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Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/rser
I C L E I N F O
Low energy buildings
A B S T R A C T
This paper presents the editorial for the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews joint special issue devoted
to the research work discussed and presented at the 11th Conference on Sustainable Development of Energy,
Water and Environment Systems (SDEWES), held from the 4th September to the 9th September 2016 in Lisbon,
Portugal and the 2nd South East European (SEE) SDEWES Conference held from June 15th to June 18th, 2016 in
Piran, Slovenia. This special issue is in line with the journal’s aim of publishing research from across the ever-
broadening field of renewable and sustainable energy with a strong review element. Previous SDEWES con-
ference special issues have gathered a significant knowledge base in the field of sustainable development that
reflects the continuous research efforts of the SDEWES research community. Therefore, this editorial provides
not only an overview of the papers published in this particular special issue, but also a wider overview of the
current trends in the domain of sustainable and renewable energy. This year’s special issue focuses particularly
on the benefits of the bio-based economy, energy security issues, fossil fuel thermal plant alternatives and
environmental constraints, district heating and cooling together with cross sector energy efficiency and energy
conservation issues. Sustainable transport systems, the issue of fuel poverty in urban neighbourhoods and re-
newable energy to support development of peripheral rural areas, optimising passive building design for hot
climates and solar-powered heating and cooling are further topics featured in this special issue. In the process of
selecting papers for this special issue, the guest editors invited in total 23 extended manuscripts for consideration
for publication. After a rigorous review process by expert reviewers overseen by the guest editors a total of 16
articles were accepted for publication.
The annual Sustainable Development of Energy, Water and Environment Systems (SDEWES) conference  is one of the world’s foremost events
for researchers in sustainable technologies to gather and present their latest findings. Similar to other sister special issues published in Renewable
and Sustainable Energy Reviews , the more recently established South East European Conference on Sustainable Development of Energy, Water
and Environment Systems (SEE SDEWES) provides a similar forum for researchers with a strong regional focus. This Special Issue of Renewable &
Sustainable Energy Reviews gathers together 16 of the most interesting papers presented at the 11th SDEWES Conference, held in Lisbon, Portugal
from the 4th to the 9th September 2016 and the 2nd SEE SDEWES Conference, held in Piran, Slovenia from the June 15th to the 18th 2016. All
aspects of energy generation, transmission, distribution and end use are undergoing a transition to low-carbon, sustainable systems. In this year’s
Special Issue there is a strong focus on energy use in buildings, with insulation materials for passive and low-energy house design in different
climates, district heating and cooling networks, and novel solar-powered heating and cooling systems among the topics studied. Energy demand for
heating and cooling and the issue of waste heat are also studied from the perspective of the industrial sector. Improvements in biomass estimation
processes used in the emergent bio-economy are also addressed. Important cross-cutting topics such as fuel poverty, energy security, barriers to
achieving sustainable transport systems and social sustainability assessments are also to the fore, and serve to remind us of the wider the social and
geopolitical context within which the transition to sustainable energy systems must take place. The expertise of the guest editors incorporates a wide
range of research themes related to the global transition to sustainability, including energy usage in buildings [1,2], district heating , biomass
energy , sustainable transport including electric vehicles [5–10], wind energy [11–18], energy policy and impacts of climate change [19–23] and
management of distributed generation and loads to facilitate integration of renewables [24–27].
