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Daily CSR

Daily CSR
Daily news about corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability

A Peek Inside Shell’s EcoGenie


Shell’s researchers use renewable energy and smart technology to turn an old house into an energy efficient smart one.

Dailycsr.com – 27 July 2016 – The Company of Shell has built an “experimental house” in the Netherlands which shows that incorporating renewable energy can cut down cost and the carbon footprints of “old homes”.
The exterior of the experimental house mimics any of its “terraced house” neighbours situated on “leafy Dutch street”. In the writer Dan Fineren’s words, the hallway is clad with tiles and appears to be an old European house which is “spacious and somewhat sombre”.
However, there is a “large touchscreen control panel” on the mental piece of the living room, which gives out the first hint of a modern touch. In fact, the house turned out to be smarter than Fineren thought for the house began to monitor him, the moment he set his foot inside, whereby tracking the rooms he used and what time he used. Likewise, the house “keeps a record” of the timings of the users, whereby it picks up on the former’s habit and “avoids heating empty rooms and ensures the heat is on” when needed.
The house, EcoGenie, was built in the years of 1930s in “The Hague, the Netherlands”. Shell used the said house to find out the effects of “low-carbon technologies such as solar panels and heat pumps” working in collaboration to operate the same. The lead scientist of the project, Peter Breithaupt, seeks to figure out “practical ways for people to reduce their bills and carbon footprints”.
Furthermore, the project would also help Shell to determine the ways “renewable technologies” can change the future of energy consumption. Breithaupt says:
“We wanted to learn how homeowners can make the biggest cuts in their carbon dioxide emissions at the lowest cost. This project is all about learning by doing.”
Old houses usually prove costly to retain the warmth as their insulation systems are often poor, while refurbishing to improve the insulation can be “expensive for most homeowners”. Therefore, the team of scientists working on EcoGenie aims to “discover better ways of cutting the cost and carbon impact of heating homes in colder climates” with the help of existing technologies. Breithaupt adds:
“It’s now cheaper to invest in renewable energy than to insulate an old home”.
The fridge in EcoGenie is solar powered, while the same source of energy keeps it “warm in winter. The heat pump absorbs the heat released by the refrigerator, the ground and air and in turn pumps it “into the house”. Another Shell scientist, Dr Alice Elliott, informed:
“Heat pumps work like fridges in reverse”.
While, Dan Fineren writes:
“Using the EcoGenie as a living laboratory, Dr Elliott and the rest of the team have managed to cut the house’s carbon emissions by more than half. They use a gas boiler as backup on the coldest winter days, when the air and ground-source heat pumps struggle to absorb enough warmth”.
The house works “quietly in the background” and allows one to carry on with life. In fact, the espresso machine in the house also runs on solar energy. Talking about days spent in EcoGenie, Stephanie Demoullin, said:
“The only change in my daily routine was that every night, before I went to sleep, I would look at the screen to check that everything was working properly”.
The renewable energy experiments in the house take place in a quiet manner “in the garden shed or in the cellar, a maze of pipes, heat exchangers and sensor wires”.