Switching to electricity to help tackle the climate challenge

Switching to electricity to help tackle the climate challenge

‘We want to start a national conversation about where electricity comes from,’ says Ellen Diskin, programme manager of the National Network, Local Connections Programme

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9th October, 2021

‘We are all motivated to leave something better behind. But it needs to be easier to be climate conscious in our homes and workplaces,” says Ellen Diskin, programme manager of the National Network, Local Connections Programme.

The Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD, recently unveiled a major new initiative by ESB Networks. The National Network, Local Connections Programme, part of the €4 billion-plus network investment programme to 2025, will transform how energy on Ireland’s electricity network is managed and consumed at a local level by customers and communities across the country.

“This programme will create new opportunities for customers, from renewable generators to homes, farms, communities and businesses, as they adopt new technologies, manage their energy costs and drive down their carbon footprint,” explains Diskin.

“With more renewable generation and more efficient consumption of electricity, and active participation from stakeholders and consumers, the National Network, Local Connections Programme will put in place a smart electricity system that is safe and secure, responsive to local and regional needs, and make a positive impact in the fight against climate change.”

As renewables become the dominant source of electricity generation, we’re creating more green energy than ever before. “There are many ways that we could clean our energy but with electricity – the wonderful thing is that the infrastructure is already in place,” says Diskin.

“Electricity reaches every single home in the country. We don’t have to put in a new network, it is just a matter of repurposing the network we already have.”

More than 40 per cent of our electricity in Ireland comes from onshore wind farms. By 2030, and as outlined in the 2019 Climate Action Plan, at least 70 per cent of our electricity will come from all renewable sources.

ESB Networks are the wires that connect everything, explains Diskin. “The Irish electricity network is owned, developed and maintained by ESB Networks on behalf of all Irish electricity customers. In Ireland our network is particularly long and complex in reaching every home, business and farm,” she says.

“We have enough network in Ireland to wrap around the globe four times – roughly 180,000km. We have 260,000 medium voltage substations, an average of more than one for every 10 homes and businesses. We have almost as many poles as we have homes and businesses in Ireland [2.1 million poles versus 2.4 million homes and businesses].”

The role ESB Networks now wants to play is encouraging and incentivising people to use wind and solar energy, as well as using energy that is local to them. “It’s also a chance to adopt greener habits at home, on the farm and in business,” says Diskin. “By learning when the grid is powered by renewables, we can move toward grid efficiency at home.

“Right now, I have no idea what time of day I could be consuming local renewables even though there are solar panels on some of the houses on my street. At ESB Networks we have a huge amount of information in our control centre, but the public don’t have access to this. We want to put systems in place that will push this information outwards and people will know when their local network is particularly green or cost effective. And by using our appliances in those periods, we can tap into this increasing pool of green energy sources.”

ESB Networks is just one cog in the system, says Diskin. “But we want to be the cog that gets other cogs turning. We want electricity providers developing customer offerings that include home energy management systems. The individual components are there, but we will need to digitise our entire system.

People’s attitudes aren’t the issue, it’s their behaviour, she says. “ESB Networks could put in place the most perfect system, but it will only deliver when people have the technology and information at hand. People don’t usually think about their electricity and where it comes from. We want to start a national conversation about this and inspire people to be more curious about the energy they use.”

The Consultation process for the ESB Networks, National Network, Local Connections Programme is now open.

If you would like to share your thoughts or participate in the formal consultations click here

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