02 July 2020

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Bouwinvest has teamed up with energy consultancy firm iwell to connect smart batteries to solar panels installed on an apartment complex in Utrecht to optimise production and consumption of this renewable energy source. The partnership is part of a broader initiative to make Bouwinvest’s portfolio ‘Paris Proof’ – or carbon neutral - by 2045.

Bouwinvest has in recent years been stepping up its investments in solar panels and other renewables in line with its commitment to reduce energy consumption and its carbon footprint. Now at its Rolderdiephof apartment complex in Utrecht, the company is going a step further and is connecting the 320 solar panels installed on the building with two Cubes – two smart batteries produced by iwell that store the energy and deliver it back to the grid. 

“By using our smart batteries, Bouwinvest is able to steer consumption and supply this clean source of energy during peak periods when demand is high,” Vincent Ruijter, Managing Director of iwell, explains. “For example, during heavy use of lifts at the same time that residents are cooking on their electric kitchen appliances and their electric cars are being charged outside. The ability to divert energy supplies to meet peaks in demand means that a lower voltage connection is sufficient which saves money and is also cleaner and more sustainable. That results in a better balance between power generation and consumption and excess clean energy can be supplied to third parties such as grid managers.”

Smart connections for a future-proof portfolio

Connecting renewable energy sources with smart storage systems is the way forward, says Eric-Jan Dekkers, Manager Technical Management at Bouwinvest. "Bouwinvest, on behalf of its institutional clients, has invested over €9 billion in housing, offices, shops, hotels and care homes in the Netherlands. As a long-term investor, we aim to make our portfolio resilient and ready for the future. Our goal is to be Paris Proof – or carbon neutral – by 2045."

Dekkers leads the sustainability programme for Bouwinvest’s residential portfolio, which invests mainly on behalf of Dutch pension funds. Partnerships with external experts are helping the company meet its energy reduction targets, he continues. "We are investing heavily in solar panels and other forms of renewables to save energy and curb CO2 emissions. We are also investing in the insulation of our buildings and are installing ‘smart’ heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting systems to help reduce energy consumption.” 

Social and financial returns go hand in hand

By using the Cube batteries, Bouwinvest’s residential complex in Utrecht is able to deliver the right amount of clean energy from the grid at the right place and time, Ruijter adds: “That eliminates the need to prepare the network for peak periods at the building level. But this technology is also relevant at the level of the neighbourhood and even nationwide and within Europe.”

Energy savings mean lower costs, Dekkers points out. “Thanks to the iwell battery, we use renewable energy even more efficiently which is good for the owner, the tenant and also the environment. Social and financial returns thus go hand in hand.”

Bouwinvest and iwell are now looking at how they can create more smart connections to power sources such as charging stations, other offices or apartment buildings. Ruijter: “Adding more energy sources and consumers leads to greater flexibility and in turn to increased financial and social value.”

Innovation is needed to achieve the ambitious climate targets set out in the Paris accord and long-term investors like Bouwinvest have a responsibility to play a part in the transition to renewables, Dekkers claims: “We support innovations that contribute to making our real estate more sustainable. By working with iwell we are moving one step closer.”

Bouwinvest aims to roll out the smart storage system at six of its residential properties in Leidschendam and Zoetermeer.