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Brussels roundtable dives into opportunities to promote electrification in the building sector

A Strategic Open Dialogue on Electrification (SODE) roundtable focused on the electrification of the building sector brought together 34 leading voices from entities including electric utilities, technology providers, and trade associations on June 19, 2023 in Brussels. The discussion was driven by the theme Electrifying the Building Sector: Unlocking Potential of Technology and moderated by Christianna Papazahariou, Head of EU Engineering Centre and Business Strategy at LG Electronics.

The roundtable was ignited by a presentation from Anders Lyntorp, Head of Energy and Technology of the City of Copenhagen, which delved into the state of building electrification in the city and pathways to improve it. Participants then engaged in lively exchanges on the potential to accelerate the electrification of the building sector, the bottlenecks that impede progress, and opportunities to confront them.

Considering the large portion of global energy consumption accounted for by buildings, opportunities for electrification in the sector are significantly under-exploited. Many of the technologies necessary to further electrify buildings are already available; measures can be implemented in the short and medium terms to increase building electrification. The roundtable addressed questions surrounding how best to promote progress in this area, including through concrete collaboration between stakeholders.

Key insights emerging from the discussion

Many of the technological solutions to electrify buildings already exist, but there are several bottlenecks to the implementation of these technologies to swiftly advance the electrification of the building sector: 

  • A shortage of skilled workers capable of installing electrified solutions such as heat pumps, solar panels, and EV chargers is one of the most pressing issues slowing down the integration of electrified solutions in buildings. Policy action can alleviate the problem and grow the skilled labour force through government education programs and financial incentives. Furthermore, business leaders can play a key role in developing these essential skills among their workforces. Manufacturers can also search for innovative ways to simplify the installation of their technologies, lifting the burden from onsite workers.
  • Another challenge in promoting uptake ofreadily available electrified solutions in the building sector is the difficulty to generate behavioral change among stakeholders. Educating communities and stakeholders on the benefits of electrification is an area where a lot of work needs to be done and, while policies and regulations can play a role in necessitating the uptake electrified solutions, a strong business case must also be clearly conveyed to promote organic initiative on the demand side.
  • The upfront cost of technologies such as heat pumps may not be feasible for all building owners, especially individual homeowners. Governments, utilities, and businesses can work together to mitigate affordability issues through subsidies, financing plans, and investments, thus ensuring that more efficient decarbonized solutions are more widely accessible.
  • However, subsidies can only go so far if high electricity prices continue to impact the affordability of electrified solutions over time. Providing a secure, reliable, and affordable supply of electricity is essential to enhancing the adoption of these electrified technologies.
  • The shift to electrified solutions poses complexities for building owners as obsolete installations need to be modernized to ensure a safe transition, but it can also create a valuable opportunity to facilitate the integration of energy management systems to help communities benchmark and regulate their consumption, while increasing grid flexibility through the integration of such assets.
  • Public-private partnerships and cross-sector collaboration, includingretooling of oil and gas service providers, can help ensure that the decarbonization of buildings can be carried out within the short timeline required to meet climate targets without putting too much pressure on the grid. Standardization of products and communication between stakeholders is key for a successful collaborative approach.
  • Elaborating clear and long-term planning for the uptake of electrified solutions in buildings will allow utilities and technology providers to work with governments to ensure that policy targets align with what is actually feasible based on the state of the grid and technology. Transparency in terms of what is possible and what would need to be implemented can enable smoother and faster electrification.

This roundtable was the second installment in a series of four exclusive discussions aiming to deepen collaboration between leaders across the value chain. The previous roundtable was held in Rome in March 2023 and focused on the electrification of processes. The next event will be held in New York City, USA in Septemeber 2023, on the margins of Climate Week NYC.

The sessions prioritize the sharing of insights and lessons learned in relation to the pillars identified in the Catalyzing Electrification Accord signed by SODE participants last year.