5th December 2019 – By Simon Acton
On Tuesday 26th November I was invited to attend an ESB Networks Innovation Event at Explorium in my role as IEVOA Chairman.
Attendees included representatives from across ESB as well as many stakeholders such as SEAI, CRU, Eir Grid, MaREI, many other ESB Networks partners, energy generators, commercial customers and competitors, such as Gas Networks Ireland, and academic institutions such as DCU & UCC.
For context, while reading this please bear in mind that ESB Networks and ESB ECars are two different parts of the ESB group. ESB Networks have a much wider brief, ESB ECars are a customer of ESB Networks in the same way that Ionity, EasyGo and any other business requiring electricity network connection are.
By 2030, in order to meet Ireland’s challenging targets for emissions reduction and renewable generation, much of our transport and heat needs to be electrified. Therefore, an important part of ESB Networks innovation brief over the coming years is to enable the decarbonisation if transport and heating through electrification.
Many innovative projects were discussed in areas including integration of renewables, customer engagement, asset optimisation, electrification of heat and transport, network flexibility and resilience, but for the purpose of this summary I’ll try keep to those most relevant to transport and therefore IEVOA.
You can read more about the ESB Networks innovation strategy here
This is ESB Networks largest current innovation project, a 3 year community engagement programme basically using Dingle as a testbed to trial a number of technologies to gain knowledge of future network needs. In the mobility space this includes the leasing of 17 EVs for the community alongside use of battery storage and smart grid/charging capabilities including V2G (Vehicle To Grid).
You can read more about the Dingle project here
This will be a great shop window for EV adoption in rural communities so I’ve agreed that we can help publicise what they are doing and also consult on which vehicles they should consider trialing.
A new term for me, but apparently if you are thinking about how you use energy then you are an Energy Citizen. Further, if you are taking specific actions with regard to how you use energy then you are an Active Energy Citizen. So by driving an EV, maybe charging them at night when renewables are plentiful or generating energy from solar PV or upgrading even our homes to use heat pumps we are all being good active energy citizens and ESB applaud us. So, well done to us, we are making a difference!
I learnt that June 2021 is the date by which it should be possible for consumers generating excess energy from solar PV and the like to get payment for what they put back into the grid and also that connection of these devices to the grid should be free of charge.
The afternoon session concluded with a series of workshops, I participated in ‘Optimising the Network for the Electrification of Heat and Transport’.
This focused on getting feedback from participants on the following questions:
- What do customers need to enable the electrification of heat and transport?
- What areas need to be prioritised.
I fed in specifically around the need for reliable, cost effective and plentiful supply of fast and slow charge points and the need for public knowledge building initiatives around EV adoption and EV champions. In terms of prioritisation I highlighted the immediate need for rapid charging hubs and plentiful charging alternatives for those who cannot charge at home.
This session included lots of discussion from stakeholders around concerns whether the network will be able to support every house having an EV home charger and a heat pump, but the impression I got throughout the day was that ESB are taking this seriously and have specific projects looking at future network requirements required to support electrification of transport and heating in particular. This tallies with what ESB eCars have previously told us, basically, don’t worry about the network, it will be ready. So I felt reassured on this point.
The day concluded with an awesome lightning show ⚡️, I’d recommend a trip to Explorium for this alone!
There was a lot more in the day but I wanted to keep this brief-ish. If you made it this far, thank you! There I’ll be another similar event in 6 months so it will be good to gauge progress then.
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