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Newcastle University to lead the UK’s research into energy networks

Newcastle University has been awarded £5 million to build a national research hub that will help transform the UK’s energy network.

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the new Supergen Energy Networks Hub will be led by Professor Phil Taylor, Head of the School of Engineering at Newcastle University and CESI's Director.

Bringing together academia and industry, the aim is to further our understanding of the ‘whole systems approach’ that will be necessary to transform the UK energy system and achieve our carbon reduction targets.

Announced today by EPSRC, the Newcastle hub is part of a £16million investment to create three national energy hubs in Energy networks, Offshore Renewable Energy and Bioenergy.  These will involve academics from 19 universities and 70 stakeholder partners including 22 from industry.  A £1m SuperSolar Network will also be established for the Photovoltaics (PV) research community in the UK

Whole systems approach to energy networks

“The Supergen programme is all about exploring areas of energy research that can secure a lower carbon future and transform our energy system for future global society," says Professor Taylor.

“This award gives Newcastle University the chance to build and lead a consortium of academic and industrial partners who want to change the way our global energy system works and achieve carbon reductions.”

Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s Executive Chair, added:

“As we move towards a low carbon future we need to explore the fundamental science that can spark new technologies and systems as well as linking researchers to industry to meet their needs.

“As the threats from climate change become ever-more apparent there is a pressing need for the UK, and the world, to act collaboratively to address the challenges of clean energy production, distribution and storage.”

Integrated Transport Gas Electric Research Laboratory

Despite their vital importance to the UK’s energy sector, industry and society, there is no current whole systems approach to studying the interconnected and interdependent nature of energy network infrastructure, and the challenges it faces.

The Newcastle hub will integrate a wide range of stakeholders while complementing national and international investments in energy networks, with the hub designed to allow all stakeholders to fully exploit opportunities in the sector.

Newcastle University is already recognised as a world-leader in energy research and the new Supergen Hub will build on existing research and infrastructure.

This includes InTEGReL – a £30m facility led by Newcastle University (through the EPSRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration), Northern Gas Networks and Northern Powergrid. Located outside Gateshead, the aim is to allow energy researchers and industry to carry out grid scale trials and experiments of coupled gas, electricity and heat systems for the first time.

Energy systems face many serious and sometimes conflicting challenges, often referred to as the energy trilemma - security, affordability and sustainability,” explains Professor Taylor.

“The underpinning philosophy of InTEGReL is that a 'whole systems approach' to energy is required to deliver what customers want. In order to do this we need to fully understand our complex energy system and the interdependencies between heating, cooling, transport, gas and electricity.

“Computer models can only take us so far in understanding energy systems and developing and evaluating new techniques and technologies, so there is a critical need for full-scale integrated energy system research and demonstration facilities where new ideas can be trialled and evaluated.”

In addition to the Newcastle hub, there is also the Supergen Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Hub led by Plymouth University, and the Supergen Bioenergy Hub, to be led by Aston University.  The SuperSolar Network will be led by Loughborough University.

The Supergen programme was set up in 2001 to deliver sustained and coordinated research on Sustainable PowER GENeration and supply, focusing on eight key research areas: bioenergy; energy networks; energy storage; fuel cells; hydrogen and other vectors; marine, wave and tidal; solar technology; and wind power.

Electricity wind solar gen purpose r-align

published on: 26 July 2018