Turned Down Wind - Northern Ireland

A new report just published by Dr Patrick Keatley, lecturer in Energy Policy and Infrastructure at the Ulster University, has found that in 2020 Northern Ireland dumped indigenous, clean, wind energy with a retail value of over £80M.

Dr Keatley puts that lost energy into the perspective of local EV travel…

…while NI has been successful in connecting high levels of VRE [variable renewable energy], flexibility is still largely limited to the dynamic operation of fossil generators. The relative lack of other supply-side resources such as interconnection (most notably the seemingly interminable delay to construction of the North-South interconnector),combined with the failure to deploy any significant consumer-side flexibility has resulted in a highly inefficient system. The inability to provide flexible demand to complement VRE output means that currently the main method of managing excess wind generation is to dispatch down wind generators, effectively dumping indigenous clean energy. In 2020 465 GWh (15%)of NI’s available wind energy was rejected, enough electricity to power over 140,000 homes for a year, or the equivalent of 23 million electric vehicle journeys Belfast to Derry.

The research paper was funded by the Department for the Economy and will inform the new Energy Strategy for NI. Amongst his many conclusions Dr Keatley recommends that Northern Ireland “urgently needs to empower consumers and develop flexible demand”, something which EVs can perform a significant role in.

Dr Keatley points out that while the demand for heat and cooking etc, is relatively inflexible, cars can be connected for long periods and are able to shift the times when they charge (and potentially discharge in the future). He believes they have a high potential to be a grid resource, resulting from 2 key factors; A) capacity (big battery size compared with domestic electrical loads/storage) and B) they are not time-bound.

In order to launch the Agile Tariffs seen elsewhere, the roll out of Smart Meters and smart networks is required here.

Invest in smart networks. The electricity network is a crucial enabler for empowering consumers, with significant investment needed to accommodate increases in demand for low carbon technologies, such as electric vehicles and heat pumps, and to connect new sources of low-carbon generation. The changes required to the electricity distribution system means that the next distribution price control is of particular importance, particularly for the establishment of flexibility markets and for the deployment of smart systems to maximise the utility of network assets.

Dr Keatley believes that the dispersed, rural nature of Northern Ireland’s population, along with inadequate public transport will mean the high demand for cars will continue here. This in turn ensures that EVs will be a central feature of NI’s energy system, especially when compared to much of GB.

He argues that it is unlikely that we can build out enough copper to supply a ‘dumb’ EV charging profile. The fact that we don’t have smart meters is a serious concern, and means we have electric vehicles before we have the proper tools to implement the market products required to manage them. Dr Keatley believes DfE and DfI should prioritise trials to develop new smart solutions for EV charging / discharging ahead of the smart meter rollout.

In addition the report highlights the need to “prioritise low-income households” and references the RULET Project which aims to reduce or eliminate the risk of low-income homes being left behind in the transition to these smart, integrated energy systems by employing flexible heating systems in social homes.

You can read Dr Keatley’s full report here – SMART METERS AND FLEXIBLE DEMAND IN NORTHERN IRELAND


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