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Patricipants, speakers and organisers of Tuesday’s Smart Energy conference at the MAC Belfast have all spoken of the value of the inaugural event. Attended by local technology companies, renewables developers, grid specialists, regulated bodies, academics and departmental officials, the event focused on the smart solutions and smart systems that are needed to power the energy system forward.

Opening the event, Rachel Anderson, NIRIG Chair, noted that while Northern Ireland is at a standstill politically, the energy sector is continuing to evolve and innovate. This was demonstrated by the speakers in Smart Systems, where Andy Kelly from Poyry highlighted the opportunties available for storage revenue, David MacDonald from NIE Networks talked about the changes that DNOs were expecting to face in a more active network management role, and Markos Romanos from the Pylon Network explained how blockchain technologies and energy cooperatives could be linked to create more traceable and transparent local energy markets.

Following a break for excellent scones, the next session focused on Smart Solutions, where a panel of leading industry experts introduced concepts on how technologies and consumer-led approaches could lead to optimisation and maximisation of energy from low-carbon sources. This included using hydrogen to reduce curtailment and power transport (Energia), maximising capital-heavy battery use (Everoze Partners), enabling more flexible approaches to multiple generation facilities behind a single connection point (Brookfield Renewable), regulating for consumers in a decentralised system (Ulster University), and working with consumers on developing a smart grid (ESB Networks).

Finally, an energy vision for 2050 was presented, laying out the kinds of actions and principles that will be required to take Northern Ireland to decarbonised future. This was backed up by recent modelling of potential 2030 targets, which indicate that an all-island 70% renewable electricity target by 2030 is both technically feasible and potentially cost-neutral for the consumer.

Follow @NIRIGRenewables for updates on the next exciting #SmartEnergyNI event!