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Funder: SFI-DfE
01 March 2017 – 28 February 2021
Staff Involved:
Prof N Hewitt, Dr Y Huang

There is major energy revolution being led by Ireland in that new electricity market structures must accommodate increased electrification of the heat and transport sectors and increased renewable energy penetration. The revolution will realise new opportunities for cost effective energy storage and smart grid controls at all scales. These revolutions, coupled with increased consumer participation and awareness, will lead to a new paradigm in energy system analysis that must also account for energy security, stability and reliability. Ireland is the showcase of this approach with high rates of wind penetration, and future aspirations approaching 42.5% renewable generation, of which the majority will be wind. Ireland’s 2020 target and subsequent 2030 and 2050 aspirations will lead to electricity network stability challenges and energy availability issues in excess of many other countries and will therefore demonstrate impacts and solutions ahead of such requirements.

The Irish power system is already being impacted by system stability concerns, leading to wind turbines being turned off (curtailment), unfavourable electricity trading with our connected neighbours and other measures, while only being approximately halfway towards its 2020 target. For 2030 and 2050 scenarios, with potentially increased interconnection, offshore (wind, wave and tidal) arrays, PV installations, etc. periods of high and very high renewable energy penetration will become increasingly common. Recent road maps for Ireland to 2050 illustrate that onshore wind installed capacity could increase to 15 GW, with 30 GW of offshore wind. Decarbonisation of domestic space heating is also deemed to be part of a least cost option for 2050 decarbonisation targets: electrification of space heating may avail of renewable energy, but will be rivalled by the electrification of personal transport.

Thus the questions to be answered are how high can the instantaneous wind penetration be pushed, without compromising security and stability of supply? Furthermore, how will system stability impacts affect investments decisions and market structures? Large-scale / distributed energy storage, demand-side response, generation technology advances, smart grid strategies, and other measures, are likely to form an integral part of that solution. The impacts of this research include policy guidance for 2020, 2030 and 2050 decarbonisation targets and aspirations, operational strategies for economically maintaining system security & stability, viable business cases for new & existing market participants, and ultimately signposting necessary directions for a sustainable, efficient, secure and reliable electricity network that meets all end-user needs.