Rural Ireland went electric in 1946 as part of the Rural Electrification Scheme. It was dubbed the ‘Quiet Revolution’ for the great socio-economic change that it brought to the region.
Change is still happening and today, the likes of the Dingle Peninsula is at the cutting edge of the sector when it comes to energy trials.
Now, with advancing technologies, we can text devices in our homes which can control our heating systems and flick on our ovens and washing machines remotely. We could never have imagined the advances that would be made within a few decades. With the future looking even brighter, we look at how your electricity will be generated in the coming years.
Up until recently, solar power panels on Irish homes were a rarity. However, this is changing due to the recent announcement of government grants for the installation of solar panels, allowing homeowners to turn their house into their very own mini “renewable power station”.
A typical three-bed, semi-detached house would save approximately €220 per year on electricity bills by investing €1,800 on a solar panel system. Just one square metre on your roof can heat as much hot water in one year as using about 400 to 500 units of electricity.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Ireland does not have the weather needed to power these solar panels. Despite what some people may think, our climate is perfectly suited to the development of solar energy as our lower temperature significantly improves the performance and lifetime of solar cells.
You’ve probably come across one of a number of wind farms dotted around the country recently, from Raheenleagh in Co Wicklow to Derrybrien in Co Galway. When it comes to wind generation, Ireland is leading the class.
2017 was a record-breaking year for installing wind energy capacity in Ireland and we have one of the highest levels of installed wind capacity relative to our wind consumption.
What does that mean for us?
Well by 2020, both onshore and offshore wind is expected to contribute between 37pc and 40pc of our renewable electricity. We have harnessed our abundant wind energy to help deliver a clean energy source, helping to create a low-carbon, brighter future for our children.
An area with enormous potential in Ireland is wave energy. Despite wave technology currently being in its infancy stages, harnessing the power of our vast ocean energy resources in the Atlantic Ocean and the Irish Sea will lead to a brighter future.
ESB is leading the way with its Ocean Energy Project: ESB Westwave. This project will be one of the first wave energy demo trials in the world. It will take place in Killard, off the coast of Co Clare, with a broader vision that 20pc of our electricity needs could be provided by Ireland’s ocean energy resources.
Electrification of Heat
Unfortunately, too many households across Ireland are currently heating their homes in the conventional way - through thermal boilers. This process is pumping more harmful carbon chemicals in to the environment. This is why there is so much emphasis on embracing heat pump technology in well-insulated homes, a low-carbon and clean method to heating our homes.
By 2050, we will all have a greater awareness and management of our energy usage thanks to the roll out of smart meters in the coming years. This will also be helped when households move towards ‘time-of-use’ energy usage and pricing, where the price of electricity for consumers varies throughout the course of the day.
Have you heard of blockchain technology before? We’re certainly going to be seeing more of it in the future. It’s a complicated technology but if you’re not sure what it is, it can be summed up best in a sentence: “Blockchain technology is like a spreadsheet in the sky, that all banks around the world will have a copy of".
So, as blockchain technology becomes more and more popular, your average household will be able to sell their excess energy back to the grid.
For instance, homeowners with solar panels will soon be able redistribute their excess power to a house with no solar energy/panels. This technology will soon be trialled in the Dingle Peninsula area as part of a wider ESB Networks project there.
Biomass-powered stations provide a cleaner back-up system for renewable sources of electricity in Ireland. Power stations in the midlands are moving away from using peat and towards being fully biomass-powered stations.
These plants produce electricity and heat by burning wood chips, residues and other types of biomass in boilers, in the same way as coal, natural gas and oil, but as a zero-carbon solution.
Within our lifetime, we will have created cleaner, more efficient ways of generating electricity. This means that the next generation of Irish homeowners will be buying homes which will rely primarily on renewable electricity.