Opening the water industry flood gates

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    There is increasing uptake of demand-side response in the mission critical water industry. Irish Water and Northern Ireland Water are paving the way by venturing into an area many have been too nervous to approach

    As the heatwave spreads across the country, and we are all reaching for glasses of cool water, hoping for water suppliers to meet the increasing demand and provide an unlimited stream straight to our taps, it is a good opportunity to notice how much the safety and comfort of our lifestyles rely on the resilience of mission critical businesses in the water sector. 

    Regardless of external circumstances, whether it is a long spell of hot weather or an electricity failure, mission critical sectors need to be resilient and capable of delivering services. 

    “The priority for mission critical businesses, whether they are hospitals, data centres, banks, utilities or transport networks, is to secure the undisturbed continuity of their operation. Understandably, their primary focus is to predict and minimise any risks. That is why it is vital for the businesses that rely on critical power to take more responsibility for their energy management by gaining a better understanding of dynamic changes that occur in the energy market, its challenges and opportunities,” says Michael Phelan, chief executive at GridBeyond, an energy technology and DSR provider. 

    Mission critical businesses are gaining a deeper understanding of demand-side response programmes, embedded generation and onsite energy storage. As such, many are starting to realise that participation in DSR not only enables them to generate savings and revenue while simultaneously increasing green credentials but also strengthen a site’s resilience and help manage risk. 

    “At GridBeyond, all of our clients’ sites and assets participate in DSR via the technologically advanced platform, powered by AI and machine learning algorithms. The platform, connected to highly sensitive and accurate sensors, enables precise monitoring of energy performance within each asset and helps to identify any inaccuracies in their operations before a minor issue becomes a significant problem that might endanger the business operations,” Phelan explains further. 

    As the UK and Ireland rapidly decarbonise to meet CO2 reduction targets required by international law, mission critical I&C businesses help to integrate more renewable energy sources onto the electricity networks, promote sustainable manufacturing and improve their environmental credentials by participating in DSR. 

    Ireland aims to reach its energy target of 40% renewables contribution to gross electricity consumption by 2020. However, as the renewable energy production tends to be volatile, EirGrid needs support from large energy users such as Irish Water or Northern Ireland Water to maintain grid frequency. 

    “For our Irish clients in the critical water sector, environmental factors were the main reasons to partner with us in delivering DSR services to EirGrid. Since last year, we have been supporting Irish Water in meeting both its environmental and business objectives, and now we are delighted to announce our cooperation with Northern Ireland Water. This makes GridBeyond the only energy technology and DSR provider to work with all the main water services providers across the full island of Ireland,” says Phelan. 

    Irish Water

    The opportunities to benefit from the smart grid were identified by Irish Water as part of its energy management initiatives to improve energy performance by 33% by 2021 and to achieve energy cost savings across the business. 

    Paul Byrne, electricity management analyst at Irish Water, explains: “We recognise that a smart electricity grid is the future for electricity generation, transmission, and consumption in Ireland. As a company, we are committed to supporting environmental sustainability and helping in incorporating more renewable energy onto the grid by providing balancing services to match electricity demand to the supply on the whole island.”

    Last year, in conjunction with 10 local authorities from across the country, and with the support from GridBeyond, Irish Water commenced the first phase of participation across its largest energy consuming sites. 

    Currently, 23 of Irish Water’s sites are connected to GridBeyond’s platform and participate in demand-side response programmes, assisting the balancing of the grid by turning down, and to the lesser extent turning up, the power consumption.

    Denis McGuire, process optimisation manager at Irish Water, says: “Through our involvement in EirGrid’s programmes we are increasing our business efficiency, contributing to decarbonisation of electricity production and helping the country to meet its environmental targets.”

    Northern Ireland Water

    Northern Ireland Water provides water and wastewater services for almost 1.8 million people in Northern Ireland – producing 570 million litres of clean water per day and safely recycling 340 million litres of wastewater back into the environment. Uniquely placed NI Water, a state-owned company that is publicly funded, has recently celebrated a decade of delivery with substantial customer service and efficiency improvements. 

    NI Water operates £3bn worth of assets. The energy required to deliver its services makes NI Water the single largest electricity consumer in Northern Ireland. 

    Jane Mellor, NI Water’s head of operational procurement, says: “We consider sustainability and climate change mitigation as priorities that inform our decisions on the future direction of the business. NI Water is committed to using innovative approaches to energy management and new technologies to deliver water and wastewater services for the lowest financial and environmental cost, while simultaneously maximising consumer and community benefit.”

    During the recent competitive tendering process, GridBeyond has been awarded a five-year contract to utilise NI Water’s assets to provide Capacity and DS3 system services. 

    “NI Water’s participation in the Capacity and DS3 System Services Market is tangible evidence of our commitment to meeting environmental targets, by facilitating efficiencies and increased renewable generation across the electricity grid to both reduce costs and CO2 emissions,” says Mellor.

    “By working with GridBeyond, an experienced energy technology company, NI Water is demonstrating a continuing commitment to delivering high quality services, while simultaneously enhancing natural and social capital.”

    Paving the way

    In summary, Irish Water and Northern Ireland Water are paving the way for mission critical sites. By venturing into an area many have been nervous to approach, they are uncovering numerous ways to boost their resilience. 

    First, by assisting the grid at times of peak demand, thereby improving overall grid resilience. Second, by monitoring and controlling their energy demand, the machine-learning technology recognises patterns in consumption both onsite, and by using industrial benchmarks for performance. When an anomaly occurs an alert is raised, providing the information needed for predictive maintenance. Through such measures, a fault can be detected well in advance of failure.

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