Researcher spotlight: Dr Ciarán Mac Domhnaill

Researcher spotlight

Dr Ciarán Mac Domhnaill is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the School of Economics, University College Dublin. His research project is entitled ‘Understanding future energy customer needs – exploiting technology and prices’.

Q. What is your NexSys research about and what are you working on at the moment?

A. The way we use electricity at home is changing with the uptake of technologies such as electric vehicles, heat pumps and solar panels. In my research, I am focusing on how different ways of pricing residential electricity can support this change. At the moment, I am exploring the impacts of different forms of time-of-use pricing, where the price of electricity varies throughout the day, on household electricity use, and the role of different technologies in this relationship.

Q. How did you become interested in this research field?

A. We know human activity has led to climate change, but I think the solutions to climate change also lie in human activity. In many ways, understanding economics ultimately comes down to understanding the behaviour of humans. In particular, energy economics has an important role to play in addressing climate change and transitioning to sustainable energy sources. In this field, I feel I can collaborate with researchers from other disciplines and contribute to the development of policies and strategies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Q. What is one interesting finding from your research or fact about your research area people may not know about?

A. Many households have large batteries capable of storing substantial quantities of electricity sitting right outside their home: their electric vehicle. Some of these electric vehicles are now equipped with Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) technology, allowing them to provide electricity back to the grid when they are not in use. If households are willing to facilitate this, this technology could help us to integrate more renewables into our electricity supply by giving electricity back to the grid at times when supply from wind and solar is low.

Q. What is the wider relevance of your research to the energy transition?

A. As the energy transition involves our electricity supply becoming more reliant on variable sources such as wind and solar, we will need our electricity demand to become more flexible. In other words, we will need our household electricity demand to be able to adjust at times when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. My research is looking at how we can use electricity pricing to facilitate this, and what role technologies such as electric vehicles and heat pumps can play.

Q. What is something people may find surprising about you?

A. This season I am in the top 4% of Fantasy Premier League managers in the world, which is a result of skill and meticulous planning (it’s actually almost entirely a result of luck, and that still leaves nearly 400,000 managers ahead of me, but it sounds good).