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

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Photo of scientific equipment

From the University of 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, 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.

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.

Notes to Editors:

Science Central is Newcastle's £250 million flagship project bringing together academia, the public sector, communities, business and industry.

Designed as a global centre for urban innovation in the heart of the city, Science Central is a partnership between Newcastle University and Newcastle City Council.

The 24-acre site has been at Newcastle's industrial heart for 200 years was originally the Elswick Colliery and later the production centre for Newcastle Brown Ale.

The site is transforming into an exemplar of urban sustainability, a 'living laboratory' where the University will trial innovative urban technologies.

This includes a low carbon energy centre and unique £2 million grid connected energy storage test bed. It will also include a smart grid network. This will allow the development of new technologies for maximising efficiency, availability and sustainability of energy across the UK power grid.

Reference: PN 23-16

Contact Details

In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Name: Professor Phil Taylor
Organisation: Newcastle University
Telephone: 0191 208 4800

In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Name: Louella Houldcroft
Job title: Senior Communications Manager
Organisation: Newcastle University
Telephone: 0191 208 5108