In Ireland, renewable sources create business opportunities

The Irish energy system is setting an example for the world. The technological progress in the Emerald Isle is enabling ambitious new goals and challenges to be achieved, such as the aim to generate 40% of the country’s electricity needs from renewable sources by 2020.

One major player in the energy revolution taking place across the country is Enel X (formerly EnerNOC). The company has developed pathways for  businesses to participate in new technologically-advanced schemes that directly support the evolution of the energy system.

Irish businesses are being called upon to take a leading role in this new energy ecosystem as it undergoes a profound transformation, through innovative services that offer financial incentives. We are talking about Fast Frequency Response, or FFR, a programme that is part of the family of services generally known as demand-side response, a sector in which Ireland is quickly making its mark and becoming a guiding example of good practice.

On 9th April 2018, the power system of Ireland and Northern Ireland became the first in the world to handle up to 65% of renewable non-synchronous energy on its grid. This was an important date for EirGrid, the island’s  grid operator, which aims to reach 75% variable non-synchronous renewable energy on the electricity network.

Thanks to its innovative technological capability, Enel X successfully tendered 15 MW of Fast Frequency Response services, launched on 1st October. On that day, EirGrid, the Irish grid operator, opened the new FFR service as part of its DS3 (Delivering a Secure Sustainable Electricity System) programme of ancillary services designed to support the electricity system, with the ultimate aim of helping Ireland incorporate an increasing number of renewable energies into its resources. FFR is the fastest service available within the range of DS3 services and one of the most technically challenging in the world, requiring 20 millisecond data transmission (the highest data transmission speed possible in energy). It is a true gem in terms of efficiency and intelligence.  And the size of the challenge truly justifies such a description because integrating renewable energies, which by their very nature are unpredictable, can create sudden changes in frequency that threaten the balance of supply and demand and compromise the stability of the grid. This is where Irish businesses can play an essential role in this transition of the energy market model. Businesses can capitalise on their participation in new services while increasing sustainability for the grid and also for the planet, by reducing the need to use polluting sources to generate electricity.

The range of DS3 programmes offers incentives to businesses (from various sectors including construction, healthcare, transport, food production and agriculture) that are able to rapidly reduce the levels of consumption when the system frequency drops below a certain threshold. At scale, these demand-side actions can counterbalance changes in frequency and protect the grid from the volatility challenges inherent to integrating renewable energy sources. To participate in the FFR programme, clients must be able to switch off electricity use or switch to distributed energy sources in less than two seconds from when the system frequency falls below a predetermined setpoint. Enel X technology makes this process automatic, ensuring for its clients seamless  participation which maximises their revenue from the programmes.

Enel X already participates in other DS3 services, including POR (Primary Operating Reserve), SOR (Secondary Operating Reserve) and TOR (Tertiary Operating Reserve) that launched last May and to which it contributes a portfolio of over 20 MW.

Ireland is a role model in this sector, confirming how renewable sources, flanked by demand response services and by demand management generally, are once again the key to a more stable network and a cleaner future. A future that will transform into tangible opportunities for those businesses capable of seizing and capitalising on them.

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