National Centre for Energy Systems Integration

Staff Profile

Professor Sara Walker

Professor of Energy


Google Scholar Profile

Professor Sara Walker is Professor in Energy, and Director of The Centre for Energy, in the School of Engineering. Her research is on whole energy systems and systems transformation to low and net zero greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.

Prof. Walker is Director of the £10.5m EPSRC Hub on Hydrogen Integration for Accelerated Energy Transitions (HI-ACT), and Co-Champion of the £15.5m EPSRC/ESRC Energy Demand Research Centre. She is also Deputy Director of the £5m EPSRC Supergen Energy Networks Hub, and until recently she was Director of the £5m EPSRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration and Deputy Research Director of the £36m Active Building Centre.

External roles:

Advisor, EPSRC Energy and Decarbonisation Strategic Advisory Team (2021 to present)

Turing Fellow (2021-present)

Member of the UK Energy Research Centre Advisory Committee (2020-present)

Member of the UK Carbon Capture and Storage Research Centre Advisory Committee (2021-present)

Chair, Borderlands Energy Masterplanning Committee (2020-2022), advising on £300m regional investment

Member of the Advisory Board, Responsive Flexibility, £28.5m ISCF Energy Systems Demonstrator (2020-2023)

North of Tyne Combined Authority – Advisor to the Citizens Climate Assembly Committee (2022)

Member of North East Climate Coalition Indicators Working Group (2021-2023)


Prof. Walker spent eight years at De Montfort University, where her research and teaching focussed on renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, and where she also completed a PhD part time. This PhD investigated the impact of electricity sector deregulation on renewable energy market share. During that period with De Montfort University, Prof. Walker worked on a number of research projects around renewable energy and energy efficiency, primarily funded by the European Commission.

Prof. Walker then moved out of academia and into industry, with a five year period in energy related consultancies. This consultancy work for Econnect and IT Power included contribution to the influential report “Potential for micro-generation: study and analysis” published by Energy Saving Trust for the DTI. Prof. Walker also worked on high profile projects for commercial clients, such as London Array.

In 2007, Prof. Walker joined Northumbria University and continued her research on renewable energy and energy efficiency. She also developed new programmes, including the MEng Building Services Engineering, and successfully ran programmes, managed staff and developed research and business outreach. Her first role was as Subject Director for the Building Services team. Following a restructure she took on the role of Director of Research and Engagement for the Department of Architecture, Construction and Engineering. Later she was promoted to a Faculty role, as Director of Business and Engagement for the Faculty of Engineering and Computing.

In September 2015 Prof. Walker joined Newcastle University in the School of Mechanical and Systems Engineering. She was Degree Programme Director for the MSc Renewable Energy Flexible Training Programme (REFLEX) and MSc Renewable Energy and Enterprise Management (REEM) until 2017. In 2017 she became Director of Expertise for Infrastructure research and member of the School of Engineering Executive Board.

In September 2019 Prof. Walker became Director of the Newcastle University Centre of Research Excellence for Energy, known as The Centre for Energy. In 2021 she was promoted to Professor.

Her research continues to focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency in buildings, energy policy, energy resilience, and whole energy systems.

Faculty roles

Director of The Centre for Energy (Sep 2019-present)

Building as a Lab academic lead (Jan 2016 - Aug 2017)

Faculty Estates Strategy Group (Apr 2016 - Aug 2017)

EPSRC Prosperity Outcomes Award Panel (Aug 2016)

Engineering Excellence Organisation Group (Sep 2015-Jan 2016)

School roles

Member Athena Swan SAT (Aug 2018 - Dec 2022)

Director of Infrastructure (Aug 2017 - Aug 2019)

Degree Programme Director (Sep 2015 - Mar 2017)

School Learning & Teaching Committee (Sep 2015 - Aug 2017)

Chair Athena Swan SAT (Jun 2016 - Aug 2017)

Chair Equality and Diversity Group (Jan 2016 - Aug 2017)

Member Athena Swan SAT (Sep 2015 - Jan 2016)


BSc(Hons) Physics, 1988-1991, Leicester University

Post Graduate Certificate in Education, 1991-1992, Leicester University.

MSc Environmental Science, 1993-1994, Nottingham University, thesis: "Impact of thermal comfort on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome".

PhD, 1997-2003, De Montfort University, thesis: "The impact of domestic electricity supply competition on the application of renewable energy technologies in the UK".




The energy sector in 2050 is likely to be very different to it’s current state, with changes expected to our supply and demand technologies. I am interested in the active role of the urban environment and buildings in the energy sector, particularly low-energy and low-carbon buildings, building-scale renewables, small scale energy storage, and electric vehicle charging/discharging load profiles. As we decarbonise heating, cooling, electricity and transport in the UK, my research aims to better understand the role of buildings as virtual power plants.

I am also interested in concepts of resilience as they are used in other disciplines, and whether these concepts are transferable to the energy sector. Existing concepts of resilience and supply security may not be appropriate to the energy sector in 2050.

