Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Fossil fuel power generation

This research area focuses on the study of fundamental, generic and applied concepts concerning the conversion of coal, oil and gas into electricity for grid use, and the integration of these technologies into the renewable sector.

Partners involved:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

This research area focuses on the study of fundamental, generic and applied concepts concerning the conversion of coal, oil and gas into electricity for grid use, and the integration of these technologies into the renewable sector.

This research area covers, for both conventional and unconventional fossil fuels:

  • design and development of new generation plant and machinery
  • increasing the efficiency of existing plant methods
  • and monitoring plant conditions within the generation process.

Power generation relating to flames, gas turbines or internal combustion engines falls within the Combustion Engineering research area.

This research area focuses on delivering a strategy that addresses challenges surrounding power plant flexibility, plant efficiency, technological efficiencies and unconventional sources (such as shale gas). The area is well established and relatively mature. Following a period of reduction, its research portfolio is much smaller than it was previously, but it remains significant to a range of applications within the energy sector.

As we move towards a clean, secure, sustainable energy system, we will see rapid growth in electricity generation from intermittent renewables – resulting in much higher demand for conventional plant flexibility, load balancing and fuel flexibility, creating new research challenges in plant engineering, monitoring and control.

New developments and innovations within this research area will also be incorporated into technologies in other energy portfolios, such as developing ways of retrofitting fossil fuel power plants with carbon capture and storage (CCS) capability, or CCS with Bioenergy (BECCS).

It is vital, then, to maintain the area to ensure availability of core capability and knowledge, to provide a flexible, balanced energy system that meets the dynamic energy demands of energy stakeholders. Further reduction will result in subcritical support and have a negative impact on the UK energy system.

With whole systems approaches and systems integration as priorities for the Energy theme, the fossil fuel power generation community will be encouraged to consider how their research fits into the wider energy landscape, with particular emphasis on finding ways to increase the efficiency of existing technologies and integrate them into a renewable energy system.

Knowledge and skills transfer will be supported through the Centre for Doctoral Training for CCS and Cleaner Fossil Energy and standard funding opportunities, with strong emphasis on collaboration with other disciplines in the Energy theme, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) – and, potentially, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The purpose of these collaborations is to strengthen a whole energy systems approach that tackles environmental challenges and delivers public acceptability, energy security and flexibility.

Why we're doing it

Government and UK energy communities are making a significant effort to move away from fossil fuel power generation, towards the use of efficient, low-carbon, renewable technologies. This is to achieve environmental and climate change targets for net zero by 2050. The government has already initiated plans to cease using unmitigated coal by 2024.

Demand for conventional and unconventional power sources will have to be continually rebalanced with regard to advances in low-carbon, renewable technologies. To ensure grid power is readily available for the consumer, this research area must continue in order to provide power if there are intermittencies from renewable sources. The skills and capabilities within this research area must be maintained to address efficiency challenges and integrate fossil fuel power generation into low-carbon technologies.

This research area is linked with:

View evidence sources used to inform our research strategies.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships. Find out more about research area connections and funding for Fossil Fuel Power Generation.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Who to contact

Last updated: 21 December 2022

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