The sECUre project is a collaboration between Comharchumann Fuinnimh Oileáin Árann Teoranta (CFOAT), IES and MPOWER to investigate the viability of an “Energy Community Utility” (ECU) on the Aran Islands, in line with the overall aim of achieving carbon neutrality on the Islands by 2022.
The ECU concept is a community grid made up of local “prosumers” (proactive consumers and participants in the electricity market) that buy and sell electricity among themselves. The purpose of this, as opposed to the traditional nationwide electricity market, is that it will enable greater flexibility in electricity consumption and generation, reducing associated costs and carbon emissions.
In the traditional electricity market and system as it is structured today, there are limits on the amount of small-scale renewable generation that can be connected in an area due to concerns with security of supply and stability of the system. However, with an ECU in place, there would be greater visibility on how electricity is being used in a community. This means it would be easier for more people to install renewable generation and energy storage solutions in their homes or businesses, and see even greater benefits than would otherwise be the case. The way an ECU is set up means that everyone in the community will benefit, not just those who are generating energy. To use another example, during a sunny day when all of the solar panels in the area are generating lots of electricity, householders will have the option to consume energy at this time by turning on the washing machine etc. instead of waiting until the evening when the sun has gone in and the cost of electricity has risen as a result. This will drive down the cost of electricity for all.
IES will build on their ICL technology to further enhance their software for community energy planning and monitoring. This will be achieved in conjunction with the citizens on the islands. Following this and engagement with the island citizens, a community Digital Twin will be created that will model the infrastructure and network in the community as well as the individual buildings across the islands. The software will then make recommendations across the whole of the built environment for renovation and retrofit, how to optimise the community energy asset portfolio and ultimately reach the goals of a net zero island by 2025. A virtual model will also be created for citizen engagement to track progress and enable citizens to be part of the solution as well as encourage and educate citizens with respect to energy improvements and demand response actions. The platform will be complemented with user-specific interfaces to manage and monitor actual energy use in the community as the implementation of new technologies progresses, providing real time aggregated information for the community and private detailed data visualisations.