Current projects:

Coordinator for the planned EPSRC Hub on Hydrogen Integration for Accelerated Energy Transitions.

Hydrogen Integration for Accelerated Energy Transitions (

The long-term mission of Hydrogen Integration for Accelerated Energy Transitions (HI-ACT) is to conduct multidisciplinary, qualitative, and quantitative research that will identify and map the complex relationships, interdependences, risks, expectations and needs of energy citizens and stakeholders. In doing so, we aim to provide open and informed scrutiny of hydrogen integration, to unlock new insights to hydrogen pathways, and to protect national energy resilience. This project is in phase 1, with a phase 2 funding application submitted for a £12.5m Hub for a 5-year period.

Grant ref: EP/W035502/1

Co-Investigator and Co-Champion for the planned EPSRC Energy Demand Research Centre.

Our work informs and inspires positive change in energy demand, that supports an affordable, clean and comfortable/healthy energy future. The Energy Demand Research Centre (EDRC) develops the next phase of energy demand research in the UK, building on previous research and working closely with academic and non-academic partners. Our work will inform and inspire energy demand reductions that support an affordable, comfortable and secure Net Zero society. Our research programme cuts across different sciences (e.g. engineering and social) and sectors (e.g. buildings, transport and industry). We study which energy demand solutions can be delivered in a flexible and equitable manner and at which locations, taking into consideration issues such as local housing stock and transport links, skills base and governance models. We aim to deliver impactful research on energy demand that produces actionable solutions for industry, policy makers, practitioners and charities. This project is in phase 1, with a phase 2 funding application submitted for a £15m+ Centre for a 5-year period.

Grant ref: EP/X014916/1

Co-Investigator and Deputy Director for the EPSRC Supergen Energy Networks Hub.

The £17m EPSRC Supergen Energy Networks Hub brings together the academic community to work on the issue of developing networks fit for the future. The research addresses the challenges of technology, policy, data, markets and risk for energy networks.

Grant ref:                EP/S00078X/1

Co-Investigator for the EPSRC Net Zero Geothermal Research for District Infrastructure Engineering   

This project will investigate the use of closed loop single well geothermal systems as a viable alternative in scenarios where traditional open loop geothermal systems are not feasible. It particularly addresses the possibility of using wells drilled for other purposes, that might have failed in their original objectives, as sources of geothermal energy, thus mitigating some of the costs of their construction. Uniquely, the research will use, in Newcastle city centre, an existing 1.6km deep borehole and adjacent large instrumented building as a research facility, and integrate the research as part of whole energy system approach. Modelling will couple the heating/cooling needs of new urban buildings with an understanding of the performance of a single well geothermal system so that those demands are met.

Grant ref:         EP/T022825/1

Previous projects:

Co-Investigator and Academic Deputy Director for the Active Building Centre.

The £36m Active Building Centre project will investigate the potential for large scale role out of domestic active buildings for the new build sector. Researchers at Newcastle University shall investigate the impact of active buildings on the energy networks, smart control of building elements, and the role of electric vehicles. Overall, energy demand, generation, storage and transport combine to enable the active building to be controlled to offer services to local networks, as well as ensuring energy services to the building occupant.

Grant Ref:       EP/S016627/1   

Principal Investigator and Director for the National Centre for Energy Systems Integration.

The £20m EPSRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration (CESI) paves the way to a flexible smart infrastructure, empowering customers and giving them greater control of their energy use. It allows industry to meet the tough new low carbon targets. Providing us with robust messages about the real world, the aim is to understand how we can optimise the energy network, drive down customer bills and inform future government policy.

Grant Ref:         EP/P001173/1

Building as a Power Plant (EPSRC EP/P034241/1), £146,000

Urban scale building energy network (EPSRC), £24,000

e-mobility NSR (Interreg), €6.5m

Charge Your Car (Zero Carbon Futures), £100,000

Retrofit Reality (Housing Corporation and Gentoo), £30,000

Distributed generation with high penetration of renewable energy sources (DISPOWER) (Framework Programme 5), €17m

Deriving optimal promotion for increasing the share of RES-E in a dynamic European electricity market (Green-X) (Framework Programme 5), €1m

Tradable renewable energy certificate know-how and initiatives network (TRECKIN), €1m

Large scale self-financing of energy efficiency measures in Leicester and Barcelona (Altener), €1m



Programme leadership:

Sep 2015 - Mar 2017 : Degree Programme Director for Renewable Energy Flexible Training Programme (REFLEX) and Renewable Energy, Enterprise and Management (REEM) Masters degree programmes.

Module leadership:


EEE3021 Renewable Energy Systems and Smart Grids

Other Teaching:

EEE8097 and SPG8094 MSc dissertation projects

EEE8157 Renewable Energy Systems and Smart Grids

EEE8106 Extended Coursework on Applications and Design (project)

Previous teaching topics include wind energy, wave energy, solar energy, management and leadership, sustainability, building physics.

SPG8094 student in 2021-22 was winner of Reece Foundation Prize for their dissertation.