Energy Management System

Our path to sustainable energy solutions for real estate

Sustainability: As a responsible pension fund, it plays a role for us not only in our investments. In dealing with our real estate, too, long-term sensible use of available resources is increasingly taking center stage. And encounters an industry that can pull on numerous smaller and larger levers to take a step forward: energy renovations, renewal of heat generation systems without fossil fuels, retrofitting photovoltaic systems to generate electricity, climate protection and a growing demand for e-mobility are just some of the issues that concern us at Asga when it comes to sustainability in our properties.

There are more than 80 properties in our portfolio that are suitable for photovoltaic (PV) systems.With the simultaneous renewal of heating systems (e.g., through electricity-powered heat pumps) and a rapidly growing demand for charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, the requirements for energy systems in buildings are becoming more and more complex. However, with the increasing complexity also come opportunities: energy management systems as intelligent nodes of the overall energy solution are ideally suited to optimize different energy flows in a coordinated manner.

An energy management system (EMS) links the “big consumers” such as charging stations with the rest of the building installation. Currently, mainly boilers, heat pumps, charging stations, inverters and energy storage systems are controlled with the help of an EMS. In the future, the number of controllable consumers will continue to increase. An EMS always links at least two of these large consumers/production plants with intelligent control. Both the self-consumption can be increased and the expensive peak load can be controlled and optimized. In this way, costs can be saved and a significant contribution to the energy turnaround can be made.

Another plus point: Since the EMS records all energy flows in the building and the data can be retrieved in aggregated form, data procurement for billing and reporting is simplified. So the future belongs to an intelligent energy management system. And we, too, are banking on it: Used as needed and in a targeted manner, it will enable us to implement our real estate sites integrally and with sustainable overall energy solutions in the future.

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A sunny outlook – how Asga’s roofs help protect the climate

A win-win situation: Through photovoltaics, we are increasing the attractiveness of our properties as well as contributing to the federal government's energy strategy.

Under the federal government’s energy strategy 2050, around three times as much renewable energy will be produced by 2035 compared with today. As the strategy excludes hydroelectric power, solar energy is accorded a major role. Photovoltaic systems (PV systems) can help by making the target economically viable – and on top of that it increases the attractiveness of a property. To this end, a level playing field for locally produced electricity for own consumption has been created on a Swiss-wide basis.

And it is precisely this locally produced electricity where we see potential. Own consumption within developments and buildings makes ecological and economic sense. A decent return can be earned depending on the location, use and quality of the site. And with a positive impact: We are convinced that PV installations can contribute to a successful energy transition. 

If we can supply a property with locally produced electricity, we achieve a degree of independence from the electricity market. Seasonal fluctuations in production (summer and winter yield) and the current high cost of energy storage are the biggest challenges. In addition, there are major regional differences in electricity prices and export tariffs.

In 2019, our real estate division conducted a comprehensive portfolio analysis on the technical and financial feasibility of PV systems. The first pilot projects were implemented and internal expertise strengthened based on these findings. Furthermore, an internal strategy paper was produced on the expansion of PV installations within the existing portfolio. The portfolio’s latest PV installation – in Aarau – was commissioned at the end of November 2020. The completed PV system will produce around 95,000 kWh per year – equivalent to the energy consumption of around 20 four-member, single-family dwellings. The module occupies a space of around 550 m2 on an extensively planted roof space totalling around 2,500 m2.

At Asga, we assess the concept behind PV installations on a case-by-case basis. Clarification of technical feasibility is undertaken internally in an initial phase, the aim being to gradually ramp up the expansion of PV installations over the coming years. The plan is for the profitability of the PV installation to more or less correspond to the property’s expected income yield.

We intend to continue strengthening local electricity production within the portfolio in 2021 and play an active part in the energy transition. We look forward to further PV projects, including those planned or constructed by our member firms.

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How we acquire properties

Our properties are an important part of our portfolio and help us retain our stability as a co-operative over the long term.

Our Swiss Direct Real Estate business division – that is, our directly owned properties – has seen constant growth in the past few years. Today, direct real estate assets of around CHF 1.8 billion are actively managed from our head office in St. Gallen. Last year there was a new addition to our portfolio: the “7am Park” development in Winterthur.

So, how do we proceed if we’re interested in a particular property? Portfolio transactions such as “Eichpark” form part of the division’s core business and are normally undertaken several times a year. Available properties are first of all assessed internally, particularly with regard to our mandate guidelines as well as compliance with our strategy. Due diligence is then performed in conjunction with external consultants, in a process lasting several weeks. We then present the investment opportunity to the Real Estate Investment Committee. Following discussion and price-setting, we submit a binding offer and – if it is accepted – commence negotiations. In uncertain times, real estate investments constitute a stable income stream for the pension fund.

However, we continue to manage our properties once they are part of the Asga portfolio. At Landquart, we are currently looking at the installation of a photovoltaic system with the aim of further enhancing the attractiveness of the property and playing our part in the energy transition. The installation of charging points (e-mobility) is being assessed and implemented in response to demand.

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