Smart Meters and Flexible Demand in Northern Ireland: A report for the NI Department for the Economy

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While Northern Ireland has been successful in connecting very high levels of renewable (overwhelmingly wind) generation, it has not yet developed the flexible demand needed to manage wind’s variable output. So, while in 2020 almost 50% of our electricity came from renewable sources, in the same year 15% of available wind energy (465 GWh) was ‘dispatched down’ (or more prosaically, dumped) – enough clean ‘home-grown’ energy to power 140,000 homes for a year, or for 23 million electric vehicle (EV) journeys from Belfast to Derry.
Smart meters that can send and receive real-time energy data are a basic building block in creating a smart grid, and in integrating (as opposed to simply connecting) wind and solar energy. They are a necessary step in developing the tariffs and market offerings that could enable NI consumers to monetise the value of flexible demand and to become significant market actors. NI has yet to begin the deployment of smart meters, despite the recognition of the need for them in 2010 in the Assembly’s Strategic Energy Framework and the NI and RoI Regulators’ Demand Side Vision for 2020. Following a positive Cost Benefit Analysis, a smart meter rollout programme was announced in 2012 but has yet to be implemented. In the meantime, the need for smart charging for the consumer-owned resources (like EVs, heat pumps and energy storage) which could help to manage our indigenous renewable energy, reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels and empower NI business and domestic consumers, has only become more acute.
This report investigates the digital technologies that underpin smart meters and the products that they can enable. It examines their deployment in European nations and the United States and describes successful rollouts by early adopters like Italy and California. It also considers what went wrong in the calamitous GB smart meter rollout.
Original languageEnglish
Commissioning bodyDepartment for the Economy
Number of pages76
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 25 Jun 2021


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