home heating or cooking a meal or switching on interior lights require a certain amount of energy. And we are told that we get this energy from a variety of sources. In our children’s mind, we quickly learn how to differentiate the entire cycle of energy in at least two moments, one for the consumption and one for the production.

Imagine if your home itself was the main source of the energy for all your needs. The circle would be complete, like a snake biting its tail. Maybe one day we will be able to produce by ourselves the amount of energy which we need for our daily life. That day is perhaps not far off, when we consider the technology innovation in this field.

According to a new research made by CE Delft and commissioned by Greenpeace European Unit, over half of EU citizens could be generating their own renewable electricity by 2050. It seems that we are faced not only with the transit from nuclear and fossil fuels to renewable sources. But we are experiencing a broader and radical change in the entire production system, from and old “centralized” model dominated by big utilities and energy companies toward a model lead by “energy citizens”, which can product their electricity.

And the European Union is playing a key role to help this dream comes true, financing several projects of this kind. I was particularly impressed by one of them called BFIRST. It is an EU-funded project aiming to develop standardized building components with solar cells on the inside. Which it means that those elements fully comply with existing building codes and standards and, as an added value, they also got the latest technologies in terms of PV panels within them. Cool, isn’t it?

The developers of the project are working to 5 building components: lightweight ventilated facades, roofing tiles, curtain walls, skylights and shadowing system suitable for windows and balconies. At the moment the project is in the demonstration phase and some prototypes are tested a few kilometers from Rome, in the main Research Center of ENEA, the Italian national agency for new environmental technologies.

The products are also tested on the fields at different sites in Spain, Belgium, Italy and Greece. We’re now looking impatiently for some good results. The main BFIRST’s goals are improving energy efficiency of buildings and making a significant contribution to the development of on-site energy generation systems. This is a new conception that seems to be moving in the right direction. A good trend is coming from Italy: energy self-consumption increased over the last two years, both in the household sector and industrial sector.

BFIRST will help also to reduce CO2 emissions thanks to renewable electricity generation. The project is meant to be a great value in order to achieve the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy for climate change and energy sustainability. Also known as 20-20-20 goals, the three ambitious European target (20% increase in energy efficiency, 20% reduction of CO2 emissions and 20% renewables by 2020) will allow the European electricity grid to convert into a “smart grid”. And if you think about, there’s nothing smarter than produce directly the energy you need.

Gerardo Fortuna

The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of the author, and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of ALDA and the European Union.