This paper is following the EU target of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Near Zero Energy and Positive Energy communities are expected to play a significant part of the strategy that will be followed. Within this context, the authors aim to investigate the feasibility of a new-built positive energy neighborhood and the retrofit of an existing neighborhood to near zero energy performance in the city of Alexandroupolis, Greece. The study may act as a roadmap for the uptake and development of positive energy and near-zero energy communities in Greek Cities, similar to Alexandroupolis. Furthermore, it can be used as a decision support tool for policy makers, when assessing alternative options towards the path of decarbonization of EU economy by 2050.
The authors highlight the advantages of performing nearly zero energy retrofit at the district rather than the building level, while they recognise the challenges entailed, in an attempt to stimulate interest in community energy schemes. Net Zero Energy (NZE) settlements where the zero energy principles are considered at the district scale, apart from their decarbonisation potential are seen as places that will stimulate environmental awareness, innovation, economic growth and social progress.
The European Strategic Energy Technology Plan highlighted the importance of smart cities, and supported the roll-out of positive energy blocks and districts within cities that take advantage of the synergies and energy flows between buildings. The analysis of this research is conducted within the framework of the IRIS project (‘˜Integrated and Replicable Solutions for Co-Creation in Sustainable Cities’ ), in which Alexandroupolis is included as a follower city. The IRIS smart city transition takes place through increasing the share of renewable energy and energy management, e-mobility services and citizen engagement, while benefiting from multi-type available storage systems.
The aim of the work is to evaluate the feasibility of energy communities in Greece by selecting and replicating technologies and activities that are currently being demonstrated in the Lighthouse Cities (Gothenburg (Sweden), Nice Cote d’ Azur (France) and Utrecht (Netherlands)), making them fit within the local context of Alexandroupolis. The most suitable technologies and combinations of these technologies that meet the technical requirements for nearly-zero or positive energy performance in a financially viable manner are identified. Various integrations of these technologies are evaluated with the use of suitable technical and financial Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The analysis follows a bottom up approach, where firstly, the energy consumption is determined at the building level, and then results are aggregated to the level of the community, in order to determine the energy balance at the district level.
This research demonstrates the benefits for the occupants of participating in an energy community scheme, rather than performing the energy upgrade on an individual house basis. The authors attempt to stimulate the interest of stakeholders for investing in energy community schemes. The need to update the definition of near zero buildings for the uptake of truly near-zero energy buildings and communities is also highlighted. Based on the experience gained from this study and the limitations identified, recommendations are formed towards further research in diverse contexts where the concept of Near-Zero Energy and Positive Energy Communities can be applied.
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