It is clear that we need to reduce our energy consumption. The government supports this idea and has drawn up a number of building and renovation requirements that force building owners to use energy more sustainably. In this sense, the Excess Project is visionary and one step ahead of the regulations. The European H2020 project wants to stimulate housing that is energy-positive. In other words, a house that produces more energy than it uses.

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Europe has to achieve energy-neutrality by 2050, which will only be possible if we tackle our building stock in a consistent way. Making buildings energy neutral could be a first objective. But only if we develop buildings that produce more energy than they consume will we be able to strengthen our climate goals.

Drawing a single line for the whole of Europe is a bit pointless, because Europe has different climate zones. Measures that would work perfectly in the south of Spain may be meaningless in Finland. That is why Project Excess also covers eight European countries in four different climate zones: Belgium, Spain, Austria and Finland. No fewer than 21 partners - coordinated by the Joanneum Research Institute in Graz, Austria - want to prove that it is possible to transform near-zero energy houses into energy-positive buildings, so-called Positive Energy Buildings or PEBs. PEBs are buildings that produce more energy than they consume, thereby maximising self-consumption.

In order to change a home that consumes little energy into one that generates more energy than it consumes, not only new technologies are needed, but also different materials and ICT solutions. Moreover, it is also necessary to optimise the interaction between local energy production, storage and consumption at building and neighbourhood level. The project wants to further explore this combined approach. For Belgium, Energyville/VITO has committed to working together with social housing company Cordium in Hasselt.

EnergyVille/VITO is researching how to scale up PEB houses and is involved in the technological development of thermal energy storage and energy management systems in the Belgian demo. What is special about the Belgian project is that a social housing company is involved. At the moment, the social housing units of Cordium in Hasselt are connected to a heat network that uses shallow geothermal energy. PVT panels will be placed on the roofs of the homes to supply electricity and heat to the heat network. Thermal energy storage will be provided in each home to make the heat network work more efficiently. Also interesting is a tool that allows the residents to monitor their consumption individually.

Different systems are developed depending on the climate zone. Finland, for example, is investing in a new type of ground heat exchanger with a depth of 800 metres, combined with an adapted heat pump. And Austria wants to develop integrated photovoltaic solar panels that are built into facade cladding. Spain is focussing on solar energy that will be used more effectively in the building, with surpluses being stored in a battery for daily use.