We talk to Sean O’Driscoll, chief executive and chairman of the Irish group Glen Dimplex, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of electrical heating technology, about the future of the electricity industry and how it is on the cusp of change, plus energy storage and enabling the smart grid.
O’Driscoll, who was speaking on day two of the Open Innovation 2.0 conference at Dublin Castle today, started off by saying that the old way of matching supply with demand needs to change in the electricity industry.
He said the electricity industry is at the beginning of a “transformational journey” similar to where the telecommunications industry was 25 years ago.
“What is going to happen is you will have the merging of the electricity industry, ICT, telecommunications and the internet,” he said.
In the UK, 36pc of all primary energy is used for space heating and water heating in buildings, O’Driscoll said.
“Buildings offer huge potential for energy storage,” he explained.
O’Driscoll also touched on how 30pc of the UK’s electricity will come from renewables by 2020, while in Ireland that figure will probably be 40pc. He said a fundamental challenge will be how to manage the intermittency of renewable energy.
“How do we maximise the opportunity from distributed energy storage in buildings?” he asked. The idea is around storing the intermittent renewable energy for future use when there is consumer demand.
“One of the biggest issues is how to store intermittent electricity supply. You are going to have to break the link between demand and consumption.”
Enabling the smart grid
Enter Quantum, the new space and water heating energy-management system Glen Dimplex is pioneering and in which the company is investing €10m.
The system works by storing excess energy generated by wind farms at off-peak times and then releasing it as heat when it is needed.
According to Glen Dimplex, the Quantum system is set to revolutionise the way energy companies charge storage heaters while maximising the use of renewable wind energy. The goal is also to help owners save money on energy costs when they install the low-carbon electric heating system in their homes.
Glen Dimplex is currently deploying the Quantum system as part of a pilot project using 140 homes in partnership with the Green Way in Dublin.
Today, O’Driscoll described Quantum as being a “smart-grid enabler”.
“It is the most exciting technology we have developed. Quantum is the first smart grid-enabled electricity heater,” he said.
O’Driscoll also hinted at a new alliance that Glen Dimplex will be forging with Intel and Eirgrid. The aim, he said, would be to allow Ireland to become a world leader in enabling the smart grid.
Watch our video interview with O’Driscoll, where he covers the future of the electricity industry, talks about the Quantum system and evaluates the challenges in achieving a smart grid.