List of abbreviations: AC, Alternating Current; CHP, Combined Heat and Power; CO2, Carbon Dioxide; DC, Direct Current; DH, District Heating; DRVT, Demand-Resources Value
Targeting; EU, European Union; GDP, Gross Domestic Product; GHG, Greenhouse Gas; GWP, Global Warming Potential; LCA, Life Cycle Assessment; MCP Directive, Medium Combustion
Plants Directive;; MESSAGE, Model for Energy Supply Strategy Alternatives and their General Environmental Impact; NZEB, Nearly zero energy buildings; PJ, petajoule; PV, Photovoltaic;
R&D, Research & Development; SLCA, Social life cycle analysis; 4DH, 4th Generation of District Heating; SDEWES, Sustainable Development of Energy, Water and Environment Systems;
SEE, South East European; UK, United Kingdom
Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 82 (2018) 1685–
Available online 11 November 2017
1364-0321/ © 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
2.1. Energy security
One of the key aspects of the transition to sustainable energy systems, along with long term environmental impacts, is energy security on the
national, regional or local level. Geostrategic relations among major superpowers have a strong impact on factors such as energy consumption,
prices, and infrastructure development. The impact of climate change at a local level in Europe was examined in  while quantification of energy
security was the main focus of . The authors of the latter study have proposed a new approach that, in addition to basic indicators, takes into
account sovereign credit rating as a measure of economic, financial and political stability. A ‘geoeconomic’ index of energy security was developed,
and tested using principal component analysis on the case of European Union (EU) and other selected countries over a period of ten years
(2004–2013). In this research the authors concluded that the biggest impact on energy security is exerted by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per
capita, and a slightly smaller but still significant impact by sovereign credit rating. Surprisingly, the results showed only a small influence of energy
dependence and of production of energy from renewable sources on energy security in general. This means that high import dependence does not
necessarily mean a low energy security level for a country since it can be compensated by enhancing other elements of the system, such as a stronger
financial position. The authors of  applied a time-series clustering approach and three energy security indicators based on the Shannon–Wiener
diversity index. The main intention was to analyse how the European Union’s (EU) energy security, in term of energy supply, evolved over several
decades. The analysis was carried out for the time horizon between 1978 and 2014. In this case the main driver of improving energy security was the
diversification of primary energy sources. Another important indicator of improving energy security was closely connected to the diversity and
specific origins of imports. Through the results of this research three groups of countries were identified; the first with consistently high levels of
energy security and moderate improvements, the second with lower levels of energy security than those in the first group and the third group with
initially low energy security levels but significant improvements over the observed time period. As a main conclusion, the authors have identified the
positive effect of the EU’s energy policy efforts in creating electricity and gas markets, increasing competition, driving diversification of supplies and
reduction of energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Energy security is a long-running theme of the SDEWES conferences. For example, in  the authors have tried to define а new energy security
indicator with special focus on long-term sustainability. The indicator was tested with the EU as a case study for the period 1990–2012. Usually
researchers focus on the security of supply without taking environmental indicators and social aspects into account. Through this research, the
authors have proposed a new indicator, the Energy Security Index, which includes environmental and social aspects. One of the first efforts to
connect sustainability and energy security presented at SDEWES conferences was through . In that paper, the authors discussed security in
relation to sustainable development. One of the main conclusions was that the present situation cannot be modified by employing old approaches
predicated on oil dependence and competition for remaining reserves. Instead, the authors emphasised the need for basic curiosity-driven research
enriched by research and development (R&D) focused on renewable energy. Energy security issues have been analysed on the national level as well.
In  the authors focused on Cyprus and Israel and the issue of the role of natural gas in the future energy security concepts. Scenarios were
developed with the MESSAGE (Model for Energy Supply Strategy Alternatives and their General Environmental Impact) global optimisation model in
order to analyse the interactions between the two countries’ energy systems. The inter-reliance of gas and electric power systems has also been
investigated in [33,34] and the potential for compressed air energy storage in .
2.2. Energy demand and conservation
Energy security issues are not only connected to the supply side of the energy system or trying to satisfy current energy demands. Reducing cross
sector energy demands is also one of the most important aspects of increasing energy security. Within this special issue several authors have analysed
various cross-sector energy efficiency and conservation approaches. The authors of  focussed on medium-scale combustion plants and the impact
of the EU Medium Combustion Plants (MCP) Directive in the Czech Republic. A new approach of policy impact assessment is introduced which is
compared to the official EU assessment methodology. In this comparison the authors have calculated that the EU assessment leads to results that are
10 times lower than the proposed approach. The authors argue that the significant discrepancies are due to the insufficiency of the EU’s general
abatement cost curves. The main conclusion is that it is necessary to perform such analyses on the local level. The authors of  examine energy
intensive industries, particularly the aluminium industry. The research is focused on the industry’s need to reduce its energy consumption and to
become more competitive on the market. As a consequence of energy demand reduction, the environmental impact is also decreased. The main
retrofitting strategy to be introduced is the innovative direct current (DC) technology, with a 50% increase in energy efficiency in comparison to
traditional natural gas and alternating current (AC) induction. The authors have conducted a life cycle assessment (LCA) for four European electricity
mixes and showed reductions of up to 8% GHG emissions in every country.
