£20m Center to Study Energy Grid Supply and Demand

May 11, 2016 by Jeff Shepard

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.

The new center 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 center 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 optimize the energy network and inform future government policy.

Looking for the first time at the energy system as a whole; gas, power, renewables, heating and cooling, the center 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 Center 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, Siemens Professor of Energy Systems 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."

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."

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.

Focusing 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.