Banner on microcredential on the electricity grid

Energy Institute launches Electricity Grid Operation Micro-credential

The Electricity Grid Operation micro-credential addresses the key specifics of electrical power system operation, control, and energy economics. Through online lectures and tutorials, and in-person lab demonstrations using the facilities of UCD Energy Institute’s Integrated Energy Lab, students will gain theoretical and ‘hands-on’ experience and understanding of operating a power system.

The course will be led by Professor Andrew Keane, Director of the Energy Institute and the NexSys research partnership.

Together with the technical aspects, this micro-credential will also explore the broader context of power systems and society. It encourages participants to appreciate the future challenges that power systems are poised to face, underscoring the intricate interplay between energy infrastructure and societal dynamics.

Upon completion, participants will emerge well-versed in the complexities of power systems, equipped with the practical skills and theoretical insights necessary for thriving in the ever-evolving landscape of electrical power.

Funding Options

Green Tech Skillnet Funding

Green Tech Skillnet will fund 40% of the Electricity Grid Operation course fee for eligible learners providing a valuable chance to invest in their future.

Other Funding Options

The university is also pleased to offer UCD graduates a 20% discount on tuition fees for the Electricity Grid Operations micro-credential and to organisations who plan to send three or more employees to partake in the course.

To learn more about the course and to check your eligibility for the above offers, visit the Electricity Grid Operations course page.

Study authors Dr Richard O’Hegarty (right) and Assoc. Professor Oliver Kinnane (left)

News story

First whole life carbon analysis of Ireland’s residential sector highlights shortcomings of carbon emission reduction targets

A new paper by UCD Energy Institute and NexSys researchers published in the journal Energy and Climate Change finds that Ireland’s current Climate Action Plan for reduction of residential sector carbon emissions falls short of achieving its targets when carbon emissions across the life cycle of a building are taken into account.  

Current deep retrofit rates need to be scaled up about 20-fold by the end of the decade to meet a 2030 retrofitting target of 500,000 B2 homes, and, even still, national plans for retrofit are unlikely to be sufficient to meet sectoral climate targets, the authors find.

Almost half of poorest-performing-homes would need to be retrofitted to achieve a 51% reduction by 2030, they report.

The new research was conducted by lead author Dr Richard O’Hegarty and by Assoc. Professor Oliver Kinnane, both researchers in UCD’s Energy institute and leads of the Building in a Climate Emergency Research Lab based in University College Dublin’s School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy. Both researchers are part of the NexSys research partnership. 

Study authors Dr Richard O’Hegarty (right) and Assoc. Professor Oliver Kinnane (left) in front of Dublin houses
Study authors Dr Richard O’Hegarty (right) and Assoc. Professor Oliver Kinnane (left).

The “unique challenge” of reducing emissions from the residential sector

Previous research by Assoc. Prof Kinnane and colleagues, which was commissioned by the Irish Green Building Council for its “Building a Zero Carbon Ireland” report, found that the construction and built environment in Ireland is responsible for 37% of our greenhouse gas emissions, the same as agriculture. Dr O’Hegarty and Assoc. Prof Kinnane have since published this landmark research in a peer-reviewed, academic paper titled “Whole Life Carbon in the Irish Built Environment”. 

In many countries, the residential sector is targeted in climate action plans for reduction of carbon emissions, but reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with buildings presents “a unique challenge”, note the authors.

When it comes to buildings, greenhouse gas emissions can be divided into operational and embodied emissions. Operational emissions include all the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the operational energy requirements of a building, such as heating, cooling and lighting. Embodied emissions include all greenhouse gas emissions embodied in the materials and energy used in construction, maintenance and demolition of the building throughout its whole lifecycle. 

Ireland’s decarbonisation strategy largely focuses on reducing the heat demand of the poor performing building stock through deep energy retrofit (a way of minimising energy use in a building) and reducing fossil fuel reliance by switching boilers out with electrically powered heat pumps, thereby exploiting the increasingly decarbonised electricity supply.

To date, climate action plans in most countries have almost entirely focused on operational carbon, with little focus on embodied carbon. “This partial focus leads to siloed policy, often focused on retrofit of the existing stock, while high impact construction continues unabated,” write the authors in the paper.  

With more housing required to keep pace with rising populations, there will be considerable additional emissions, but these have been poorly quantified until now. 

Author quote: “We hope this life cycle perspective will open a new window for policy makers to look through when addressing climate change mitigation ambitions. In particular, this perspective calls for greater policy focus on not just the emissions associated with operating our buildings, but also those emissions embodied in the construction of them.”

The need for a ‘whole life carbon’ perspective

In this study, the authors adopt a ‘whole life carbon’ perspective, which takes into account operational emissions from space heating, hot water provision and electricity usage in the home, including heat pump operation, as well as embodied emissions across the life cycle of buildings in Ireland. 

