Grid-interactive buildings: the key to transitioning from net zero to zero

22 Jun 2023

The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) today launched its first report on grid-interactive buildings, highlighting the crucial role they will play in achieving a zero-carbon future.

Grid-interactive buildings are designed to use electricity in a smart and efficient way, shifting energy usage to times when it's both cheaper and cleaner, while helping to generate clean energy and reduce costs.

CEO, Davina Rooney said grid-interactive efficient buildings have enormous potential to align environmental and economic outcomes, and they will play a pivotal role in cutting energy costs, alleviating strain on overburdened networks, and facilitating the transition to renewable energy sources.

“Put simply, grid-interactive buildings hold the key to transitioning our built environment from net zero to zero emissions,” Ms Rooney said.

As the Australian Government aims to increase renewable energy in the electricity grid from 36% to 82% by 2030, in line with the Paris targets, it's crucial to ensure that buildings are ready for a world with zero carbon emissions.

Ms Rooney said buildings currently consume around 50% of Australia’s electricity, but during peak periods they account for 77% of system capacity.

“By shifting a portion of the energy usage in buildings for a few hours each day, five days a week, Australia could cut down greenhouse gas emissions by 0.6% - equivalent to the impact of 180,000 homes,” Ms Rooney said.

“This reduction can be achieved without decreasing energy usage and would also lead to a substantial cost reduction of $1.7 billion in supplying electricity to Australian buildings each year.”

The paper showcases examples of buildings making innovative changes to match electricity demand with the supply of renewables. 

The Sydney Opera House has an innovative power purchase agreement that ties its electricity demand to the output of solar and wind farms in regional NSW. Its innovative team continues to explore ways to match demand more closely with renewable energy production.

Coordinated action from grid-interactive efficient buildings will yield significant benefits, including a more cost-effective clean energy transition and electrification of the built environment, increased stability of the electricity system, higher returns on renewable energy investments, and reduced carbon emissions from the building sector.

Ms Rooney said GBCA has been actively developing a set of principles and actions to facilitate the transformation of the built environment into a grid-interactive system.

“The principles in this paper underpin the new grid resilience credit in our new Green Star rating tools. They will guide our advocacy and education programs in the coming years, as grid interactivity becomes an increasingly critical objective for decarbonising the built environment.”

“By incorporating grid-interactive strategies into building design, operation, and management, we can create a sustainable and resilient future for the built environment, ensuring a smooth transition to zero-carbon buildings.”

Read and download the report, ‘From net zero to zero: A discussion paper on grid-interactive efficient buildings’.

Case studies:

·        Opera House

·        University of Technology Sydney, Dr Chau Chak Wing Building

·        Grosvenor Place

·        EG Funds Management