Dr Paula Carroll
What attracted you to work with the Energy Institute?
My research is in Business Analytics and Operational Research. These disciplines offer ways to model and solve real world problems. I need inputs from experts in other disciplines to build useful models and understand how we can adapt energy systems to be secure, clean and fair at the same time. I’m very happy to work with people from architecture, consumer behaviour, economics, finance, geography, power systems, ….the list goes on!
What research questions interest you most right now?
I’m doing a lot of work at the moment building models of residential electricity usage. How we use energy in our home is changing: we may drive an electric car, or use heat pumps to heat our homes, or install solar collector or photovoltaic panel systems to heat water or generate electricity…all these low carbon technologies impact how the whole energy system balances and is operated.
There is a societal move towards a decarbonised economy. What do you think are the most important steps to decarbonisation and how does your research contribute to this?
We need to make it easier for individual consumers to adopt low carbon technologies, and make sure that these changes benefit the consumer and bring about a clean energy system. That means looking after digitalisation and data standards to allow devices to connect to the system seamlessly so that consumers don’t have to worry about technical issues or data privacy and security. Having access to standardised data allows us to build useful models and algorithms.
How do you see Business Analytics and Operational Research (OR) growing and developing in the Institute?
OR has a long tradition in countries with heavy industry such as car manufacturing. We’ve been a bit slower to apply OR techniques in Ireland, in part because of our more service focused industry base. However, OR optimisation techniques can and are being used to allocate clean energy resources in a fair and secure manner. We bring in Business Analytics to see how business models can be adapted to act on recommendations and insights for data rich variants of energy optimisation problems. I plan to develop deeper collaborations with Energy Institute partners and members connecting my OR and Business Analytics expertise with their disciplinary perspectives.
What’s the biggest challenge to developing deeper collaborations?
Collaboration can be difficult at the best of times. It helps that members of the Institute share the same goals to create a secure, clean and fair energy system. I also require access to appropriate data to build and test my models – getting enough high quality data is time consuming and can create hurdles – we have to be creative in finding solutions that comply with the highest ethical and GDPR standards.