They use a literature review as well as modelling based on data from several databases and sources to quantify, report and analyse greenhouse gas emissions in the Irish residential sector relating to construction, maintenance and operation of the residential sector’s whole life carbon emissions.

Embodied carbon emissions are to surpass operational carbon emissions if only operational emissions are addressed (and successfully reduced by retrofit!), the researchers warn. Both operational and embodied carbon need to be eliminated in order to fully decarbonise the Irish residential sector, they argue.    

“In Ireland we have a number of conflicting policies when it comes to the residential sector. For instance, with one policy we aim to dramatically reduce the energy related to residential buildings. With other policies, we plan to increase the amount of housing , which is necessary to house those currently without homes and our population increases over the next 10 to 20 years. But if we follow through with both of these plans, any gains that will be seen through our retrofits will be cancelled out in a real whole life carbon sense by the emissions related to the buildings that we want to build,” said Assoc. Prof Kinnane.   

Findings and recommendations 

Author quote: 'More retrofits targeted toward the worst performing stock is important, and whatever gets built needs to be built to the highest standard from an operational carbon perspective. Primarily we need to get more creative about how we plan and develop our future urban environments. Key to this is focusing on what we have in the first place; stopping demolition and reusing what we have.'

Through modelled forecasts to 2030, the authors show that national plans that aim to reduce emissions through retrofit and electricity decarbonisation will be offset by increased embodied emissions from planned development, when analysed from a whole life carbon perspective.

The current Climate Action Plan for reduction of residential sector operational carbon falls short of achieving sectoral target reductions, and additional measures will be required if the sector is to meet its proportional share and sectoral emission ceiling.

This is because gains that might accrue from home retrofit and electricity decarbonisation will be negated by the growth in embodied emissions deriving from housing development outlined in government plans, when the sector is considered from a whole life carbon perspective. 

The authors present a range of scenarios to achieve emission reduction across the whole of the residential sector in line with the national 51% reduction targets, as well as forecasts for operational emissions including business-as-usual and national sectoral targeted reduction scenarios of 40%. 

“Entirely unprecedented changes” are required to achieve a whole life emission reduction target of 51% less than 2018, write the authors in the study. These include: a reduction in the average of a newly constructed home size from 131 m2 (2021) to 80 m2, a reduction in the number of new homes from 363,000 to 203,000, with 160,000 homes instead realised from renovation, and a 62% reduction in the embodied carbon of all materials. 

A 28% reduction would result from a targeted number of energy upgrades (500,000 homes retrofitted to B or better) and an 80% renewable energy powered grid by 2030, the authors’ models show.

Based on their findings, the researchers argue that, across the whole residential sector, there needs to be: strategic targeting of the worst performing homes for retrofit first, complete decarbonisation of electricity, reduction in the size of future homes, as well as a major reduction in the embodied carbon of building materials used for residential construction.  

They also note that activation, and renovation, of existing and vacant buildings could accelerate the number of homes available while offsetting the need for extensive new construction. New projects for these researchers, funded by the EPA (Trebuchet) and SEAI (Re-Cugi), are focused on the carbon benefits of activating vacant properties and compact urban growth of future development.

“More retrofits targeted toward the worst performing stock is important, and whatever gets built needs to be built to the highest standard from an operational carbon perspective. Primarily we need to get more creative about how we plan and develop our future urban environments. Key to this is focusing on what we have in the first place; stopping demolition and reusing what we have,” said Assoc. Prof Kinnane.  

The authors hope that this life cycle perspective will open “a new window for policy makers to look through when addressing climate change mitigation ambitions,” says lead author Dr Richard O’Hegarty. “In particular, this perspective calls for greater policy focus on not just the emissions associated with operating our buildings, but also those emissions embodied in the construction of them. For example, the activation of vacant spaces could offset the need for new construction, saving carbon while accelerating the roll out of new homes,” said Dr O’Hegarty.

“The challenge is unprecedented and requires research initiatives to not only develop new more carbon efficient materials and structures, but also to better understand what we already have. Ireland has the opportunity to showcase itself as an example for other nations with even greater emissions,” he added. 

This research was commissioned and supported by the Irish Green Building Council (IGBC) and informs their roadmap to decarbonise Ireland’s construction and built environment sector: “Building a Zero Carbon Ireland”. 

Graphical abstract
Whole life carbon projections of Ireland’s residential sector to 2030, Source: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.egycc.2023.100101

Notes

About UCD Energy Institute

UCD Energy Institute is a collaboration between academia and industry delivering positive impact through research and innovation. 

