All posts by Laura

Energy efficiency in smart grid communications – Dr Zoya Pourmirza

Data reduction algorithm for correlated data in the smart grid – an open access paper for the IET Smart Grid Journal

About the Lead Author

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Dr Zoya Pourmirza, is a research associate at Newcastle University within the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. She was awarded her PhD in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Architecture for Smart Grids from University of Manchester in 2015. Her research expertise includes Smart Grids ICT networks, cyber-security, communication energy efficiency, and data compression.

Zoya carries out a wide range of research for CESI in the area of cyber-security on energy and transport systems.

Contact:- Zoya.Pourmirza@newcastle.ac.uk

About the Co-authors

Dr Sara Walker, School of Engineering, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

John Brooke, Freelance Consultant, Manchester, UK

About the Paper

LINK TO THE PAPER

Smart grids are intelligent electrical networks that incorporate information and communication technology (ICT) to provide data services for the grid. In this work, we investigated an ICT architecture at the level of the electrical network where monitoring and control have not previously been deployed. Energy constraints are one of the major limitations of the ICT in the Smart Grid, especially where wireless networking is proposed. The main contribution of this paper is that we proposed a data reduction algorithm suitable for Smart Grid applications which significantly improves the energy efficiency of the communication network by minimizing the communication energy cost while maintaining the integrity and quality of data.

One approach to providing energy efficiency in the communication system is to use a data reduction algorithm to reduce the volume of data prior to transmission. Our survey of data compression algorithms showed that there is no single method that is superior for all forms of data streams. Therefore, we designed and developed a practical data reduction algorithm called DRACO (Data Reduction Algorithm for COrrelated data), on the basis of readings from monitoring devices that are typical of electricity network data patterns. In applications where the metering devices collect data with a high acquisition rate and transmit them to a control unit, a great degree of data correlation occurs. Taking this fact into consideration, we developed a data reduction algorithm that discards the redundant parts between each two consecutive measured values and transmits the changing parts only: these parts are a small portion of the binary representation. This algorithm can improve the energy efficiency of the communication network by transmitting a smaller volume of data while keeping data integrity.
DRACO is envisaged to be implemented on resource-constrained sensors, therefore simplicity in the design of the algorithm is a key issue. It also provides a low level of security for communication between devices since we are transmitting a modified or cipher data instead of raw data.

Validation

In this paper we examined the efficiency of DRACO on both simulated data and real data collected from the substation level of the Grid, which were produced at a very high sampling rate. We demonstrated DRACO can achieve compression ratios of 70%–99% depending on the data characteristics. Figure below shows compression efficiency over 70% for simulated data.

Figure 1 Effect of DRACO on simulated data

Experimentation

In this paper, we conducted several evaluations and comparisons. For example, we designed an experiment to assess the effect of various sampling rates on the efficiency of DRACO. We examined the data being logged with different frequencies. Figure 2 below shows that, as the frequency of the data acquisition rate increases, the original size of the data will increase. However, as we start to sample more frequently, the correlation between every two consecutive values is higher and DRACO performs best on data with stronger correlations. So, the difference between the original data size and the DRACO reduced data size also grows. Thus, with a higher sampling rate, we could transmit more data about the network, and with the use of the DRACOs we could send this data more efficiently in terms of data volume.

Figure 2 Data acquisition rate evaluation

The team also designed another experiment to examine the effect of DRACO on the bit rate. This experiment was carried out to determine the link between significant events in the actual data profile and the maximum/minimum bit rate. As shown in the figure below, the correlation between the two graphs indicates the dependency of the data transfer rate on the rate of change of the quantity being measured (e.g. total active power).

Finally, to assess the efficiency of the DRACO we compared its performance with other data reduction algorithms and showed it performs reasonably good in these comparisons.

Figure 3 Total active power (kW) (top figure) and the corresponding bit rate (bottom figure)

Conclusion

In this work, we focused on proving the communication energy awareness and concluded that DRACO is suitable for smart grid applications since it optimizes the network resource consumption and reduces the communication energy cost while maintaining the integrity and quality of data. In near future, the growth in the number of monitoring devices in the smart grid will lead to an explosion in data volume, which will cause storage and network congestion problems. DRACO could also be an initial point for addressing these problems.

The full paper is available to view online.

LINK TO THE PAPER

Energising our lives – a WES 100 Violets Challenge project – the continuing story

Engineering is key to find answers to the challenges we face today! From the climate emergency to the medical and humanitarian response to the global pandemic, collaborating engineers are playing a significant role in developing solutions.

Newcastle University researchers, Dr. Jannetta Steyn and Laura Brown have worked together on a WES 100 Violets Public Engagement Challenge project, to illustrate the solutions and ideas engineers are applying to the global need for clean and affordable energy and integrating technology to improve the quality of our every life.

About WES

The Women’s Engineering Society (WES) is a charity and a professional network of women engineers, scientists and technologists offering inspiration, support and professional development. Working in partnership, it supports and inspires women to achieve as engineers, scientists and as leaders; they encourage the education of engineering; and support companies with gender diversity and inclusion.

About WES 100 Violets Challenge

The Women’s Engineering Society’s (WES) 100 Violets Challenge competition was part of their centenary celebrations in 2020. The aim was to design and build an engaging museum exhibit that celebrates and showcases engineering/research and shares it with the public. The challenge is supported by the Ingenious Grant program from the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Building the exhibit

Please see our first blog post to find out more background about the project idea. https://blogs.ncl.ac.uk/cesi/2021/01/29/wes-100violets-part1/

More Technical Details about the project can be found in a series of blogs developed by Jannetta at her personal blog site: – brainwaves.jannetta.com

The aim of the exhibit was to showcase electrical, software, computing, mechanical, building, transport and energy engineering. So no pressure then.

