Energy networks

Assesses the effects of decarbonisation on the existing energy supply and transmission networks and how future network technologies will deal with these challenges. This area includes: research into generation and transmission networks of all scales; management of demand and integration of different energy vectors; and power electronics research into the design, fabrication and engineering of circuits for reliable high-power, high-voltage applications in the context of Energy Networks.

This strategy aims to support the profound transformation needed to achieve decarbonisation of the whole energy system, as per the government's 2050 targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and maintain the security and reliability of the energy supply (Evidence source 1,2,3).

The strategy recognises that fundamental research in Energy Networks plays a crucial role in enabling other technologies to contribute to a secure and resilient energy system. By the end of the current Delivery Plan, we aim to:

  • Increase the breadth and multidisciplinary nature of the portfolio in this area, strengthening collaboration with fields including, for example: power electronics, telecommunications, stochastic modelling, computational sciences, data analytics, and behavioural/environmental sciences. Our goal is to increase opportunities for mobility between these areas
  • Work with the community to increase engagement with industry, consumers and other stakeholders to accelerate impact and deployment of research outputs, while maintaining a longer-term fundamental research perspective
  • Nurture the growth of heat network research and integrate non-electrical, multi-vector transmission networks into the research portfolio (including biological and synthetic gas networks)
  • Develop international and Official Development Assistance research collaborations, particularly on islanded and local networks and interconnection with large, incomplete and unstable networks
  • Continue to supply people with high-level skills, while addressing the balance and diversity of researchers across career stages
  • Strengthen connections with research in the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) on the effects of climate change on Energy Networks and with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) on the social and consumer aspects of research.

The UK science and engineering base in Energy Networks is strong and enjoys a good international reputation, with research quality generally seen as high. Internationally, the UK is regarded as a leader in areas of Energy Networks research, as evidenced by ongoing EPSRC-facilitated collaborations with the Republic of Korea, India and China. The research has potential to be even more interdisciplinary, with good interactions already observed with researchers in the Energy Storage, Materials for Energy Applications, Whole Energy Systems and Power Electronics areas (Evidence source 4,5,6).

There are several centres of critical mass in the UK, including the Supergen HubNet Programme which has been renewed until 2018. HubNet has facilitated collaboration among a more cohesive community and has linked complementary discipline strengths across institutions. For instance, high-voltage materials, power electronics and control experts have worked closely together in high-voltage direct current (HVDC) research with a stronger emphasis on system integration (Evidence source 7,8,9).

A further strength in this research area is the recognition that it is of high national importance, which is demonstrated by a very large programme of innovation demonstration by the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) and the government. There have also been two EPSRC Grand Challenges in the area. The link between UK industry and academia is reasonably well-established at the knowledge exchange and impact levels, but requires more collaboration on longer-term, transformative innovation.

The two Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) in the research area have provided a steady pipeline of skilled researchers to address capacity issues that have been previously identified. There is a recognised lack of capacity in the utilities companies to enable further technology transfer and adoption of novel and innovative solutions, which is of upmost importance since UK assets are ageing and will need to be replaced. New Energy Networks infrastructure will need to meet both current and as yet unknown future needs, including multi-vector transmission (Evidence source 8). To compound this, it has been estimated that the possible electrification of heat and transport could potentially double the required capacity (Evidence source 9,10).

This research area will continue to contribute significantly to Productive, Resilient and Connected Nation Outcomes. The following Ambitions are of particular note:

P1: Introduce the next generation of innovative and disruptive technologies

Energy Networks research is expected to produce innovative and disruptive technologies to enable transformation of the networks in order to support the decarbonisation of the whole energy system.

P2: Ensure affordable solutions for national needs

This research area is expected to ensure affordable solutions, to increase their adoption by the distribution network operators.

R1: Achieve energy security and efficiency

This research area is expected to enable secure and efficient integrated Energy Networks.

R2: Ensure a reliable infrastructure which underpins the UK economy

This research area is expected to maximise the reliability of energy infrastructure in the UK.

C3: Deliver intelligent technologies and systems

This research area is expected to contribute significantly to, for example, the use of smart systems in Energy Networks to drive energy efficiency.

  1. National Infrastructure Commission, Smart Power (PDF), (2016)
  2. Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC), Towards a Smart Energy System (PDF), (2015)
  3. Energy Research Partnership, Managing Flexibility Whilst Decarbonising the GB Electricity System (PDF), (2015)
  4. Low Carbon Innovation Coordination Group (LCICG), Technology Innovation Needs Assessment (TINA): Electricity Networks & Storage (EN&S), (PDF), (2012)
  5. Research Councils UK (RCUK), Review of Energy 2010 (PDF), (2010)
  6. RCUK, Research Councils UK Energy Programme Strategy Fellowship (PDF), (2012)
  7. Supergen HubNet, Position Papers, (2012-2016)
  8. National Grid, Future Energy Scenarios, (2016)
  9. Energy Technologies Institute (ETI), Smart Systems and Heat: Decarbonising Heat for UK Homes (PDF), (2015)
  10. International Energy Agency (IEA), Global Electric Vehicles Outlook 2016 (PDF), (2016)

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 Energy Networks (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: Victoria Mico
Job title: Portfolio Manager
Section / Team: Energy
Organisation: EPSRC
Telephone: 01793 444562