About NexSys 

Next Generation Energy Systems (NexSys) is an all-island, multidisciplinary energy research programme. NexSys is hosted by the UCD Energy Institute in partnership with eight other leading research institutions. 46 leading academics work in partnership with industry to tackle the challenges of energy decarbonisation, developing evidence-based pathways for a net zero energy system. NexSys has received €16 million in funding through Science Foundation Ireland’s (SFI) Strategic Partnership Programme (2022-26), with nine industry co-funding partners and one philanthropic donor. For further information, see: https://www.nexsys-energy.ie/

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Science Week 2022 webinar for Houses of the Oireachtas…

Future-proofing Ireland’s energy systems

Watch the webinar by Professor Andrew Keane, Director of NexSys and UCD Energy Institute on the work of the Next Generation Energy Systems (NexSys) programme on future-proofing Ireland’s energy systems.

It was hosted by the Houses of the Oireachtas Library & Research Services with Science Foundation Ireland to mark Science Week 2022.

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Andrew Keane gives insights across the five research strands of NexSys: Energy Systems, Water, Transport, Offshore Wind, and Cities & Communities. 

Watch the Webinar

 

Twitter post

Check out the webinar by Prof Andrew Keane, @KeaneEI UCD Energy Institute, on the work of the @NexSysEnergy programme on future proofing Ireland’s energy systems. The webinar was hosted by the L&RS with @scienceirel to mark Science Week. #SeeForYourselfhttps://t.co/DvxMJb7cJM pic.twitter.com/ug3IesC0r0

— Houses of the Oireachtas – Tithe an Oireachtais (@OireachtasNews) February 8, 2023

 

https://www.nexsys-energy.ie

Energy Institute academic with Impact in Water Conservation

January 2023

Congratulations to Dr. Sarah Cotterill who has been recognised by the University for her impactful research in the 2022 UCD Research Impact Case Study Competition

In recent years, Ireland has experienced water supply shortages, and they are forecast to become more frequent. To address this, Dr Sarah Cotterill’s research explored how Ireland can conserve water, and the benefits of doing so. Based on her findings, Dr Cotterill produced a policy brief for An Fóram Uisce (the Water Forum) including ten clear recommendations – around technology, regulation and education – on how domestic water conservation measures could be implemented in Ireland.

Through a programme of outreach, including policy workshops and media appearances, Dr Cotterill is working to ensure these recommendations are translated into policy, so that we can save water and protect the environment.

e scooters

Zipp Mobility and UCD Energy Institute Conclude Research Partnership

Dublin, Ireland, 16 December 2022

Zipp Mobility (Zipp), the Irish micro-mobility operator headquartered at NovaUCD, and the UCD Energy Institute, today announced the successful conclusion of a collaborative research partnership focused on e-scooter safety.

The partnership explored the development and prototyping of ‘Firefly’, a smart lighting system to enhance e-scooter safety in urban environments.

Working in the UCD Energy Institute’s IELab, researchers from the UCD School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering explored the development and prototyped ‘Firefly’, a smart lighting system to enhance e-scooter safety in urban environments.

The ‘Firefly’ smart lighting system includes the following safety features:

  • The projection of red laser ‘rails’ to either side of the e-scooter to visually reserve road space for this micro-mobility vehicle
  • Automatic sensing and warning of road traffic approaching the rider from behind
  • Real-time adaptation of the headlight brightness and angle based on the speed of the scooter and the prevailing ambient lighting conditions.

This system was designed and built by Derek Sequeira, a graduate of the UCD ME programme in Electronic and Computer Engineering, under the supervision of Dr Paul Cuffe, an Assistant Professor in the UCD School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and a member of UCD Energy Institute.

Since its establishment in 2019, Zipp has become a significant player in the European e-scooter and e-bike sharing market with operations in the UK, Poland and Ireland.

Watch the Firefly video via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bKFriEZuYU

Dr Paul Cuffe, UCD School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and UCD Energy Institute said, “I am delighted with what we have achieved in this collaboration. It’s been a very enjoyable exercise in practical engineering, working alongside one of our top-class graduates, Derek Sequeira, to design and build a smart lighting system that enhances both the safety and usability of a rental e-scooter. Smart accessory technologies can help e-scooter rental schemes to deliver a safe and sustainable public transport option for urban communities.

Charlie Gleeson, CEO and founder, of  Zipp Mobility, said, “We are delighted to have partnered with the UCD Energy Institute on this research collaboration.  Zipp’s mission is ‘mobility done right’ and having world-class technology that prioritises safety is a cornerstone of our approach. This partnership reaffirms our commitment to safety and our commitment to R&D activities in Ireland.”

Professor Andrew Keane, Director, of UCD Energy Institute said, “Choice around low carbon modes of transport will play a big role in reducing emissions from energy use. This collaboration with Zipp strongly aligns with the UCD Energy Institute’s strategy to deliver research supporting a net zero energy system in 2050, with transport being an area of increasing focus.”

