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The energy systems that deliver our power, heat and mobility are undergoing a complete revolution, overturning the 20th Century model of large, centrally-controlled resources serving passive consumers. The costs of consumer-owned technologies are falling rapidly, creating the potential for consumers to play a central role in new business models.

Conference delegates will hear from Laura Sandys and Catherine Mitchell, two internationally recognised thought leaders in the future governance and regulation of energy, how these opportunities are already being realised for consumers in GB, Australia and the United States.

Delegates will also hear from prominent local speakers how these opportunities could create a new vision for a Northern Ireland energy system that is more consumer-focused, cleaner, cheaper, intelligently joined up locally, resilient to future change and more democratic.

This conference is organised by Ulster University's SPIRE 2 Project, and funded by the EU Interreg VA Programme through the Special EU Programmes Body.

8.45am – 9.30am Registration and Coffee
9.30am – 9.45am

Welcome and Introduction

Neil Hewitt, Ulster University

9.45am – 11.00am

Session 1 Northern Ireland Context for Consumer-owned Energy Resources


  • Patrick Keatley, Ulster University
  • Ian Bailie, NIE Networks
  • Eddie McGoldrick, PowerOn Technologies
  • John French, Consumer Council for NI
11.00am – 11.30am Coffee
11.30am – 13.00pm

Session 2 Policy Lessons from Elsewhere and the Future of Regulation


  • Noel Lavery, Department for the Economy
  • Jenny Pyper, Utility Regulator for Northern Ireland
  • Laura Sandys, Challenging Ideas
  • Catherine Mitchell, Exeter University
13.00pm – 13.45pm Lunch


Ian Bailie

Ian is the Network Development Manager within NIE Networks, with primary responsibility for all capital investment required to maintain both statutory and licence standards for network security and performance on the distribution network. Ian has 40 years’ experience working in NIE Networks, and currently has responsibility for an engineering department primarily delivering distribution load-related investment projects, innovation investment projects and transmission system interface investment projects. Ian is also leading the company’s strategy for the evolution to a Distribution System Operator (DSO). Ian is NIE Networks’ representative on the Energy Networks Association (ENA) Futures Group focusing on the future evolution of distribution networks in the UK.

John French

John French joined the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland as Chief Executive on 1 July 2015. The Consumer Council is a statutory body who promote and safeguard the interests of consumers and campaign for the best possible standards of service and consumer protection in Northern Ireland.  John graduated from the University of Dundee with an Honours and Master’s degree in accountancy and Business Finance. He has more than fifteen years’ experience in policy, finance and regulation in Northern Ireland, GB and at an international level. He joined the Consumer Council from Firmus Energy where he was Director of Regulation and Pricing.

Noel Lavery

Noel Lavery is a chartered accountant by profession and a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland.  He worked as a finance professional for ten years before moving to the Northern Ireland Industrial Development Board from 1997-2001. Noel joined the Northern Ireland Civil Service in 2001 and became Finance Director for the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment (DETI).  He was promoted to Deputy Secretary over DETI’s Corporate Services and Business Regulation Directorate in 2003. Noel joined the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) in 2009.  After a period working on the devolution of Justice and Policing, he took over responsibility in OFMDFM for Finance, Corporate Services, the regeneration of former military sites and international relations in January 2010. He was promoted to Permanent Secretary in DARD on 1 March 2013 and was appointed the new Permanent Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in May 2016. Noel became Permanent Secretary at the Department for the Economy on 19 February 2018.

Eddie McGoldrick

Eddie McGoldrick has worked in electricity and utilities for over 30 years, including serving as NIE’s Director of Customer Service. Having set up MCG Services in 2007 he went on to play a major role in the establishment and service delivery transformation of Northern Ireland Water, establishment of Irish Water and welfare reform delivery for Capita in Northern Ireland.  His utility and customer service experience led him in 2016 to set up PowerOn Technologies, a highly-innovative start up in the emerging energy services market in Ireland. Eddie is a graduate of Harvard Business School, Ulster University and Napier University.

Catherine Mitchell

Catherine Mitchell is Professor of Energy Policy and the Director of the University of Exeter’s Energy Policy Group. Her research focuses on the governance and politics involved in achieving a low carbon, equitable and secure energy system, including the associated policies, institutions, market design, regulation and network rules and incentives. Catherine has held Visiting Professorships at Berkeley (California), Columbia (NY) ; Freie (Berlin) and DTU (Denmark) and has been a member of multiple national committees and UK Government Reviews. She is currently Chair of the Regulatory Assistance Project.

Jenny Pyper

Jenny Pyper became Chief Executive of the Utility Regulator in November 2013. A BSc (Hons) graduate of Queen’s University Belfast, she joined the Northern Ireland Civil Service in 1985 and was appointed as Director of Energy Policy in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in 2004 where she managed policy and legislative responsibilities in relation to the electricity, gas and renewable energy industries. Jenny then took up the post of Director of Regional Planning and Transportation in the Department for Regional Development before becoming Deputy Secretary in the Department for Social Development in July 2011, with responsibility for urban regeneration and community development. She is a member of Council for the Ulster University and sits on the advisory board of Business in the Community (NI).

Laura Sandys

Laura Sandys runs the 21st Century Energy Regulatory Commission with Imperial College and is Deputy Chair of the Food Standards Agency.  She is on the CCUS Council and Taskforce as well as having served as a member of the Advisory Panel for the Government’s Cost of Energy Review.  She is co-founder of POWERful Women, a Visiting Senior Fellow at Kings College and a Fellow of the Energy Institute. She was previously a Member of Parliament for South Thanet and was a member of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee and Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister for Energy and Climate Change.

Event info

This event has ended

Thursday 20 September

9am to 1.30pm

The Stuart Suite, Culloden Estate and Spa

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