Energy Institute

How efficient will new infrastructure be?

Between 7-8% of power produced is lost in the electricity transmission and distribution systems 1. New capital investment in the electricity grid and network will see losses in transmission and distribution reduced.

Information technology is increasingly deployed to monitor and manage network performance (Fig. 6). It can detect and avoid overload, assist with fault identification and repair and in these two ways reduce costs and improve service. Ultimately the improved performance and increased flexibility will mean better asset utilisation and lower costs 2,3.

The use of information technology is key to the development of a smart-grid, which has been driven by the requirements to integrate increasing levels of renewables, to better control supply and demand and to provide more information to consumers. It will lead to a more efficient energy system, and achieving Ireland’s overall 20% energy efficiency target by 2020 could reduce the energy spend across the economy by an estimated €2.25 billion in 2020 4 as well as annual savings of 13.4 MtCO2 5.

Trials run by the CER showed that smart meters could yield net benefits of up to €220 million over 15 to 20 years taking into account customer bill reductions, efficiency and environmental benefits 6,7,8.

Figure 6. Smart grid activities in Ireland

SEAI (2010) Ireland – Your Smart Grid Opportunity. Available Online

With the increased deployment of intermittent renewable sources such as wind and solar and as new technologies such as solar photovoltaic become more competitive the demands on the electricity network change. The current system has a one-way character where power flows from large central stations to a myriad of small users. With the deployment of wind-farms and solar its character shifts to a multi-directional one where neighbour supplies neighbour or a local wind farm supplies a whole community. If this developed, with nightfall and calm conditions, local storage and centralised power supply take over from photovoltaic panels and wind power. The new intelligent system that will be needed to accommodate all these technical, power flow and market changes is already being built – the smart grid.