On August 11th, 2023, energy enthusiasts, experts, and innovators converged at the Bailey Allen Hall, University of Galway, Ireland, for The Galway Energy Summit 2023. This event was co-hosted by ASHRAE Ireland, as part of the ASHRAE Region XIV Chapter Regional Conference (CRC), this summit drew ASHRAE delegates from around the world (over 20 countries!), igniting a weekend filled with rich discussions, and fruitful collaborations.
Under the captivating theme of ‘Achieving Net Zero,’ this year’s summit resonated perfectly with Ireland’s ambitious vision of attaining net-zero emissions by 2050. With the global climate crisis looming ever larger, the event couldn’t have come at a more pivotal time. The summit’s significance was evident in the presence of leaders from pivotal organizations within the industry, highlighting the shared commitment to achieving net zero and the urgent need for collaboration.
The Galway Energy Summit, founded in 2018 by a dedicated group of University of Galway Energy Society students, had seen remarkable success in its previous editions: ‘The Future of Energy in Ireland’ (2018) and ‘Changing for our Climate’ (2019). Despite the setbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year marked the triumphant revival of the event, courtesy of ASHRAE Ireland’s unwavering support.
A Day of Insights and Discourse
The summit opened with a warm welcome from Conor Deane, original founder of the Galway Energy Summit and current YEA Chair of ASHRAE Ireland. The stage was then shared by ASHRAE Ireland President Gary O’Sullivan, ASHRAE Global President Ginger Scoggins, CIBSE President Adrian Catchpole, and ASHRAE Global Vice President Ashish Rakheja, all echoing the theme of unity in tackling the climate crisis through collaboration and a healthy and sustainable built environment for all. A key take away as stated by Gary O’ Sullivan in his speech, “In 30 years time when our children ask us why didn’t we do something. We will be able to say we did, we didn’t fail them or their children. we have done our best to ensure they have a future. As Engineers we can make a difference, we can promote change”.
Opening Discussion – The road to Net Zero An Outlook
The event’s heart lay in its diverse and impactful panel discussions. Dr. Rory Monaghan, Associate Professor of Energy Systems Engineering at the University of Galway, steered the insightful conversation during “The Road to Net Zero: An Outlook.” Visionaries like Dr. Paul Deane, Catherine Joyce O’Caollai, Decal Meally, Jaap Hogeling, and Ellen Costello illustrated Ireland’s journey towards net zero with honest reflections and promising insights. Dr. Paul Deane delivered a pivotal insight during the first panel, emphasising that Ireland remains heavily reliant on fossil fuels, a fact often obscured by media portrayals. He made it unmistakably clear that Ireland is poised to fall short of its carbon reduction targets due to this lingering dependence. However, a glimmer of hope emerged in the panel discussion, showcasing Ireland’s promising strides toward innovative and sustainable solutions and highly educated and motivated workforce.
Driving Innovation: Net Zero in Action
The subsequent panel, “Net Zero in Industry,” delved deep into the strategies of prominent corporations, both national and multinational. Siobhan McHugh of PWC moderated as industry leaders David McAuley, Peter Moran, Michael Curran, Stephen Daly, and Catherine Sheridan shared their companies’ sustainable approaches. Michael Curran’s presentation was a standout moment, as he provided an in-depth case study highlighting the University of Galway’s remarkable efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. Particularly noteworthy was their recent installation of a ground-source heat pump, a practical and innovative solution that now efficiently heats the university’s swimming pool and gym.
Beyond Emissions: The Circular Economy
The importance of the circular economy and embodied carbon found its spotlight in the third panel, “Switching to a Circular Economy.” Dr. Hywel Davis of CIBSE moderated this crucial discussion, featuring Rachel Loughrey, Matt Paskin, Rosemarie Mac Sweeney, and Samuel Boswell. The audience gained insights into materials reuse, sustainability, and the power of a circular approach in achieving net zero. Rachel, representing IGBC, delivered an insightful account of the organization’s initiatives. Notably, she highlighted the Construction Materials Exchange (CMEx), a pioneering platform that facilitates the highest value reuse of construction materials. This innovative approach not only conserves precious raw materials but also the energy invested in their initial production. Additionally, Rachel introduced the concept of a ‘Material Passport,’ likened to an identity document for materials. These passports contain comprehensive data defining the unique characteristics of materials within products, thus enhancing their value for future recovery and reuse.
Measuring Progress: The Way Forward
The closing panel, “Measuring Net Zero,” tackled the pivotal aspect of quantifying progress. Marisa Higgins of ARUP led the conversation, featuring Paul Walsh, Seán Sirr, Niall O’Leary, Robert McCarthy, and Andrea Ahern. The panel underscored the importance of reliable measurement methodologies for assessing our collective journey toward net zero.
A Day of Inspiration and Mentorship
The summit’s finale was a mentorship session where young and experienced engineers connected, embracing the power of mentorship in shaping the future. As Kailash Satyarthi rightly said, “The power of youth is the common wealth for the entire world.” This session embodied the summit’s core essence: empowering the next generation to drive change. This session aligned with the ASHRAE mentorship program which was founded last year , The purpose of this programme is to assist younger engineers in the early stages of their career and provide them with guidance, advice, and tips from industry leaders.
Acknowledgments and Gratitude
Behind this event were the dedicated organisers, Gary O’Sullivan, Karen McNevin, and Conor Deane as well as the ASHRAE Ireland Board. The summit’s success wouldn’t have been possible without the valuable contributions of its speakers and the generous support of sponsors such as ARDMAC, OSENG, Kirby Group, Jones Engineering, Taylor Group, IDEAM Industry Cluster, Sygma Automation, Resolute Engineering, Daikin, Lindab, Entropic, Failte Ireland, Munters, Rostek Group, Crystal Air, Camfil, Mitsubishi Electric, Fagerhult, EasyGo, Aircon Mech, Arantico, Unitherm, STS Services, Turboair, Solar Evolution, Mercury, MKO, King and Moffat, Cubic M3
Author: Conor Deane YEA ASHRAE Ireland LEAD / Sustainable Engineer J.V. Tierney & Co. Consulting Engineer