Why understanding the energy system as a whole is key to Smart Power revolution

New £20m EPSRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration announced in Newcastle

A new centre that will allow experts to test the entire energy system in real time has been announced today in Newcastle.

Bridging a pivotal gap in our drive towards a fully integrated, smart energy network, the centre is crucial to improving energy efficiency, driving down customer bills and reducing carbon emissions.

Providing us with robust messages about the real world, the aim is to understand how we can optimise the energy network and inform future government policy.

The £20m EPSRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Siemens and Newcastle University, will bring together energy experts from around the world to help unravel the energy network and understand future supply and demand.

Looking for the first time at the energy system as a whole; gas, power, renewables, heating and cooling, the centre will pave the way to a flexible smart infrastructure, empowering customers and giving them greater control of their energy use while allowing industry to meet the tough new low carbon targets.

Using Newcastle University’s unique full-scale testing facilities at Science Central - a demonstrator site which houses a geothermal borehole, grid scale energy storage test bed and smart grid, and a combined heat and power system - the aim will be to understand the co-evolution of supply and demand across the UK’s energy network.

Announced today by Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson, the Centre will draw on the expertise of leading academics from the universities of Newcastle, Heriot-Watt, Sussex, Edinburgh and Durham.

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said:

“From powering our businesses, to monitoring our health and connecting us with friends and family around the world, we all rely on the generation and supply of electricity. This £20 million Centre will help us with the next challenge of storing new sources of energy to meet future demand and secure the UK’s leading position in low carbon technologies.”

Centre lead Professor Phil Taylor, Director of the Institute for Sustainability at Newcastle University, said:

“Electricity generation is undergoing fundamental change. Many existing fossil fuel power stations will be decommissioned in the coming 15 years and new sources of generation are coming on stream.

“This new National Centre will provide us with robust information about energy usage in the real world, enabling us to develop methods to deal with the inherent risk and uncertainty so we can confidently inform government policy.

“It gives us an opportunity here in the UK to really drive forward the smart energy revolution and become international leaders in this space. We are delighted here in Newcastle to be leading such an exciting project.”

Professor Paul Beasley, Head of R&D for Siemens UK, said:

“Siemens is proud that its 25 year collaborative relationship with Newcastle University – one of Siemens’ Global Principal Partner universities – continues to grow with this exciting new project.

“Building on Siemens existing research collaborations and facilities at Newcastle University through the Smart Grid Laboratory, we look forward to extending our partnership with the Centre for Energy System Integration (CESI).

“As an active member of the CESI, we plan to join the Industrial Innovation Board to ensure the centre’s proposed outputs are robust, applicable and scalable.

“We already provide input into the Science Central demonstrator project and believe this 24 acre mixed use site represents an excellent test-bed for evaluating novel interventions, alongside the planned Energy Systems Catapults’ Smart Systems and Heat demonstrator projects led by Newcastle City Council.”

Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council said:

“Today’s announcement strengthens our reputation as a world leader in innovative energy research. Newcastle is at the forefront of the research which will play a huge role in shaping the 21st century, and we are succeeding here because innovation is in our city’s DNA.

“The national energy centre announcement is just one sign of Newcastle’s ambitious plans to strengthen its international reputation.

“This is the second national centre Science Central has secured in recent months, following the success of the £15 million National Institute for Smart Data Innovation, and a huge boost of confidence in Newcastle and our ability to generate investment and support the next generation of jobs.” Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s Chief Executive, said:

“This new EPSRC centre will help equip the UK as it adapts to the changing mix of energy production and ensure it has a resilient infrastructure that can support domestic and industrial users. The level of commitment from industry partners such as Siemens shows this is a much valued and important area for research.”

Durham University lead Jon Gluyas, Professor in Geoenergy and Carbon Capture and Storage, said:

“Durham University is delighted to share this substantial award of funds to develop the National Centre for Energy Systems Integration, which will directly address the risks associated with securing and delivering the future energy system for the UK.

“There are many challenges that need to be addressed in order to secure future supply, for example adequate energy storage, effective roll-out of smart electricity and gas systems, adapting energy networks for the bi-directional power flows needed for distributed generation and better use of waste heat and heat networks.

“Durham University’s contribution to the project will include the development of new holistic statistical models for energy networks which are required for this radically different approach to energy; assessing the ethical implications of how these models are developed for future system-users; evaluation of the economic implications of future energy systems; and comprehensively mapping the current and future UK sources of energy supply, including sources of heat.

“We look forward to the challenges that this project offers and to contributing to delivering back to the nation a secure and lower-carbon energy future.”

A National Centre for Energy Systems Integration

According to the National Infrastructure Commission Report released earlier this year, two-thirds of our existing power stations are expected to close by 2030 as our coal, nuclear, and oldest gas fired power stations reach the end of their lives.

The Commission’s central finding is that Smart Power – principally built around three innovations, Interconnection, Storage, and Demand Flexibility – could save consumers up to £8 billion a year by 2030, help the UK meet its 2050 carbon targets, and secure the UK’s energy supply for generations.

The National Centre for Energy Systems Integration brings together engineers, computing scientists, geologists, economists, mathematicians and anthropologists together with leading industry experts.

Led by Newcastle University and Siemens, in collaboration with the UK Energy Research Centre, the Centre will be guided by its Industrial Innovation Board involving over 30 companies and an International Science Advisory Board, drawing expertise from the likes of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the US, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and Skoltech, the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, in Russia.

Focussing in the early days on the UK’s energy infrastructure, the aim is to look at how the findings can be used to inform the continental grid and ultimately be applied elsewhere in the world.

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