Energy efficiency and conservation has been researched very widely within SDEWES conferences; from the perspective of specific industries in
, where the focus was on energy consumption and environmental impact reduction in the cement industry, to the process industry in  and
, where the authors tried to improve the energy efficiency of heat exchangers by developing a novel optimisation method focusing on the
exchanger geometry details or by analysing energy savings potential through process integration technology, focusing on better modelling tech-
niques. In  the authors have presented an effective framework in order to determine the most cost-effective retrofit possibilities for a total site
system. Possibilities for the reduction of energy usage and environmental impacts were also analysed for the power sector, with a special focus on the
possibilities of carbon capture retrofits. In  the authors have focused on the investment decision concerning the possibility of retrofitting existing
supercritical pulverised coal units with carbon capture and storage technology while the authors of  have focused on Portuguese fossil fuel power
plants and the effect of their retrofit with post-combustion carbon capture and storage. Finally, the authors in previous SDEWES conferences have
researched the effects and implementation of energy efficiency measures and policies on the level of an entire national industry  or a whole
2.3. District heating and cooling
One of the strongest research topics of SDEWES conferences, in relation to the increase of energy security and sustainability, is district heating
(DH) and cooling. Within this special issue the authors of  have created a library for the modelling of thermal-energy transport in district heating
Editorial Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 82 (2018) 1685–1690
systems. Systematic comparison between models has been carried out and the main conclusion is that, although most of the models perform
similarly, they do not equally reproduce the dynamics. Since district heating systems are robust and complex, the authors have also developed a
methodology for reduced mathematical models. These models correctly identify relevant model dynamics and are implemented in MATLAB
(Mathworks Inc., USA). One of the key issues in 4DH systems is the integration of various energy sources and the integration of low temperature heat.
With that in mind, the authors of  have focused on the potential for utilisation of waste heat from data centres in the Nordic countries, with the
main focus being Finland. The authors identified the main barriers to the utilisation of waste heat, which are: the low quality of waste heat (e.g.
besides the low temperature, instability in the heat output is identified as an issue) and the high investment cost. Another barrier is the non-
transparent relation between DH companies and data centres. This is the case for data centres that are already connected to the DH networks. The
authors of  presented a new approach to minimise capital costs and the total energy consumption of a DH network, which was tested on the case
of South Wales in the United Kingdom (UK). The focus was on different temperature regimes and target pressure losses. Flow rate and temperature
were optimised in order to have a clear operation strategy. In  different policy strategies for the integration of wood biomass into district heating
systems were analysed. A system dynamic model was developed and applied to the Latvian district heating system. Comparing different countries
(Croatia and Denmark) and the specifics of their district heating systems was the topic of . In this case, the comparison identified potential
improvements to both countries’ systems. In  the authors analysed the configuration of a district heating network and optimised the route from
the plant to the end users. The main conclusion is that optimal DH network configuration is influenced by many factors such as the consumer heating
load, the distance between the heating plants to the consumer, the design criteria regarding the pressure and temperature limitation and the
corresponding network heat loss.
In  the authors considered new business and service models for district heating companies in order to maintain their competitiveness levels
and still achieve EU energy and climate targets. Some of the key issues facing future district heating systems lie not only in the technical domain but
also in the service-oriented approach. In this case the authors attempted to determine the key aspects of this service oriented path for the end
consumers. In  the authors considered a small town as a case study, in order to create a hybrid district heating system and integrate more
renewable energy sources. The focus of the research was the development of a mathematical model to optimise the chosen case study. Similar
research was reported in , with the Danish town of Frederikshaven as a case study, but in this case instead of combined heat and power (CHP)
the focus was on low temperature geothermal energy. When it comes to district heating, heat demand mapping and planning are two of the main
prerequisites for new systems or improvement of existing district heating systems. In  the authors analysed the dynamic impacts nearly zero
energy buildings (NZEBs) will have on the overall smart energy system, primarily how their energy production will influence the overall district
heating system. Meanwhile in  the focus was urban area planning with a district heating system and heat pumps as the main heating technology
contenders. The authors proposed a method for determining which areas or users should be connected to a district heating network and which should
be served using alternative technologies such as heat pumps.
