An article from Norwegian SciTech News at NTNU

This infrared photo shows heat loss from a normal house on the left, compared to a passive house on the right. (Illustration: Passivhaus Institut)
This infrared photo shows heat loss from a normal house on the left, compared to a passive house on the right. (Illustration: Passivhaus Institut)

Calls for more passive houses

If all Norwegians completely renovated their houses, vast amounts of electricity could be saved and used elsewhere, estimates show.

Published

Gemini, NTNU Trondheim - Norwegian University of Science and Technology

NTNU is the second largest of the eight universities in Norway, and has the main national responsibility for higher education in engineering and technology.

I Norway, electricity is one of the most common heating sources compared with other countries.

According to Statistics Norway, the electricity consumption per capita is about ten times larger than the world average.

Almost all the power production comes from hydropower.

One-third of the power

The housing sector today represents about one-third of the country’s energy consumption, or about 35 TWh out of a total of 112 TWh

Hunderfossen power station. Almost all the power production in Norway comes from hydropower. (Photo: Paul Kleiven/NTB scanpix)
Hunderfossen power station. Almost all the power production in Norway comes from hydropower. (Photo: Paul Kleiven/NTB scanpix)

As a result, it is indirectly one of largest contributors to Norway’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“The so-called ‘green power’ we produce could be better used for other things than heating houses,” says Stefan Pauliuk, a postdoc in the Industrial Ecology Programme at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

He points out that it could be used for electric cars or the metal- and oil industry, and replace a lot of the fossil fuels we use today.

“If the UN and we [Norwegians] are to reach our climate targets, and show the world that we are serious about this, this is a good place to start,” Pauliuk says.

As a part of his doctoral dissertation, Pauliuk estimated how Norway could reduce its emissions and energy consumption using several different scenarios

Could be 75 percent lower

By 2050, the population will reach 7 million people. Today, the number is approximately 5 million.

In spite of this growth, Norwegian energy consumption for housing could be 75 percent lower than it is today, according to Pauliuk’s study.

This would drop carbon emissions from the sector by as much as 70 percent.

New models

Pauliuk calculated different scenarios for the industrial sector, the transport sector and the housing sector to estimate conditions in 2050.

He estimated how much we could save in energy consumption if the Norwegian housing stock was built according to, or upgraded to, a passive standard.

Pauliuk and his colleagues also included variables in their model such as population growth, technical disadvantages, energy needs, different heating systems, different ways of living and greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental influences during, building, demolition and rehabilitation.

“No one has previously published models that include all these variables,” Pauliuk claims.

Passive house?

A passive house is designed to not consume much more energy than what the sun, electrical appliances and humans themselves contribute.

A house like this works because of passive measures such as insulation, high density, quality windows, utilizing solar energy and heat recovery in the ventilation.

Pauliuk has estimated how much energy housing in Norway will consume during the next 40 years if Norway does:

A: Build and renovate houses the way it is currently done,

B: Tear down and reconstruct the entire housing stock.

C: Build everything according to passive standards or renovated to these standards.

D: If the living space per person is reduced, or if everyone uses efficient electrical appliances and water heating.

The results

A combination of the three last measurements gives the best effect. Also when you consider what happens during construction and demolition, and the estimated increase in the population of about 50 percent.

In this case, the yearly energy consumption of Norway’s housing sector will then be reduced from 34 TWh to around 10 TWh by 2050.

Very few houses in Norway today are built according to passive standards.

“Tearing down all of our houses is probably not an option. It is not the most energy efficient solution anyway because of the emissions from demolition and building anew,” says Pauliuk.

“But completely renovating the housing stock is possible.”

“There will of course be cons to this approach. It will require 40 years of commitment and large investments. But considering future prices on carbon emissions and an increased pressure on the energy market it is likely that these measures will be cost efficient.”

Possible and profitable

The UN’s climate targets mean that global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 80 per cent by 2050.

Norway’s goal is to be climate neutral by 2030.

Housing is the easiest sector to change if we are to reach the climate targets, according to researcher.

“Norway is one of the richest countries in the world and housing is the easiest sector to change if we are going to reach the climate targets,” Pauliuk says

“It is technically possible and economically profitable. If we can’t do this, we have no right to accuse other nations of not contributing.”

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