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Home » Future of Energy » How funded research is facilitating Ireland’s clean energy transition

Kerrie Sheehan

Head of Department, Research and Technology,
Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI)

An online conference aims to showcase innovative energy research projects and spark discussion about how best to achieve Ireland’s clean energy goals.

The world has no choice, stresses Kerrie Sheehan, Head of Research and Technology at Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). We must create a cleaner, more sustainable energy future. “Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet for this,” she admits. “We’re going to need a wide range of solutions to help us get to where we need to go.”  

Developing clean energy solutions in Ireland

Naturally, finding those solutions will require a serious amount of academic, industrial, blue sky and pre-commercial research — which is where SEAI comes in. With a mission to be at the heart of Ireland’s energy revolution, they work with householders, businesses, communities and government to change the way we think about, generate and use energy. One part of its remit is to coordinate and fund energy research in Ireland. It has awarded over €50 million in research grants to a variety of innovative national energy research development and demonstration (RD&D) projects.

“Energy research is vital,” says Sheehan. “It will accelerate the development and deployment of innovative energy products, processes and systems as well as help overcome barriers to market uptake. It is essential that we grow Ireland’s capacity to access, develop and apply international-class RD&D as well as provide energy policy guidance and support.”

The conference is a way of bridging
innovation and ensuring that energy
policy development and implementation
is informed by the most current expertise available.

Informing energy policy development with up-to-date expertise

In 2019, SEAI hosted its first National Energy Research and Policy Conference to gather experts dedicated to helping Ireland achieve its long-term clean energy goals. “We needed a forum where policymakers, academic experts and energy industry and community representatives could share research findings, policy ambitions and insights. We put a high value on networking and lively discussions,” explains Sheehan. “We have focused on pivotal areas of electricity, heat, transport and societal change, with esteemed national and international contributions.”

This year’s online conference surrounds the increasingly topical subject of energy security. Achieving a sustainable and secure energy future for Ireland requires significant research, innovation and collaboration to identify solutions that work for society.

“People have different concepts of energy security, depending on their specialist areas,” says Sheehan. “Delegates will gain a broader understanding of the topic and what it means from different perspectives. Holding the event online makes it accessible and sustainable, helping us secure excellent overseas speakers alongside national experts.”

While clean energy innovation is vital, so is public buy-in, notes Sheehan. “Decarbonisation will require seismic societal change,” she says. “We have to inform with facts through events like this to ensure that people embrace solutions identified through funded research.”

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