2.4. Biomass energy
Biomass energy has always been a major research topic within the SDEWES conferences. The sustainability and economics of biomass-based
systems are central themes of these research efforts. In  the authors expanded the traditional way of analysing bio-based economy impact
assessment. Heretofore, analysis of the environmental and economic aspects was carried out, while social aspects were rarely considered. In this case
the authors have proposed a modified approach that considers social sustainability factors as well. This approach is based on four iterative steps of
social life cycle analysis (SLCA) which considers all life cycle phases of the economy. As a conclusion of this approach the authors state that there is
no perfect methodology that covers all social aspects because the results are heavily dependent on the boundary conditions of the system or study. In
 the authors applied a process-based ecological model to assess wood biomass production in Japan. This is crucial in order to estimate the
ecosystem’s dynamics under various forest management approaches. In the cost calculation model the authors calculated the cost of each wood chip
production stage. Four scenarios were constructed with the main conclusion that the current “business as usual” method of forest management is not
efficient for the production of wood biomass in terms of economic cost. In  the authors analysed the sustainability of the biomass industry,
focusing on biomass management and the supply chain. In this case the authors have developed a new Demand-Resources Value Targeting (DRVT)
approach in order to determine the various biomass chains and their optimal utilisation pathways. To test their model and approach the authors
applied it to Malaysia as a case study. The geographic distribution of economic potential of forest and agricultural biomass was determined in ,
with Croatia as a case study. In order to calculate the distribution the authors used the biomass cost at the plant level, transport distances and costs
and the size of the plants themselves. The results of the research showed that the total energy potential of wheat straw in Croatia was 8.5 petajoules
(PJ), corn stover 7.2 PJ and forestry residues 5.9 PJ.
The issue of sustainability of biomass energy has been frequently addressed in SDEWES special issue papers. In  the authors analysed 100%
renewable energy systems and the role of biomass used for heating in these systems. As a main conclusion, district heating systems were proposed.
For areas where the heat density is not sufficient for an economically viable district heating system, geothermal heat pumps can be proposed for
individual heating systems, even though consumption of biomass is higher than for district heating. Within the SDEWES conferences LCA has also
been an important topic for assessing the wider impacts and sustainability issues associated with the bio-based economy and processes. In  a LCA
focusing on a conceptual biomass hydrothermal liquefaction process for bio-oil production was constructed and presented while in  LCA was
used to compare two options of biomass utilisation; power plants running on biomass only versus power plants co-firing biomass. In  the authors
presented an environmental assessment of combined heat, power and cooling systems based on biomass in comparison to conventional systems. They
performed this analysis by applying the LCA methodology and came to the conclusion that small cooling-to-heating ratios cause plants, based on
biomass combustion, to be environmentally feasible while high cooling-to-heating ratios cause plants to be environmentally unfeasible. One of the
major concerns for the bio-based economy is the issue of energy crops and their sustainability. In  the authors presented a new approach for
estimating biomass yield of giant miscanthus (miscanthus giganteus) at any point during its vegetation period. Key information from the biomass
assessment forms the required input data during the measurement process and in this case the authors have simplified the required input data
process. The accuracy of the approach is heavily dependent upon the number of shoots upon which the measurements are performed. The authors
argued that measurement of 10 shoots is the most appropriate since measurement of further shoots does not provide any additional increase in
In  the water footprint of four main energy crops (corn, sweet potatoes, sugarcane and sweet sorghum), and one food crop (rice), were
investigated for the case of Taiwan while in  Taiwanese chenopod was analysed for the production of bioethanol. The results showed that the
Editorial Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 82 (2018) 1685–1690
plant has strong productivity and high adeptness with yields of 24.3–33.3 t of dried biomass per ha for three annual harvests. The bio-based economy
is also expected to impact upon the transportation sector. In  sustainable alternatives to the present-day fossil fuel-dominated energy usage of the
transport sector were evaluated. Biofuels, hydrogen, electrofuels and renewable electricity were considered in addition to eight emerging innovative
technologies such as the Hyperloop and delivery drones. Non-transportation technologies which may nonetheless affect transportation demand were
also included, e.g. 3D printing which may shorten supply chains, and augmented reality which may allow for increased remote working. The authors’
findings strongly supported the electrification of transport as far as possible in order to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, increase energy
efficiency and allow different energy sectors to be integrated.
