A Transatlantic alliance that aims to improve Northern Ireland’s electricity network was announced in Belfast.
SmartGridIreland, a collaborative network of companies including the likes of NIE, Airtricity, ESB, Google, BT and GlenDimplex — headed by the Centre for Competitiveness — has joined forces with the Washington DC-based United States GridWise Alliance.
The goal of the arrangement is to help turn the existing electrical power distribution system into a “smarter, greener and more efficient” model, that will give consumers greater choice and better connectivity with a wide range of lower carbon energy sources.
Invest Northern Ireland has offered £250,000 to support the development of the project over the next two years.
Guido Bartels, chairman of the GridWise Alliance and a senior global executive with IBM, based in the US, formalised the deal by signing a memorandum of understanding with Bob Barbour, chief executive of the Centre for Competitiveness at the Northern Irelance Science Park.
Mr Bartels said GridWise Alliance had grown its membership by 60% last year and had |become the “go-to group” for the US government on electricity distribution issues.
Mr Barbour added: “SmartGridIreland is joining forces with GridWise Alliance to help accelerate the uptake of renewables, lower energy usage, and create and grow a local green jobs sector.
“By planning ahead and modernising the electricity grid, we can ensure that power rationing and blackouts are less likely. However, to develop and connect to these sources, our existing infrastructure and the ways we consume energy will need to change. This will require mobilising users, industry, researchers, the utilities and government — and ensuring the massive investment required delivers value, whilst providing a long-term sustainable solution.”
The group intends to develop a business approach to turning the existing electrical power distribution system into the next generation of electrical supply to homes and businesses. Known as the ‘Smart Grid’, this new system will allow citizens to connect their businesses, homes and electric vehicles to different types of renewable energy sources using the existing electrical network.
Technology such as smart meters will help improve the economy and create new jobs over the next 15 years as well as supporting international agreements to stabilise carbon emissions by 2020, said Mr Barbour.