This conference facilitated discussion on the role of energy research and policy in achieving Ireland’s long term clean energy goals.

Audience at the SEAI Research & Policy Conference

Conference summary

SEAI and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE) co-hosted the first annual National Energy Research & Policy Conference in November 2019. The thematic focus of the conference was the Transformation of Ireland’s Electricity Sector. The conference was Chaired by Dr Phil Hemmingway (Head of Low Carbon Technologies, SEAI) and opened by William Walsh (CEO, SEAI) and Minister Richard Bruton (Minister for Communications, Climate Action & the Environment).

The purpose of the conference was to:

  • facilitate discussion on the role of energy research and policy in achieving Ireland’s long term clean energy goals.
  • ensure that energy policy development and implementation is informed by the best scientific advice possible.
  • ensure researchers are aware of current and future energy policy priorities.

Senior speakers from many of the key research, policy and industry organisations involved in leading transformation of Ireland’s electricity sector participated in the event. Participating organisations included:

  • Policy making/supporting organisations, such as the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI); the Department of Communications, Climate Action & the Environment (DCCAE); the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform (DPER), the Department of the Taoiseach; and the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU)
  • Research Institutions/organisations, such as UCD, UCC, NUIG, TCD, IERC and the ESRI
  • Industry organisations, such as ESB, EirGrid, SSE and Smart Wires

The conference was fully booked and a strong attendance from organisations in the research, policy & industry sections of the electricity sector ensured varied and interesting high-quality discourse throughout the day.

Five key take-aways

The following five high-level key messages were discussed throughout the conference.

1. The Climate Action Plan commits Ireland to significant targets and ambitions for the electricity sector, including:

  • 70% of electricity generation to come from renewable sources by 2030
  • phase-out of coal and peat-fired electricity generation
  • implementation of a new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS)
  • development of a microgeneration scheme; enhanced interconnection
  • streamlining of consenting & connection processes and
  • increased support for energy technology research & innovation

2. Onshore wind, offshore wind and grid-scale solar energy are expected to contribute the majority of Ireland’s increase in renewable electricity generation in the period 2020 to 2030

Anticipated increases of 8.2GW; at least 3.5GW and 1.5GW respectively.

3. Energy Research & Innovation are critical enablers of Ireland’s electricity system decarbonisation ambitions.

Energy R&I will help to build Ireland’s human resources capacity in the energy sector; inform the evidence base upon which energy policy development relies; and will position Ireland to reap the enterprise development opportunities which will come as a result of tackling our climate action challenge.

4. Energy policy in Ireland will undergo a rapid, continual and significant evolution during the period 2020 to 2030.

Significant opportunities exist for technology, enterprise development, and public policy-oriented energy research & innovation. It is imperative that policy-oriented research addresses the needs of the policy system, and that the transformation of Ireland’s energy policy system is underpinned by the best available research evidence.

5. The transformation of Ireland’s electricity system brings with it many significant research and policy questions and opportunities, including:

  • public & private investment requirements to meet binding energy & climate targets
  • distributional impacts
  • sector-coupling
  • ex-post evaluation of programmes
  • ensuring a just-transition
  • community engagement
  • security of supply implications
  • the role of carbon capture and storage
  • electricity grid transformation
  • the benefits and implications of data centre development and
  • optimising the energy research-public policy interface

Conference agenda

Wednesday 20th November 2019, Alex Hotel (Dublin 2)

Chair: Phil Hemmingway (Head, Low Carbon Technologies Dept, SEAI)

Speaker Presentations

  • The role of public policy in transformation of Ireland's electricity sector (Eamonn Confrey, DCCAE)
  • Energy research and innovation for transformation of the electricity sector (Lucy Corcoran,SEAI)
  • Offshore wind enablers and lessons from the UK experience (John Young, SSE Ireland)
  • Future proofing policy for electricity expansion from datacentres (Muireann Lynch, ESRI)

Morning Panel Discussion: The role of public sector innovation and policy in transformation of the electricity sector

Chair: Julie O'Neill (SEAI Board Chairperson)


  • Eamonn Confrey (Electricity Policy Principal Officer, DCCAE)
  • Tony Day (Executive Director, International Energy Research Centre)
  • Colm De Burca (Emerging Technology & R&D Manager, ESB)
  • Sharon Finegan (Head of the Climate Change Unit, Department of the Taoiseach)
  • Lisa Ryan (Lecturer & Researcher, Energy Economics, University College Dublin)
Chair: Phil Hemmingway (Head, Low Carbon Technologies Dept, SEAI)

Speaker Presentations

  • The role of the regulator in transformation of the electricity sector (Aoife MacEvilly, CRU)
  • The role of firm generation in the transformation of Ireland’s electricity sector (Paul Deane,UCC, MaREI)
  • TSO Perspective on transformation of Ireland’s electricity sector (Diarmaid Gillespie, Eirgrid)
  • Dept. of Public Expenditure & Reform perspective on transformation of the electricity sector (Ken Cleary, DPER)

Panel Discussion: Challenges in the transformation of Ireland’s electricity sector

Chair: Andrew Keane (UCD Energy Institute)


  • Eleanor Denny (Associate Professor Energy Economics, Trinity College Dublin)
  • Diarmaid Gillespie (Head of Systems Support, Eirgrid Group)
  • Michael Huebner (Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology, Austria)
  • Rory Monaghan (Lecturer, Energy Systems Engineering, NUIG)
  • Michael Walsh (Managing Director, Smart Wires)

Closing Remarks - Jim Scheer (Head, Policy Insights Department, SEAI)

Moderator: Ludwig Karg, Era-Net Smart Energy Systems, Knowledge Community Management

ERA-Net Smart Energy Systems - Networking & Call Scoping

“Let’s collaborate!” - Scoping for multinational RDD projects on digital transformation of the energy system.

Further details on the ERA-Net SES Website

ERA-Net Smart Energy Systems - Session Close / Networking

Meet our speakers

Learn more about our guest speakers who will deliver talks at the inaugural National Energy Research and Policy Conference 2019.

Learn more about our speakers

2020 National Energy Research & Policy Conference

Next year’s National Energy Research & Policy Conference will be in November 2020 and will focus on a different theme of strategic importance to the transformation of Ireland’s energy sector. Further details will be released in due course.