This project was supported with funding from Enterprise Ireland through the innovation vouchers scheme, and Zipp Mobility.

ENDS 16 December 2022

For further information

Contact Micéal Whelan, Communications and Media Relations Manager, NovaUCD, UCD Research and Innovation, e: miceal.whelan@ucd.ie.

More Information

Zipp Mobility is Ireland’s leading micro-mobility provider bringing a more sustainable micro-mobility sharing model to cities in the UK, Ireland and further afield. www.zippmobility.com

At NovaUCD, the hub for new ventures and entrepreneurs at University College Dublin, we nurture and support new high-tech companies, such as Zipp Mobility, as part of UCD’s mission.

At NovaUCD we provide purpose-built, state-of-the-art incubation facilities alongside a comprehensive business support programme for client companies. NovaUCD has been funded through a unique public-private partnership that includes AIB Bank, Arthur Cox, Deloitte, Enterprise Ireland, Ericsson, Goodbody Stockbrokers, UCD and Xilinx. www.novaucd.ie

Helping Ireland transition to a renewables-led economy

EmPOWer research

EmPOWer research featured for Helping Ireland transition to a renewables-led economy

Many of our most pressing global challenges – like climate change, pollution, fuel shortages and cost-of-living crises – are intrinsically linked with how we generate, distribute and use energy. To meet these challenges, Ireland must continue its progress toward becoming a renewables-led economy.

UCD Energy Institute’s EMPowER project is conducting economic and technical modelling to help accelerate this transition. Through their research, the team are advising Government on the different factors that affect consumer uptake of new technologies, like heat pumps, electric vehicles and rooftop solar panels; the impact that these technologies will have on the grid; and Ireland’s ability to generate energy with higher shares of renewables. This directly informs Government strategy and targets, meaning decisions around climate action will be more effective and cost-efficient.

Read More ->

2022 NovaUCD Group Business –

Energy Institute academics win two 2022 Nova UCD awards

31 March 2022

Dr Sarah Cotterill and Professor Andrew Keane win the 2022 NovaUCD Innovation awards

Congratulations to Dr. Sarah Cotterill and Professor Andrew Keane who won Nova UCD’s 2022 Consultancy of the Year Award and  Licence of the Year Award respectively

Dr. Sarah Cotterill’s Innovation Award recognized a key finding in her consultancy study ‘A Framework for Improving Domestic Water Conservation in Ireland’. Dr. Cotterill’s finding that a relatively small reduction in household water use in all homes in Ireland, could lead to a significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions a year.  Dr. Cotterill is an Assistant Professor at the UCD School of Civil Engineering and UCD Dooge Centre for Water Resources Research and is a Funded Investigator in the NexSys Strategic Partnership Programme.

Professor Andrew Keane received the 2022 NovaUCD Innovation Award for his and his team’s achievements in developing the patented grid edge intelligence software technology, which automates and removes inefficiencies in renewable generators and electrical grid operations. Professor Keane is the Director of the NexSys Strategic Partnership Programme and UCD Energy Institute

Useful Resources:

NexSys (Next Generation Energy Systems): An all-island, multidisciplinary energy research programme defining pathways to a Net-Zero energy system. 

UCD Energy Institute: Facilitates collaboration between academia and industry for a Net Zero Carbon Future. 

Nova UCD: The hub of innovation-related activities at University College Dublin. 

2022 Nova UCD awards:

Image-source-gas-network-Ireland

Can Ireland warm homes and cook dinners with hydrogen?

UCD Energy Institute has launched a new research project to investigate the potential use of hydrogen in Irish homes. Led by Gas Networks Ireland’s Head of Technical Development and Technical Training, Liam Nolan, Dr. Ali Ekhtiari, and Dr. Eoin Syron from UCDEI.

Read More

UCD Sustainable Energy Community

UCD Sustainable Energy Community

SEAI Sustainable Energy Community (SEC)

The Energy Institute is in the early stages of forming a sustainable energy community (SEC) across the UCD campus.  UCD is the largest third level campus community in Ireland with approximately 3,000 staff and 33,724 students. With support from the Energy Unit in UCD Estates, we are in the process of forming a steering committee made up of representatives from 8 schools and institutes.

The main aims of the SEC are;

  • Developing skills and capacity, at a community level, in electing how to use less energy,
  • Adopting lower carbon options for transport and heating,
  • Shifting energy use to off-peak times
  • Investing in smart technologies and renewable energies
  • Reducing the carbon footprint of the community
  • Increase energy awareness via community engagement programs
  • Maximising the opportunities for successful collaborations in energy community initiatives

For more information please contact us at energy@ucd.ie