Newcastle University to build Â£20m energy research centre
May 17, 2016
Newcastle University is to be the home of the UK’s £20m National Centre for Energy Systems Integration, funded by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Siemens and the university. The aim is to bring together energy experts from around the world to help unravel the energy network and understand future supply and demand.
Providing robust messages about the real world, the goal is to understand how energy providers can optimise the energy network, drive down customer bills and inform future government policy.
Announced last week by universities and science minister Jo Johnson, the centre will draw on the expertise of academics from the universities of Newcastle, Heriot-Watt, Sussex, Edinburgh and Durham.
“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,” said Johnson. "This £20m 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.”
Looking for the first time at the energy system as a whole – gas, power, renewables, heating and cooling – the centre aims to 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 full-scale testing facilities at Science Central – a demonstrator site that 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.
Centre lead Phil Taylor (pictured), Siemens professor of energy systems and director of the institute for sustainability 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.”
He said the centre would provide “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.”
Led by Taylor and Sara Walker from Newcastle University and experts from Siemens, in collaboration with the UK Energy Research Centre, the centre will be guided by the Industrial Innovation Board involving more than 30 companies and an International Science Advisory Board, drawing expertise from the likes of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the USA, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and Skoltech, the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Russia.
Newcastle University is one of Siemens’ Global Principal Partner universities.
“Siemens is proud that its 25 year collaborative relationship continues to grow with this exciting new project,” said Paul Beasley, head of R&D for Siemens in the UK. “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.”
Siemens already provides input into the Science Central project and believes this mixed use site represents an excellent test-bed for evaluating novel interventions, alongside the planned Energy Systems Catapults’ Smart Systems & Heat demonstrator projects led by Newcastle City Council.
“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,” said Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s chief executive. “The level of commitment from industry partners such as Siemens shows this is a much valued and important area for research.”
According to the National Infrastructure Commission Report released earlier this year, two-thirds of the UK’s existing power stations are expected to close by 2030 as coal, nuclear and gas fired power stations reach the end of their lives.
The commission’s central finding was that smart power – principally built around three innovations of interconnection, storage and demand flexibility – could save consumers up to £8bn 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 engineers, computing scientists, geologists, economists, mathematicians and anthropologists together with leading industry experts.
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.
“Newcastle is at the forefront of the research which will play a huge role in shaping the 21st century, and we are succeeding here because innovation is in our city’s DNA,” said Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council. “The national energy centre announcement is just one sign of Newcastle’s ambitious plans to strengthen its international reputation.”
This is the third national centre Science Central has secured in recent months, following the £30m National Institute for Smart Data Innovation and the £40m National Centre for Ageing Science Innovation.