Rural and urban communities both face challenges in the transition to sustainable energy. This is evidenced by two case studies from different
European countries. The German city of Oberhausen faces socio-economic challenges as a result of deindustrialization, and its residents are likely to
be vulnerable to fuel poverty as a result. However, in order to tackle fuel poverty, neighbourhood-level data is required, and the authors of  used
a multi-criteria decision analysis approach combined with a geographical information system in order to identify the neighbourhoods most at risk of
fuel poverty. These neighbourhoods are also those which face the greatest barriers to make the transition to sustainability. Covasna County in
Romania is a rural area whose residents also face economic challenges . This case study informed methods of calculating the heat capacities of
materials and worldwide applications to provide an overview of the thermal behaviour of lightweight insulation materials and their implications for
energy demand and indoor comfort. The study proposed a simple method to evaluate the specific heat capacity of real scale building materials with
an uncertainty of approximately 5%. The methodology of the study allows for renewable energy developments to be targeted in the localities of the
region which have the potential for greatest socio-economic impact and rural economic development.
Approximately 20% of the world’s energy demand comes from residential and commercial buildings . Energy for heating and cooling forms a
major part of building energy demand. Therefore, the study of  is timely, as it used simulation case studies to examine the potential for
innovative solar thermal and photovoltaic (PV) based heating and cooling systems to replace conventional systems based on gas-fired heaters and
electric chillers. In hot and humid climates such as that of Hong Kong, an even greater proportion of energy demand, up to 60%, may come from
buildings. Therefore, minimisation of building energy consumption is an imperative. In the study of  an optimisation process was applied to the
design of a generic high-rise residential building in order to minimise energy demand for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. Five different
locations, all in hot and humid climatic regions, were selected as case studies. Some common factors influencing demand at all locations, such as
window transmittances, were identified. In , the comfort requirements of a healthcare building were assessed under similar climatic conditions.
This work examined the environmental impact and benefits of adding materials and technologies in order to reduce the energy consumption of a
building by evaluating the embodied and operational energy of a case study of a passive housing block in Austria . The key finding revealed that
distribution pipes for building services apparently contribute 10% of the Global Warming Potential (GWP). Renewable energy sources also show
potential for mitigating CO2 emissions from conventional, fossil-fired generation, as the study of  showed based upon a novel process utilising
solar thermal power for CO2 capture and storage.
Building affordable and robust sustainable energy systems presents complex challenges in every region of the world. This Special Issue of
Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews has gathered together some of the latest advances in the technical and policy spheres which can help to
achieve the transition to reliable, low carbon energy systems for the benefit of local communities as well as helping to mitigate global climate
change. From process improvements allowing greater efficiency in energy resource usage, through to energy transmission and end-use in heating,
cooling, transportation and electricity systems, and finally, to controls on emissions and ensuring social sustainability and fairness, the breadth of
topics addressed is comprehensive. This reflects the goal of the SDEWES conference series, which is the “improvement and dissemination of knowledge
on methods, policies and technologies for increasing the sustainability of development by de-coupling growth from natural resources and replacing them with
knowledge based economy, taking into account its economic, environmental and social pillars”.
The guest editors of the SDEWES and SEE SDEWES 2016 joint special issue express their gratitude to the Editor-in-Chief of Renewable and
Sustainable Energy Reviews, Lawrence Kazmerski and the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews team, particularly Wendy Ye, Janaki
Bakthavachalam, Katherine Eve for their support and advice. We also gratefully acknowledge the efforts of the many reviewers of the initial
conference papers and the subsequent journal articles.
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Department of Energy, Power Engineering and Environment, University of Zagreb, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval, Architecture, Ivana Lučića 5,
10002 Zagreb, Croatia
School of Engineering & Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy, University College Cork, College Road, Cork, Ireland
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School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, Queen’s University Belfast, Ashby Building, Stranmillis Road, Belfast BT9 5AH, United Kingdom
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Research Center for Energy and Sustainable Development, Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts (RCESD-MASA), P.O. Box 428, Skopje, Macedonia
University of Zagreb, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval, Architecture, Ivana Lučića 5, 10002 Zagreb, Croatia
* Corresponding author.
Editorial Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 82 (2018) 1685–1690
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