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Demand Response and Flexibility - Why Ireland Urgently Needs a Demand-Side Strategy

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Siobhan McHugh's picture
CEO Demand Response Association of Ireland

Siobhán McHugh is Chief Executive Officer of the Demand Response Association of Ireland (DRAI), representing 700MW of demand and embedded generation response operating in the energy, capacity and...

  • Member since 2021
  • 5 items added with 1,695 views
  • Apr 20, 2022

What is Demand Response and how does it help decarbonisation?

As we increasingly turn to the wind and sun as our sources of fuel, we must change how we balance the grid and maintain a secure power system. If we can fully exploit demand response from energy users it will make a big difference in cutting our carbon emissions and cutting customer bills.

Demand Response effectively turns energy users into “virtual power plants” who are instructed to adjust energy consumption during specific times to relieve stress on the electricity grid. Instead of turning another traditional supply source on or up (such as a power plant), a grid operator can use demand response to predictably adjust electricity demand and maintain a balanced system.

How is Demand Response different from Energy Efficiency?

Whereas energy efficiency reduces energy use overall, and is the essential foundation step in any form of decarbonisation, demand response asks power users to change usage during times of grid stress or congestion, and pays participants for providing this service.

Demand Response rewards customers who can provide flexibility in terms of “when” and “where” they use electricity, providing a valuable service to the power system in balancing and ensuring adequate capacity margin.

Why do we need Demand Response to get to our 2030 Climate Action Plan goals?

Two fundamental shifts are happening at the same time over the coming decade:


  • Generating up to 80% of electricity from renewables – the power system needs new sources of technical services that it once got from conventional fossil-fuel generators – we will need more demand response, more storage and interconnection
  • We are electrifying more energy uses than ever before – existing demand will increase as we electrify parts of our heat and transport needs – demand will be higher than ever, we need to make as much of it flexible as we can to maintain security and operate a stable electricity system

How can we exploit Demand Response fully and reach Ireland’s decarbonisation goals?

We urgently need a demand-side strategy for Ireland. Cutting our carbon emissions isn’t just about generating more renewable energy, it’s also about using less, and empowering active energy consumers to help balance supply and demand.

Our electricity system still relies on a fossil fuel back-up. We can replace this with low and zero-carbon technologies like demand response to provide reliable, low-cost, clean support for our electricity system.

The recent Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) letter [1] to Government stresses that "Accelerated implementation of a Demand Side Management Strategy including demand response by large energy users and demand side flexibility services are crucial to meet future system needs as Ireland progresses to 80% renewable electricity."

Flexible energy consumers can support renewable energy and the electricity grid by adapting when and where they use electricity. Ireland has a target [2] to make 20-30 per cent of our electricity demand flexible by 2030 - we need to put the right policy and delivery accountability in place to do so. 


The Demand Response Association of Ireland (DRAI) represents approximately 600 MW of demand and embedded generation response across hundreds of industrial and commercial customer sites throughout the island of Ireland. These sites are managed by our members each of whom actively participate in the capacity, DS3 system services, and energy markets.  

DRAI members are committed to shaping the future of the power system through advancing demand side flexibility on the island of Ireland. As Ireland strives to achieve up to 80% renewable generation by 2030, our promise as an industry-led organisation is to champion the development of innovative demand side solutions that are designed to address the system-wide requirement for flexibility.  

The association was formed to give a single voice to companies operating in this space, in order to help facilitate market participation for demand, and provide perspectives on how to design market and system rules to allow greater volumes of active participation by flexible sources of demand.  




Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Apr 20, 2022

I'm always curious what utilities in the U.S. can learn from successful implementations in other countries. Do you find that the customers in Ireland are generally receptive to load management programs? Does it take a lot of convincing / education? 

Richard Brooks's picture
Richard Brooks on Apr 20, 2022

This will be worth watching. Ireland is known to have several hours of negative LMP's at times, which would not be economical for typical Demand Response (load shedding) program. However, in ISO New England we have the concept of DARD's, which are dispatched to consume energy when gen is high and load is low. This might make sense for Ireland when generation is high and load is low - turn on the DARD's to scoop up the excess juice AND GET PAID for consuming energy!

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Apr 21, 2022

Ireland is a country that is well-suited to EVs... For example the distance between Dublin in the East and Galway in the West is about 130 miles.  The distance from Dublin Airport to Cork is 165 miles. Easy range for EV buses.

So tying charging to high generation periods makes sense.  

Siobhan McHugh's picture
Thank Siobhan for the Post!
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