Keele University to become Europe's largest smart energy demonstrator
December 20, 2016
Keele University has secured £15m of investment in a project that will allow the UK university campus to become the largest single, integrated electricity, gas and heat smart energy network demonstrator in Europe.
The university will also be the first facility in Europe for at-scale living laboratory research, development and demonstration of smart energy technologies and services in partnership with business and industry.
With priorities to deliver secure, reliable, clean and affordable energy, the UK faces a challenge in meeting targets under the Climate Change Act. The research at Keele aims to look at how the UK can successfully decarbonise its energy system, ensure a secure supply of energy that is affordable for consumers and, in meeting these challenges, provide new business opportunities.
The Smart Energy Network Demonstrator (Send) is being funded by Keele University, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the England 2014 to 2020 European Structural & Investment Funds (ESIF) Growth Programme. This builds on the university’s investment in its energy and other utility networks over many years.
In addition to securing investment in Send, as part of a wider package of investment in sustainable energy at Keele, National Grid and Northern Gas Networks have announced that Keele University is participating in the HyDeploy project – a collaboration to deliver blended hydrogen into the existing natural gas grid – the first UK practical deployment of hydrogen onto a live gas network.
“Sustainability is a key overarching priority at Keele University,” said Mark Ormerod, deputy vice chancellor and provost of Keele University. “These two separate but related investments will enable Keele to become a national research and development facility that undertakes world-leading research into environmental sustainability and significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.”
He said both projects had the potential to lead to significant carbon reduction across the entire UK energy network and provide UK and local businesses with the opportunity to work with the university and its partners to take the lead on the development of products and services for the growing international market in smart energy.
David Frost, chairman of the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), added: “The LEP has identified energy generation and new energy technologies as a key growth area for our region, building on our recognised strength as home to some of the world’s top companies in this sector. The launch of the smart energy network, enabled through our City Deal secured with government and European investment, will use the world-leading research capabilities of Keele University to continue to develop our strengths in energy technologies, helping to meet the energy and climate challenges of the future while creating more highly-skilled job opportunities for local people.”
With a mix of residential, business, industrial, leisure and domestic premises on the 600-acre campus, Keele University is well placed as a research and development facility to reflect the energy requirements of a small town. The campus will become a living laboratory where new energy-efficient and low-carbon technologies can be researched, developed and tested in a real world environment.
All facilities and connected services – electricity, gas, heat, telecommunications and water – on campus are owned and operated by the university, making it uniquely placed to manage a project of this size.
With more than 10,000 staff and students on site every day, 5000 of which are resident on campus, 341 buildings and more than 204,000 square metres of built environment, the entire Keele University campus will be a living and working environment that is controlled and managed to reduce carbon use.
Smart meters, controllers, automation devices and automated substations will be required to allow the project to deliver on outcomes such as saving over 4000 tonnes of carbon every year.
The Send will provide opportunities for businesses. The funding includes two cohorts of graduate researchers who will work collaboratively with business partners on industrially directed projects to develop products and services for the global low-carbon market.
With the majority of the money being provided by funds targeting local economic growth, the Send project will focus on supporting the development of products and services in an area of identified comparative advantage in terms of the business base in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire; the opportunity to develop a new supply chain for smart energy technologies; and act as a key opportunity to secure international investment locally.
These collaborative projects with businesses will develop products and services to support the growth of renewable energy and alternative fuel markets, and will also create opportunities to provide data-based services, demand side management, infrastructure and advanced energy balancing.
The Send project has received £9m of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural & Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities & Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the managing authority for the European Regional Development Fund.
Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects that will support innovation and businesses, and create jobs and local community regenerations.