By Thomas O’Hagan, Managing Director, b4b Group
While recent global events have exacerbated the issue, a crisis in world energy prices and consumption had been looming for some time.
Whether it be fuel for our cars, electricity for our home and businesses, or oil and gas for heating, prices have only been going in one direction.
The impact on our pockets does make us stand up and take notice, but regardless, it is clear we are also consuming too much energy as a society.
IT and technology could hold some of the answers.
When it comes to electricity, Northern Ireland has tremendous local resource and is slowly moving towards greater adoption of renewable energy sources.
New data from the Department for the Economy last week revealed that just over 40 per cent of all electricity consumed across the region during 2021 was generated from renewable sources.
That was down from almost a half of all electricity in 2020 so it is clear there is still some way to go, particularly considering new targets set in the recently published Energy Strategy.
It can be done. As ‘storm Dudley’ raged in the middle of February, one major benefit was energy generated by wind farms was able to satisfy 90 per cent of all local electricity needs.
These are largely freak events, but the technology exists to capture energy when it is produced at high quantities and stored until such times that it is required.
The UK government has pledged £7 million towards the development of new renewable energy storage facilities, including money for a project at Ballylumford to capture energy from offshore windfarms.
But if we’re also serious about reducing our consumption overall, utilising technology through the adoption of smart meters for example is a must, in terms of providing users with a new level of control over how and when they use energy.
This requires government expenditure.
It is clear also that electric vehicles (EVs) will play a huge role. The tide has already started to shift towards EVs but questions remain over how ready we are to embrace the change.
Adequate charging points in our homes and workplaces are needed to encourage those yet to make the switch to EVs to do so, allowing them to avail of the benefits.
In public spaces too, only with a proper network of charging infrastructure can we build the necessary confidence or the population at large to move to EVs, casting aside any concerns around reaching your destination before the battery runs out.
It may feel like a crisis at the moment, but we stand on the edge of a revolution and how we generate, monitor and use energy, and technology is at the centre.