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UK government awards £21m to smart energy projects

Steve Rogerson
February 25, 2020

The UK government has awarded £21m to ten smart energy projects across the UK to trial technology that could become a blueprint for greener localised energy generation on the road to net zero.
The projects include generating geothermal energy from canals and old coal mineshafts and a heat network warming homes from the London underground. They will be administered by the UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) body.
A further £4.5m has been awarded for key technology components for local energy systems. And the fourth phase of the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) will see £22m allocated to UK institutions to undertake research on the decarbonisation of key sectors.
Thousands of people could see their energy bills cut and their homes powered by local, renewable energy thanks to the funding.
“Every corner of the UK has a part to play as we eliminate our contribution to climate change entirely by 2050,” said Kwasi Kwarteng, minister for business, energy and clean growth. “This funding will deliver energy savings and reduce carbon emissions – a win-win for communities and the environment.”
If successful, the community pilot projects, which span from Liverpool and Coventry, to Southend and Milford Haven, could revolutionise local energy generation, bringing local communities into the frontline in the fight against climate change.
The competition ran as part of the UKRI Prospering from the Energy Revolution challenge and will contribute to the goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. The winners hope to create a pipeline of highly innovative, ambitious and investable local energy system designs that will be ready to roll out across the UK in the 2020s.
“The winners of both the designs and the technology competitions show the breadth of innovation that the government is helping to flourish across the UK,” said Rob Saunders, challenge director at UKRI. “This innovation provides new approaches to delivering our net zero commitments by delivering cleaner, cheaper energy services while creating more prosperous and resilient communities. But as well as their benefits to consumers, these projects, as part of the Clean Growth Industrial Strategy Grand Challenge, place UK industry at the forefront of the global shift to clean energy systems and economies.”
The competition winners were:

  • Zero Carbon Rugeley will deliver a detailed design of a smart local energy system for Rugeley town and its local area, including the 2300 houses being built in the former Engie Rugeley Power Station.
  • Peterborough Integrated Renewables Infrastructure will integrate low-carbon energy provisions and support sustainable growth. By integrating electrification, mobility and heat provision, the design will increase low-carbon energy exploitation, accelerate low-carbon technology adoption and enhance the overarching energy system, providing a project that can be fully replicated in other areas.
  • Rewire-NW proposes new market arrangements that pave the way for change. By using 5G and data-centric intelligence, the project will drive the local energy systems towards lower costs and lower carbon outcomes.
  • Project Remedy, based in Southend, will develop its Horizontally Integrated Vertical Energy Systems (Hives) approach to produce a local energy system design covering the whole of the large town of Southend that is replicable across the UK.
  • Milford Haven Energy Kingdom, centred in Milford Haven, will focus on developing diverse, local seed markets to support the transition to hydrogen and renewables from fossil fuels. The funding will also allow their design to be developed to meet the heating and transportation needs of local communities, including local tourism to the area.
UKRI has also announced the winners of the Key Technology Components for Local Energy Systems competition, which share a further £4.5m of funding with the aim to develop technology components that help improve the efficiency of local energy systems. These winners include technology that enables the charging of electric taxis and private electric vehicles at railway stations from the rail traction power supply.
In addition, UKRI has announced £22m of funding to enable engineers, social scientists and natural scientists to conduct vital research on global energy challenges and their implications for the UK.
The fourth phase of the UKERC will see £22m allocated to UK institutions to undertake research on the decarbonisation of key sectors such as industry, transport and heat, and explore the role of local, national and global changes in energy systems.