Monday 19 February 2018

WATCH: This Dublin-based software firm wants to change the world of energy - and is currently looking for new staff

Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

'Ireland is the perfect post-Brexit solution for companies,' was the well worn phrase used by An Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald TD as yet another tech firm officially announced the opening of its EMEA headquarters in Dublin's 'Silicon Docks'.

For EnerNOC, a company which began with the acquisition of a five-person start-up and which has just been acquired by the globally established Enel, two things brought the firm to Dublin.

"We came to Dublin for the talent and its proximity to position us for global expansion," Christian Weeks, VP & General Manager EnerNOC told independent.ie.

"Europe, in particular, has pretty stringent data requirements which are sometimes hard to serve from other markets or the US. As we grow the business outside North America, we need to support certain requirements and Dublin is also well positioned to support our global operations."

At the opening address at the firm's new centre on Grand Canal Dock, which is currently capable of accommodating over 100 employees, Eliano Russo, Head of E-Industries, Enel spoke of their collaborative confidence in Ireland - and in changing the way energy is used.

Multinational power company Enel is present in over 30 countries worldwide, producing energy with more than 85 GW of managed capacity.

"We come from the very traditional utility world so we do have a very strong customer base, 65 million customers across the globe," Mr Russo told independent.ie.

"We have been serving them up to now with more traditional solutions but helping them also identify some ways to reduce the cost of energy and improve the way they use energy.

"By joining forces with EnerNOC we are moving to the next step because eventually what we would like to do is continue growing exponentially with solutions which are less capital intensive.

"It's a perfect fit; the synergies we have our tremendous."

EnerNOC used to run three network operation centres, in Boston, San Francisco and Munich - but consolidated everything last year and early this year into the one GNOC in Dublin which supports its global network demand response.

The firm expects to expand its workforce in Dublin by 30pc by end 2018 and is actively recruiting for software developers to help expand the platform used in Ireland, and for staff for the centralised network operation centre.

 

So what does EnerNOC do?

EnerNOC was the first demand response provider to connect flexible electric capacity of Irish businesses to the system operator EirGrid at scale.

The GNOC currently manages more than 6,800 MW of dispatchable demand response capacity from 9 countries around the world; the US, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, South Korea and the UK.

"We really offer demand response flexibility services, we engage with businesses, help them identify where they have flexibility and how they are using energy," said Mr Weeks.

"We try to identify and harness that flexibility and make that available to the grid operator...To do that, you need to maintain supply and demand in balance. Historically, the approach has been to just build extra power plants that are standing idle most of the time but are there when you need them in an emergency situation.

"Our business is all about leveraging the flexibility that the businesses already have and how they use energy as an alternative resource to keep the grid in balance.  We have team here that supports that business in Ireland - we offer these services to the Irish electricity market."

 

What does the centralised GNOC team do?

"They oversee about 50 demand response programs we manage globally in these nine countries. For example, in Ireland, if there is an issue on the grid that is creating instability, they either need more supply or to take demand off the grid. The grid operator can push a button and that sends a signal to our control network.

"That signal is transmitted to our hundreds of customers in Ireland to have agreed to implement certain production plans or energy shifting plans when they get that signal from us. We basically sit in the middle."

 

How does this fit into the Irish market?

"The grid operator increasingly needs the service. For example, as more wind comes in Ireland, wind is intermittent and not blowing at times; all of a sudden there is an instability on the grid. So the more instability of power generation from wind and solar, in particular, you need more flexibility services to manage that.

"Eir are saying that we need to redesign this - and they are in the process of redesigning the Irish market to integrate the market in a way that hasn't been done before. To introduce new products are designed to balance this intermittent power that is prevalent on the grid.

"On the other side we have our commercial and industrial customers, our businesses. For them, the challenges they see is that energy is becoming increasingly complex and it's a big cost.

"We try and help businesses think about how they can incorporate different technologies, offer flexibility services to the grid and help them achieve some of their sustainability targets and some of their cost reduction targets by being smarter about how they are using energy."

 

What can we expect next?

"Enel has done a lot of work in the IoT space and they've been leading from a utilities standpoint in deploying smart meters in Italy and other markets. As we come together, we're finding that there's great opportunities to accelerate some of the work we need to do by leveraging some of the work that Enel has already done.

"But we will also do a lot of development within the legacy EnerNOC organisation which is going to become part of Enel. So it's all going to come together but certainly the team in Dublin will play a crucial role in that.

"The plan is continue to build out our development capabilities and integrate it with Enel's capabilities - and other acquisitions that Enel has done and will do. We will build together a global flexibility optimisation platform that will enable more of these flexible services around the world."

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