Energy efficiency: a major challenge in northern Europe

“In Northern Europe, the economic impact of global warming is undeniable: new markets are being carved out while industries linked to carbon may be impacted by its rising price. 

Tour Midi

Energy efficiency is becoming a major issue: it’s all about using less energy while maintaining similar comfort levels. Veolia is therefore developing new energy production techniques for customers. The advantages are: saving natural resources, lowering CO2 emissions and ensuring lower financial and environmental impacts to which the Group is able to commit contractually. 

Right now, energy efficiency requires using mixed resources and production, adapted to local contexts, like cogeneration, which enables the simultaneous production of heat and electricity. In this way, the University of Ghent (Belgium) paired up 2 small gas boilers with a cogeneration engine and a biomass boiler to heat buildings. The 8,000 tons of biomass used every year on this site have made it possible to save 1,472 tons C02, or the equivalent in annual emissions of the university’s 800 employees’ cars.

Sustainable savings in final consumption are also vital (the cheapest, ‘greenest’ energy is energy that we don’t use!). Thanks to façade regulation, and the installation of a cogeneration plant and heat pumps, the Tour du Midi in Brussels (Belgium), headquarters of the national pensions office, has made considerable savings (- 37 % fuel, - 29 % electricity, - 8,000  tons CO2 per year). 


These were made possible by using Veolia’s hubgrade platform, a smart operating and flow management system which helps to monitor energy savings. This IT tool collects energy data, which are then transmitted to analysts and enable them to draw up action plans. And lastly, operators are implementing these plans and acting in real time when problems are detected. As a result of this three-pronged approach, Veolia is able to commit contractually to energy savings made. Since 2013, 70 buildings have been connected to the Hubgrade system in Belgium. It should soon be deployed for managing all flows (water, waste collection data, etc). 

Finally, for industries which generate manufacturing waste with heating value, low carbon energy, and particularly biomass, makes it possible to combine energy savings and waste recycling. This is how Jacob Douwe Egberts, a producer of concentrated liquid coffee, can recover coffee grounds to run a biomass boiler. 14,000 tons CO2 are thus saved every year. 

The approach is almost identical with the recovery and recycling of unavoidable energy (any source of heat that would otherwise be lost, like the heat produced by a data centre). In Benelux, the recent reactivation of heat networks makes it possible to efficiently produce renewable energy in a centralised way. These systems are making a come-back as they generate individual benefits with the implementation of technical solutions which can only exist on a large scale.

The more companies and individuals agree to share their sources of energy, the more we can find high performance collective solutions that are more effective for the planet.”