‘We need a clean energy revolution’ – Oracle

Oracle Utilities has published its Future of Energy report, which looks at critical energy areas such as smart tech, energy security, electric mobility and how smart grids are going to have a key role in meeting 2050 CO2 targets set by the EU. Ireland’s Bord Gáis CEO, John Mullins, was one of the contributors to the report.

Speaking today, Bastian Fischer, vice-president, Industry Strategy, Oracle Utilities, said the smart grid is crucial for a smart energy future and to meet the European Union’s Low Carbon 2050 Strategy, which calls for an 80–95pc cut of greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2050.

“The smart grid will provide utilities with a new wealth of data intelligence and granular insight into customer usage patterns, into near real-time status of their distribution network and allow better planning of the conventional and renewable energy supply chains and optimisation of the network assets.

“Although good progress has already been made by many countries, we still have a long way to go to make the smart grid a reality. In particular, guaranteeing privacy will be important for customer confidence and essential in encouraging the participation in smart energy,” said Fischer.

Smart tech’s role

For the report Oracle engaged a panel of experts from Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) – including Hans Martens of the European Policy Commission, Will Pearson of Eurasia Group and Monika Stajnarova of BEUC – to consider how carbon emission targets of 2050 can be met. They also gave their insights on the role technology will play towards a smart energy future, looking at areas such as smart meters and getting consumers to understand the fiscal value, as well as the environmental value of embracing clean energy.

John Mullins CEO Bord Gáis

Ireland’s renewables vision

So where is Ireland at right now in terms of its clean energy focus? Oracle asked John Mullins, CEO of Bord Gáis, for his insights.

In recent years Bord Gáis has been diversifying heavily in the renewables space, rather than just concentrating on natural gas. For instance, Bord Gáis Energy (BGE) now owns 13 wind farms in Ireland. The 13 BGE wind farms in Ireland have a combined capacity of 225 megawatts (MW). Bord Gáis is also working closely with University College Cork on researching renewable gas. The two entities released a report last year (The Future of Renewable Gas in Ireland) on the area.

Right now Ireland has an incredibly high dependence on energy imports to secure its energy supply, despite the island having one of the best wind resources available on the planet, as well as being surrounded by water to support wave and tidal energy.

In the Oracle report, John Mullins pointed to how the economic situation has impacted Ireland’s renewable energy market.

He said the “reduced availability of bank finance has hit small energy producers”.

“Many projects can’t get funded or if they can get funded at a premium,” said Mullins.

Referring to the stringent Kyoto targets Ireland will have to meet, Mullins pointed to how the country is looking at developing the supply side through renewables and the demand side through smart energy to get a “low carbon count for Ireland”.

Ireland’s energy picture – thirsty oil consumer

Oracle reports that:

  • At the moment renewable sources account for only 2pc of primary energy supply in Ireland
  • Ireland remains a thirsty consumer of oil, says Oracle. The combined share of oil (59pc) and gas (23pc) in the country’s energy supply has almost doubled over the last 20 years.
  • While Ireland’s domestic production of energy, chiefly through solid fuels (peat) and natural gas, has decreased in recent years, the production of energy through renewable sources has increased significantly: by 94pc since 1990.
  • Oracle says this increase in renewable energy supply has been due to the new wind power capacity.


Wind energy

A €3.2bn programme of construction and development of high voltage transmission lines is already in progress in Ireland which is essential to the incorporation of wind power into the power grid, said Oracle today.

Ireland’s electric power transmission operator EirGrid is pioneering the Grid25 programme.

In late October EirGrid announced how it had set itself a target to help the economies on the island restore steady fiscal growth trajectories by delivering advanced power systems in both jurisdictions.

EirGrid is also the owner of the body (SONI) that operates the grid in Northern Ireland.

At the time, Dermot Byrne said EirGrid must be ready for future economic and energy scenarios, particularly in relation to connecting renewables to the grid, making it smarter overall. He also spoke about how a secure power supply is a key element of investment decision making for large demand customers.

“We must be ready. It is our job to anticipate growth and to ensure that we manage the power systems in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in co-operation with our partners, to ensure the infrastructure is in place for when the economy is fully out of recession,” he said.
“A secure power supply is a key element of the investment decision matrix for large demand customers,” he said, noting the importance of manufacturing in both Ireland and Northern Ireland.”

As regards smart meters, there have also been extensive trials for smart energy systems. Already, 1,800 smart meters have been installed across the country.

These trials will be completed in October 2011, but Oracle says early signs suggest a decrease of between 3-5pc in household energy consumption.

“This is purely on a reading basis,” says Mullins. “If you have an interaction between the meter and an ICT algorithm, you could have a much higher level of demand reduction at a household level, and the cost-benefit analysis of these meters will go onwards and upwards.”

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