Institute for Sustainability



Similar to water, energy is at the core of sustainability. How people generate, distribute and use energy has massive repercussions for the planet such as climate change, air pollution, water quality and economy.

In response to these impacts researchers are leading a vast array of projects in energy research from smart grids and energy storage, to renewable and thermal energy systems. Many of them are world leaders in energy technology with expertise in biology, engineering, geoscience, physical science, policy and transport.

Much of this work is linked to Newcastle University’s Sir Joseph Swan Centre for Energy Research, which is dedicated to finding sustainable solutions for the world’s energy problems.

How are we meeting the environmental and societal challenges of today?

Sustainability research at Newcastle University looks at both the generation, transmission and storage of energy. It is particularly focused on technologies that help increase efficiency and decarbonise the energy network such as smart grids and both electrical and thermal energy storage. Many energy researchers are also working with policymakers, industry and communities to implement sustainable energy solutions.

Researchers work on energy generation, storage and transmission and integration in both rural and urban settings. They are improving processes for energy production such as anaerobic digestion from solid wastes and wastewater treatment, along with pioneering research in fuel cell technologies.


Smart grids

Research in smart grids at Newcastle University is addressing the energy trilemma of security, affordability and sustainability. A smart grid provides two-way communication between users and electricity transmission and supply. It combines digital technology such as computer sensing with grid infrastructure providing advanced control and distribution. Sensors in a smart grid provide real-time information on network performance and energy consumption. This allows energy network operators to manage supply and demand more effectively and maintain a more efficient, affordable and low-carbon flow of energy.

Smart grids enable the following:

  • Reduce energy network outages and disruptions
  • Balance intermittent energy supply from renewables
  • Improve operational efficiency of the energy network
  • Increase energy security and resilience of infrastructure
  • Lower cost of energy storage, transmission and distribution

Much of the research on smart grids is at The School of Engineering Smart Grid Lab which will be based at Newcastle Helix (formerly Science Central).

Read about our vision for how smart grids will impact cities in ‘Smart energy network’.

Energy storage

Energy storage for the grid is a potential game changer in how the world will generate and distribute energy. Similar to smart grids it also provides a range of services that benefit energy distributors, suppliers and users. Leading research at Newcastle University on electrical energy storage, fuel cells, and thermal energy storage is developing new ways for storing renewables and paving the way for the low-carbon transition.

Some benefits of grid-scale energy storage:

  • Balance supply with demand
  • Increase use of renewable energy to decarbonise the grid
  • Manage imbalances on the grid
  • Hedge against fluctuating energy prices

Researchers at the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering are developing solutions for grid-scale energy storage at the Energy Storage Testbed to be based at Science Central.

Read our recommendations for achieving sustainable, reliable and affordable low-carbon energy.

Read our Policy Note: Batteries included: Electrical energy storage for the grid (PDF: 1.77MB)

Rural energy

Researchers across the Science, Agriculture and Engineering Faculty and industrial partners at Cockle Park Farm are investigating and showcasing cutting edge research in energy at Newcastle University within a rural context. They are addressing real-world energy problems that farmers and other practitioners face on a daily basis through a series of projects including:

  • Connecting rural power to the grid
  • Farm microgrids, both thermal electrical
  • Rural energy storage using second life EV batteries
  • WebGIS portal, making available all data collected on the farm

Find out more about Cockle Park Farm in a new brochure introducing multiple projects in sustainability at the farm supported by the Institute for Sustainability: ‌Facilitating rural energy for tomorrow (PDF: 1.32MB)

Justice and governance

How people generate and use energy is at the heart of justice and governance. Similar to water many people have little or no access to adequate energy supply that meets their needs. Globally over 1.3 billion people do not have access to electricity. Newcastle University researchers are working with communities, civil society and government organisations to find smart ways to alleviate fuel poverty and provide access to sustainable energy for all. This involves understanding how energy is coupled with other services such as transport, water and food.

Work with us

Sustainability researchers in energy work with a range of partners in industry, government and academia. They are always interested in forming new collaborations with interested stakeholders. For further information contact the Institute for Sustainability.