How innovation is powering Ireland's energy market

Behind the light switch there is huge disruption happening in Ireland’s energy market, and utilities are working with the innovators to ensure consumers are the big winners.

Last April, more than 60 entrepreneurs from across the globe descended on Dublin to showcase their energy solutions, and battle it out for a spot on the coveted Free Electrons global accelerator programme. Ireland’s hosting of this event also demonstrated the country’s perception as a key innovator and enabler in this space.

From apps to control EV charging to drone management of wind turbine blades, every possible energy solution was refined and developed over the course of the three-day bootcamp with all vying to bring their product to the global marketplace and win $200,000 cash prize.

This global initiative – of which ESB is a founding member – is just one example of how utilities worldwide are embracing and supporting start-ups to transform the energy market with next-generation ideas for consumers.

“The Free Electrons Programme once again demonstrates our commitment to supporting the brightest talent that are developing energy solutions for our customers. These are important steps as we lead the transition to a low-carbon future, with creative ideas, innovative thinking and new technologies at the heart of this transformation,” explains Denis O’Leary, head of innovation at ESB.

Each year, the selected 15 finalists participate in a six-month programme with the potential of bringing their product/service to the global market. While keeping an eye on the next big thing in the market, the 10 mentoring utilities work with the start-ups on refining value propositions, seed pilot projects and explore investment opportunities.  

Consumer benefits

And the consumer is already reaping the rewards from such an initiative. For instance, ESB ecars uses the software by previous programme finalist Driivz to monitor the availability of its charge point network and to remotely operate charge point units. This, in turn, provides EV users with real-time charge point information.

Climote, the Dundalk-based energy company, is another former finalist with its product allowing consumers to have full remote control of their home heating system via an app or text message.

Smart Technology, such as these two applications, is the new world of energy management that consumers and utilities are embracing to help create a low-carbon future.

“Partnering with start-ups who are creating and innovating in new technologies is critical for utilities like ESB as we face challenges and opportunities in areas such as energy efficiency, e-mobility, digitisation, IoT, on demand customer services and Smart Grids,” explains O’Leary, adding that Free Electrons is the perfect platform to identify and work with such start-ups.

Pilot projects

Following last year’s programme, ESB announced that it was to trial pilot projects with five international start-ups from Germany, Switzerland, Portugal and the UK. The Portugese Enging company allows consumers to monitor electrical motors and power transformers through an intelligent asset condition monitoring platform.

A number of Irish companies have successfully competed in the Free Electrons programme, including the Dublin-based GridBeyond and Limerick-based GridWatch. As a result, they have also gained international commercial traction from the participating global utilities.

The 2020 Free Electrons Programme is currently open to applications until January 31st, 2020. Check out freeelectrons.org/ for more information, or contact John McKiernan, head of Innovation Pipeline at ESB: john.mckiernan@esb.ie