Fossil Fuel power generation

The study of fundamental, generic and applied concepts concerning the conversion of coal, oil and gas into electricity for grid use, and the integration of these technologies into the renewable sector. This research area covers, for both conventional and unconventional fossil fuels: design and development of new generation plant/machinery; increasing the efficiency of existing plant methods; and monitoring plant conditions within the generation process. Power generation relating to flames, gas turbines or internal combustion engines falls within the Combustion Engineering research area.

This research area and Combustion Engineering are the result of dividing the Conventional Power Generation and Combustion area. With this separation, Fossil Fuel Power Generation is now able to focus on delivering a strategy that addresses challenges surrounding power plant flexibility, plant efficiency, technological efficiencies and unconventional sources (e.g. shale gas).

The area is well-established and relatively mature. Following a period of reduction, its research portfolio is much smaller than it was previously but it remains significant to a range of applications within the energy sector.

As we move towards a clean, secure, sustainable energy system, we will see rapid growth in electricity generation from intermittent renewables - resulting in much higher demand for conventional plant flexibility, load balancing and fuel flexibility, creating new research challenges in plant engineering, monitoring and control. New developments and innovations within this research area will also be incorporated into technologies in other energy portfolios, such as developing ways of retrofitting fossil fuel power plants with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) capability, or CCS with Bioenergy (BECCS). (Evidence source 1)

It is vital, then, to maintain the area to ensure availability of core capability and knowledge, to provide a flexible, balanced energy system that meets the dynamic energy demands of energy stakeholders. Further reduction will result in subcritical support and have a negative impact on the UK energy system.

With whole systems approaches and systems integration as priorities for the Energy Theme, the Fossil Fuel Power Generation community will be encouraged to consider how their research fits into the wider energy landscape, with particular emphasis on finding ways to increase the efficiency of existing technologies and integrate them into a renewable energy system.

Knowledge/skills transfer will be supported through the Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) for CCS and Cleaner Fossil Energy and standard-mode applications, with strong emphasis on collaboration with other disciplines in the Energy Theme, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) - and potentially the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) - to strengthen a whole energy systems approach that tackles environmental challenges and delivers public acceptability, energy security and flexibility.


Government and UK energy communities are making a significant effort to move away from Fossil Fuel Power Generation (Evidence source 2,3,4) towards the use of efficient, low-carbon, renewable technologies, in order to achieve environmental and climate change targets for 2020 and 2050 (Government has already initiated plans to cease using unmitigated coal by 2024).

Demand for conventional and unconventional power sources, then, will have to be continually re-balanced with regard to advances in low-carbon, renewable technologies. (Evidence source 2) To ensure grid power is readily available for the consumer, research in Fossil Fuel Power Generation must continue in order to provide power if there are intermittencies from renewable sources. The skills and capabilities within this research area must be maintained to address efficiency challenges and integrate Fossil Fuel Power Generation into low-carbon technologies.

Given the relative size of the portfolio in this research area, advice from the Energy Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) states that maintaining this area is reasonable to ensure that the relevant knowledge and capability can be transferred (and integrated) into other parts of the UK energy system.

The Fossil Fuel Power Generation research area is linked with the Carbon Capture and Storage, Whole Energy Systems, and Combustion Engineering research areas, and the Living with Environmental Change programme.

This research are is particularly aligns with Resilient and Productive Nation Outcomes. Specific Ambitions of relevance include:

R1: Achieve energy security and efficiency

As fossil fuel power is easily accessible to cover any intermittencies in power from renewables, Fossil Fuel Power Generation is a UK necessity to provide energy security and flexibility as the energy landscape moves towards renewable sources.

R2: Ensure a reliable infrastructure which underpins the UK economy

Research on developing infrastructure and integrating existing technologies will provide a greater level of flexibility in the UK energy system.

P2: Ensure affordable solutions for national needs

Fossil Fuel Power Generation requires a relatively low level of investment to ensure that the UK’s need for power is met flexibly.

  1. Energy Technologies Institute (ETI), Bioenergy: Enabling UK Biomass (PDF), (2015).
  2. Energy Research Partnership (ERP), Managing Flexibility Whilst Decarbonising the GB Electricity System (PDF), (2015).
  3. HM Government, The Carbon Plan: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions, (2013 - last update).
  4. HM Government, 2050 Pathways Analysis (PDF), (2010).

Other source:

Research area connections

This diagram shows the top 10 connections between Research Areas within the EPSRC research portfolio. The depth of the segment relates to value of grants and the width of the segment relates to the number of grants shared by those two Research Areas. Please click to see the related Research Area rationale.

Visualising our Portfolio (VoP)
Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships.

EPSRC support by research area in Fossil Fuel power generation (GoW)
Search EPSRC's research and training grants.

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: Elizabeth Bent
Job title: Portfolio Manager
Department: Energy
Organisation: EPSRC
Telephone: 01793 444426