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2013 Sustainable Energy Report

This report was commissioned when DETI and MATRIX  identified substantial commercial opportunities associated with sustainable energy technology markets which were likely to grow significantly as worldwide demand for lower-carbon technologies increased.

The panel built on the existing base of intelligence and extrapolated forward to identify attractive global market opportunities that could be realised by exploiting Northern Ireland’s science, research and technology capabilities.

The report sets out a vision that within 10 years Northern Ireland could be an internationally recognised exporter of global solutions, forged from the development of the lowest cost sustainable energy infrastructure in Europe:

  • Created by thriving, indigenous businesses;
  • Exploiting the regions natural, intellectual and entrepreneurial capital.

This report makes the case for the exploitation of a significant future global market opportunity for Northern Ireland, based around the development and export of Intelligent Energy Systems and associated know-how. This could be achieved through the early regional deployment of integrated and sustainable energy solutions that have global relevance, demonstrating their commercial scalability and establishing the profile of Northern Ireland as a leading and credible International Reference Site.

Key diagrams

  1. How commercial showcases will develop
  2. Rise in renewables by 2035
  3. The predicted change in network structures
  4. The number of companies in the sustainable energy supply chain
  5. Current number of employees in each subsector
  6. World bioenergy use by sector, 2010 & 2035
  7. Proposed roadmap

Current technical capability

An analysis of existing regional capability in the sustainable energy sector generated an overview of the existing scientific, research and technological capacity of the region, and identified key differentiating and commercially competitive features. Northern Ireland has an evolving and
maturing sustainable energy supply chain with approximately 500 currently active companies, of which the majority are within the wind, marine, bioenergy, and integrated building technologies sectors. There is particular expertise in systems engineering and offshore services.

Specific regional strengths and potential differentiators have been identified in relation to:

The opportunities for Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is currently in a unique position relative to the rest of Europe, being the first market to face the commercial realities and multiple challenges of high density grid integration of renewables.

Northern Ireland’s existing electricity infrastructure is now reaching maximum capacity: the ‘islanded’ network is unable to accommodate the region’s significant potential for distributed renewable energy, with the result that there is curtailment of grid-connected generation, and high levels of additional capacity awaiting connection.

Connection of these assets will be critical in achieving the target contained within Northern Ireland’s Strategic Energy Framework of 40% electricity from renewable sources. Investment in ‘intelligence’ (communications and control infrastructure), coupled with some storage capability, will enable better exploitation of renewable resources and maximise the utilisation of the existing infrastructure.

Optimising and adapting existing assets, and the development of interconnected systems, will be necessary if deployment of sustainable energy technologies is to be fast tracked and the associated economic, environmental and social benefits realised. Development of Intelligent
Energy Systems is the common denominator required for the successful commercialisation of sustainable energy technologies whilst extending the life of the current network.

No individual region has currently established a leadership position in this sector, and there is an acknowledged lag in the integration of distributed renewable generation onto the intelligent energy system.

It is this area in which Northern Ireland has the opportunity to lead, exploiting first mover advantage to become an ‘early adopter’ commercial Reference Site for scalable solutions for international markets and to secure a share of the potential export revenue. This will allow exploitation of existing regional strengths whilst building a sustainable platform for the future development of next generation technologies and related intellectual assets and skills.

Forecasts suggest that global revenue from intelligent grid renewables integration could grow from £2.5 billion in 2012 to just over £8 billion in 2018.

Within this projection, growth is anticipated to be particularly strong in advanced storage technologies and microgrids. Capturing just a small portion of this market opportunity will represent significant economic benefit to the region in terms of investment in R&D, job creation and inward investment.

In addition to direct economic benefits, realisation of the proposed vision will ensure that Northern Ireland will gain from a large number of related direct and indirect advantages including:

Timeline 2013-2023

The panel defined a high level road map for a Foresight Implementation Plan which identifies the key steps required in the development of sector-leading capability in Intelligent Energy Systems over the next ten years:

Key recommendations

A compelling opportunity has been identified for Northern Ireland to:

  • Take a leadership role in the development of distributed energy solutions and their integration into intelligent energy systems that will optimise efficiencies through the use of local resources and participation of multiple stakeholders;
  • Create an international reference site to demonstrate the commercial scalability of these solutions to the global market.

