Home / Media & Events / Opinion Editorials​ / How digitalized buildings can improve energy efficiency in ASEAN

How digitalized buildings can improve energy efficiency in ASEAN

By Christina Aprilia and Rio Jon Piter Silitonga
16 August 2022

According to the sixth ASEAN Energy Outlook (AEO6), the region’s total final energy consumption is expected to double from 2017 to 2040, with energy consumption in buildings increasing by two-thirds by 2030 and 120 percent by 2040.

With such a large increase in building energy consumption on the horizon, appropriate policies and initiatives to manage energy use in buildings are crucial. Such management could come in the form of building automation, which could potentially improve a building’s efficiency and flexibility (Z. Ma and B.N. Jørgensen, Energy Informatics). Digitalization through building automation can help balance demand with supply at different times of the day and avoid transmission and capacity constraints.

Building digitalization can bring multiple benefits beyond economic growth, energy savings and environment. Deploying digitalization in buildings can play a pivotal role in achieving ASEAN’s ambitious target of reducing energy intensity by 32 percent in 2025, as set out in the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC) 2021-2025.

According to the Net Zero by 2050 report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), smart building technology can increase efficiency and reduces emissions in the construction sector globally by 350 metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2050.

The smart building market in ASEAN may be at a nascent stage currently, according to PRNewswire, but it also reveals ASEAN’s future for. The increasing proliferation of smart solutions, electrification and efforts toward the net-zero carbon transition show the potential and rising demand for digitalized building solutions.

With a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11 percent according to BlueWeave Consulting, the market is expected to grow from US$79 billion in 2021 to $166.6 billion by 2028. In addition, an analytical study of the Southeast Asia’s building energy management system (BEMS) market by MarkNtel Advisors estimates that

BEMS is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 13 percent over the next several years. BEMS provides automated control through a single digital interface over large energy-consuming systems in buildings, such as HVAC, lighting control and security system.

Furthermore, an article in Advanced Energy Perspectives states that BEMS can lead to significant savings for property owners up to 30 percent of energy consumption lost through inefficiencies. BEMS offers real-time remote monitoring and integrated control of a wide range of connected systems, providing information on modes of operation, energy consumption, environmental conditions and other aspects that can be adjusted to improve performance and comfort.

BEMS can also enable early identification of failure through running diagnostics on electrical equipment and systems when the performance starts to lag.

ASEAN member states are at various phases of building digitalization strategies and standards. For instance, Malaysia’s Building Sector Energy Efficiency Project (BSEEP) is targeting BEMS for residences, offices, retail premises, sports centers, cinemas, schools, universities and other commercial premises. The Malaysian Standard (MS) 1525 provides detailed guidance on BEMS and strongly recommends its use in large buildings, particularly where air-conditioned areas exceed 4,000 square meters.

Singapore’s Green Mark 2021 covers integrated energy management and control systems for new and existing buildings. The guidance has three digital technology targets: energy consumption monitoring and benchmarking systems, lighting demand control, as well as air-conditioning and mechanical ventilation (ACMV) demand control.

Brunei Darussalam is considering adopting the ISO 50001 standard on energy management policy, according to an APEC report, while still developing its national energy management policy in the public and commercial sectors. Building owners in Brunei, however, are encouraged to install systems like BEMS, Building Automation Systems (BASs) and controllers (i.e., demand controllers) that monitor the energy consumption of equipment.

Regulatory policies are considered one of the key drivers of digitalization in the building sector. Policymakers should adopt an integrated approach that takes into consideration the links and dependencies between different technologies, the national context and potential market structure. An energy management policy is one measure to encourage the adoption of digital technology to monitor and control energy use in buildings.

While policies and financing frameworks provide support for building digitalization, regulations and standards can present effective means to force buildings to digitalize, thus adopting a push-pull strategy.

Also significant are market drivers, such as a business’s need to improve productivity or cut costs, as are market demand in the uptake of digital technologies in the building sector. For instance, certain digital technologies like BEMS are gaining interest and traction among building owners. This is because using BEMS is more tangible for this specific part of the value chain, and buildings can leverage BEMS to offer new services and capitalize on market opportunities.

Despite the benefits of applying digital technologies in buildings, there are still challenges that hinder faster and broader uptake of these technologies in the sector. Lack of industry standards, software openness, skilled human resources and low user awareness about the benefits of using digital technology are the main hindrances toward developing energy-efficient buildings.

Technological readiness and low expected returns are also generally associated with the adoption of digital technologies in the building sector. This is due to the perception that using digital technology often requires a high upfront investment cost to purchase the necessary equipment and software and to upskill employees. Therefore, the rising concern is that the adoption of digital technology would not yield significant advantages to offset the initial investment.

This shows that improving end-use efficiency with the support of digitalization needs government policy support through the standardization of equipment and appliances, offering incentives and integrating digitalization into the various strategic action plans and future work programs in the region toward energy-efficient and sustainable buildings.

The ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE), as the regional grouping’s hub, can act as a catalyst in supporting the implementation of relevant initiatives in building digitalization by conducting studies, managing project implementation, capacity building and providing other facilities to foster the adoption of digital technologies in buildings. ACE can also work on standardizing the language for building automation systems and creating an open-source repository of common building algorithms for use in license-free building automation systems.

ACE and the IEA recently published the Roadmap for Energy-Efficient Building and Construction in ASEAN, which emphasizes the importance of BEMS in buildings. Under the action area of urban planning, the digital technology uptake supports the attainment of the region’s near-term goals by 2025 toward energy-efficient buildings.

In sum, building digitalization initiatives and policy support can provide opportunities for technology adoption and help ASEAN achieve its ambitious energy intensity reduction target by 2025. It will also enable the region meet its energy-efficient building and construction goals toward net-zero buildings.This article was published in thejakartapost.com with the title “How digitalized buildings can improve energy efficiency in ASEAN.”The original article can be found here.