Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Energy networks

This research area assesses the effects of decarbonisation on the existing energy transmission and distribution networks and how future network technologies will deal with these challenges.

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

The scope and what we're doing

This research area assesses the effects of decarbonisation on the existing energy transmission and distribution networks and how future network technologies will deal with these challenges. It includes:

  • research into generation and transmission networks of all scales
  • management of demand and integration of different energy vectors
  • power electronics research into the design, fabrication and engineering of circuits for reliable high power, high voltage grid-scale applications in the context of energy networks.

This strategy aims to support the profound transformation needed to achieve decarbonisation of the whole energy system, in accordance with the government’s 2050 targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and maintain the security and reliability of the energy supply.

The strategy recognises that fundamental research in Energy Networks plays a crucial role in enabling other technologies to contribute to a secure and resilient energy system.

Aims

Increase opportunities for collaboration across research areas

In this research area, we aim to increase the breadth and multidisciplinary nature of the portfolio, strengthening collaboration with fields including, for example:

  • power electronics
  • telecommunications
  • stochastic modelling
  • computational sciences
  • data analytics
  • behavioural and environmental sciences.

Our goal is to increase opportunities for mobility between these areas.

Engagement with industry

We are working with the community to increase engagement with industry, consumers and other stakeholders to accelerate impact and deployment of research outputs, while maintaining a longer-term fundamental research perspective.

Growth of heat network research

We aim to nurture the growth of heat network research and integrate non-electrical, multi-vector transmission networks into the research portfolio. This includes biological and synthetic gas networks.

International collaborations

We also aim to develop international and research collaborations as part of the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office’s Official Development Assistance. In particular we aim to develop collaborations on islanded and local networks and interconnection with large, incomplete and unstable networks.

Skills

Our aim is to continue to supply people with high-level skills, while addressing the balance and diversity of researchers across career stages.

Strengthen connections with other research councils

We aim to strengthen connections with research in the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) on the effects of climate change on Energy Networks and with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) on the social and consumer aspects of research.

Why we're doing it

The UK science and engineering base in Energy Networks is strong and enjoys a good international reputation, with research quality generally seen as high. Internationally, the UK is regarded as a leader in areas of Energy Networks research, as evidenced by ongoing EPSRC-facilitated collaborations with the Republic of Korea, India and China.

The research has the potential to be even more interdisciplinary, with good interactions already observed with researchers in the following research areas:

There are several centres of critical mass in the UK, including the Supergen Energy Networks Hub 2018, which ends in 2023.

A further strength in this research area is the recognition that it is of high national importance, which is demonstrated by a very large programme of innovation demonstration by the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) and the government. There have also been two EPSRC grand challenges in the area. The link between UK industry and academia is reasonably well established at the knowledge exchange and impact levels, but requires more collaboration on longer-term, transformative innovation.

The two centres for doctoral training in the research area have provided a steady pipeline of skilled researchers to address capacity issues that have been previously identified.

There is a recognised lack of capacity in the utilities companies to enable further technology transfer and adoption of novel and innovative solutions, which is of utmost importance since UK assets are ageing and will need to be replaced. New energy networks infrastructure will need to meet both current and as yet unknown future needs, including multi-vector transmission. To compound this, it has been estimated that the possible electrification of heat and transport could potentially double the required capacity.

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 Energy networks.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Who to contact

Strachan McCormick

Email: strachan.mccormick@epsrc.ac.uk

Telephone: 01793 444262 or 07925 145872

Last updated: 17 October 2022

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