The panel has defined five key recommendations which are considered to be fundamental prerequisites for the future successful delivery of the MATRIX Foresight Implementation Plan:

  • Formation of industry led implementation group to provide overview, guidance and monitoring of foresight implementation plan and ensure alignment of key stakeholders.
  • Recruitment of dynamic and commercially orientated delivery team for day to day planning and management of foresight implementation plan.
  • Mechanisms to be put in place to optimise communications across all levels of the sector (public, private and academia).
  • Alignment of key policies across all government Departments.
  • Exploitation of public procurement models where appropriate.
  • Mining of existing regional intellectual assets.
  • Review and development of existing support to make it more appropriate/ accessible to SMEs and accelerate internationalisation.
  • Skills development capacity building.
  • Further refine relative regional USP relating to Intelligent Energy Systems.
  • Identify key strategic partnerships to share know-how and develop future projects/economic opportunities (academia, public sector agencies and industry).
  • Development of focused and attractive financial support programmes for the sector (pre-commercial finance).
  • In addition to public procurement, explore options for an alternative financing vehicle to provide risk and/or working capital for commercial demonstration projects.

The panel

David Surplus

B9 Energy Group

David Surplus is Founder and Chairman of The B9 Energy Group. The B9 Energy family of companies is involved with development, ownership, operation and maintenance of renewable energy projects utilising wind, wave, tidal, landfill gas and anaerobic digestion technologies.

Aaron Black

South West College

Since graduation, Aaron has been employed by the South West College firstly as a researcher and now as a research lecturer in sustainability. His work to date has included renewable energy technologies demonstration, waste management, composting technology and on farm anaerobic digestion.

Paul Brewster

Pure Marine

Dr Paul Brewster is founder and CTO of Belfast based Pure Marine. Paul is one of the most experienced technology leaders of offshore wave energy systems and is one of the pioneers in the ocean energy scene.

Denzil Conn


Denzil Conn is an Electrical Engineer at Northern Ireland Electricity.

Joe Corbett

Mainstream Renewable Power

Joe Corbett is Head of Technology at Mainstream. He is a Professional Engineer with more than 30 years experience in transmission systems from substation, line and protection design, construction and maintenance through system studies and utility management.

Bjoern Elsaesser


Dr Bjoern Elsäßer is a Senior Lecturer in Coastal Science and Engineering at the School of Planning Architecture and Civil Engineering at Queen’s University Belfast. He was appointed through the Institute of Sustainable World in 2009 having previously worked as an Associate for RPS Consulting Engineers.

Michael Harnett

Bioil Ltd

Bioil is an energetic green business run from a farm offering natural lubricants to customers. The business is the only United Kingdom company to be awarded an EU eco friendly flower, promoting environmentally standard practices incorporating locally grown products.

Philip Johnson

Delta Carbon

Philip Johnson (CEng) is an Executive Director and Board Level Engineer who has led several high profile electricity generation/supply companies and energy technology businesses. He is currently an Associate of Pöyry Management Consulting (UK) Ltd and Director at Delta Carbon Advisers Ltd.

Chris Johnston


Chris Johnston has a MSc in Food & Agricultural Biotechnology and has experience in waste recycling, nutrient management, design, building and operating waste water irrigation systems.

John Kinney

Cleanfields Technology

John Kinney is a process chemist in a pharmaceutical start up developing products and processes in tandem with systems development of QEHS management and regulatory compliance. He is Chair of the Water and Wastewater Cluster at Questor, QUB.

Sam McCloskey

Centre for Advanced Sustainable Energy

Current Director of CASE, an industry led sustainable energy research centre that bridges the gap between industry research needs and traditional academic research offerings. CASE provides access to research funding for industrial partners in Energy from Biomass, Demand Side Management and Turbines.

Clifford McSpadden

CMS Global Ltd

Clifford McSpadden has 25 years experience in the aerospace industry, working for three of the world’s leading companies, in a range of senior executive positions. Clifford is the founder and CEO of CMS Global.

Clare Passmore

Attune Womenswear

Clare Passmore

Clare Passmore is currently a freelance research advisor and founder of Attune Womenswear. Clare has over 20 years experience in healthcare research and development, including senior management positions in the pharmaceutical industry.

Garry Staunton

Innovate UK

Garry Staunton is an energy professional with widely recognised technical and commercial acumen with a substantive track record of investing in the commercialisation of novel energy technologies.

Neil Stewart

Glenn Dimplex

Neil Stewart is Managing Director of Dimplex Renewables, a new business unit set up by the Glen Dimplex Group in 2010 to focus on developing a successful renewables business in the UK and Ireland. This involved a €10m investment in two new manufacturing facilities and two new R&D laboratories for renewables in Ireland.