The use of renewables as an energy source in the UK is on the rise, and the Government has ambitious targets for the use of renewable energy in the UK. Electricity generation from renewable sources such as wind and solar differs from conventional power generation in that the power comes from a large number of smaller sites spread over many locations. Furthermore many renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind energy are more intermittent in their nature. Generally, energy cannot be stored in the grid, as such energy demand and supply have to be matched in order to “keep the lights on”.

As more micro-generation and intermittent supply from solar and wind farms comes online managing this will require a modern grid that can respond to these changes. The future electricity network will be integrated with communication technologies and may contain elements of demand management in order to balance supply and demand.

This raises a number of issues for the current power networks which are not built for this purpose. The development of smarter electricity networks are needed to accommodate larger quantities of renewable energy efficiently. An efficient buffer or storage mechanism would also help to regulate supply.

To address the issues surrounding the current power networks, we have built up a portfolio of projects. We have invested in Supergen HubNet to coordinate and build capacity in Power Networks with associated challenge calls to boost research effort.

Our projects in sustainable energy networks are involved in industrial collaboration which helps leverage funds in this area, this includes collaboration with China on sustainable electricity supply. Addressing the issue of energy storage has meant we are funding various projects including the energy storage Supergen consortium.