The Energy System Integration Vision

About the Project Team: Dr Jannetta Steyn

Jannetta is a Research Software Engineer at the Digital Institute, Newcastle University. As an experienced researcher and software engineer she has a background in data analysis, provenance and middleware programming. Jannetta does a large amount of outreach work, primarily in STEM, running a range of coding clubs and electronics clubs.

Contact:- Jannetta.Steyn@newcastle.ac.uk

http://brainwaves.jannetta.com/

About the Project Team: Laura Brown

Laura is the Centre Manager, EPSRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration and Energy Research Programme Manager, Newcastle University. Her research tackles the challenges of integration of state-of-the-art thinking and technology into legacy and future energy systems. Laura sits on the Tees and Tyne Regional Cluster Committee of the Women’s Engineering Society and is the group leader of the SDG7 subgroup of the WES Climate Emergency Group.

Contact:- laura.brown11@newcastle.ac.uk

Our first outing

By way of practice for the WES 100Violets Exhibition planned for April 2020, we were lucky enough to be offered a chance to “trial” the exhibit at the opening event of the Gateshead Library Makerspace. We were delighted that the training we have been given by WES had come in very useful, particularly the risk assessment guidance. This meant we had planned carefully the storage requirements, labeling and cable routes for the equipment for our exhibit.

Jannetta writing some code for the IoT with a young helper adjusting our Lego Engineers

The event went well but underlined what we suspected:- KIDS LOVE LEGO. It proved to be a popular exhibit. And, while it might have been the draw of the remote control car (with its own garage), the Bluetooth controlled train or the eye-catching rotating wind turbine, all of the young people we spoke with left knowing just a little bit more than they did about renewable energy and role of women in engineering and computing.

So how do these technologies work in real life?

Part of the purpose of the exhibit was to provide educational information on the energy system. So we had been working on a number of learning resources that we thought might help engage the visitors to the exhibition. We had planned to have ‘make your own’ wind mill; colouring sheets; spot the energy competitions and possibly a 3D printing demo session.

It was all looking good but then as the date for the main event drew near, the impact of the pandemic was starting to reach home. The organisers took the difficult but inevitable decision to postpone the exhibition.

How does a wind turbine produce electricity? https://archive.epa.gov/climatechange/kids/solutions/technologies/wind.html
  1. As the wind blows over the blades of a wind turbine, it causes the blades to lift and rotate.
  2. The rotating blades turn a shaft that is connected to a generator.
  3. The generator creates electricity as it turns.

Some great STEM resources out there to explain energy

As part of our research we found some very useful STEM resources that we would highly recommend for anyone looking to understand more about their own energy system.

  1. BBC Bitesize – Humans and the Environment https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/topics/zp22pv4
  2. NASA’s Climate Kids https://climatekids.nasa.gov/menu/energy/
  3. CALTECHs Energy STEM resources https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/learn/tag/search/Energy

So what now

While cancelling the event was most definitely the right thing to do, all the groups from the WES competition were disappointed. Lockdown meant our team couldn’t even get onto campus to check our equipment and work further on the exhibit. Everything paused.

When the North East of England partially removed the lockdown in the summer, Jannetta collected all the components of the exhibit to have at home. So after the most recent national lockdown and encouraged by Dr Jo Douglas-Harris, the WES Tees and Tyne Cluster Chair, we looked for alternative ways to ‘tell the story’ of the project and share the vision. The new aim: let’s try to exhibit virtually. A new challenge for us both.

So for the last month of so, in our rare moments of spare time and in our evenings, we have put together some materials and collated the reflections and learning from the project in two blogs (this one and that one (https://blogs.ncl.ac.uk/cesi/2021/01/29/wes-100violets-part1/)). And we are going to trial exhibiting virtually via a livestream on CESI’s YouTube Channel.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcKtJZLFUsCXYGuJ62evBkA

The EPSRC National Centre for Energy System Integration (CESI) YouTube Channel

Event Details

Image

And we’ve got an accompanying YouTube video too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_slWTm_zEhI

We look forward to hearing what you think.

Energising our lives – a WES 100 Violets Challenge project – the 1st part of the story

Engineering is key to find answers to the challenges we face today! From the climate emergency to the medical and humanitarian response to the global pandemic, collaborating engineers are playing a significant role in developing solutions.

Newcastle University researchers, Dr. Jannetta Steyn and Laura Brown have worked together on a WES 100 Violets Public Engagement Challenge project, to illustrate the solutions and ideas engineers are applying to the global need for clean and affordable energy and integrating technology to improve the quality of our every life.

About WES

The Women’s Engineering Society (WES) is a charity and a professional network of women engineers, scientists and technologists offering inspiration, support and professional development. Working in partnership, it supports and inspires women to achieve as engineers, scientists and as leaders; they encourage the education of engineering; and support companies with gender diversity and inclusion.

About WES 100 Violets Challenge

The Women’s Engineering Society’s (WES) 100 Violets Challenge competition was part of their centenary celebrations in 2020. The aim was to design and build an engaging museum exhibit that celebrates and showcases engineering/research and shares it with the public. The challenge is supported by the Ingenious Grant program from the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The exhibit idea

The aim of the exhibit was to showcase electrical, software, computing, mechanical, building and energy engineering. The Public would be able to interact with the exhibit to provide an insight into how things work and what is involved in developing the technologies that make our way of life possible without impacting the planet.

Essentially the team would be building a model of a typical house but integrated with some of the established and emerging engineering and computer science innovations that are providing a route to sustainable living.

The building model was inspired by a family history project carried out by Dr. Steyn of a house that was built by her ancestors in South Africa in 1850 in the Cape Province.

  • The prototype was designed using Inkscape
  • A lasercutter was used to cut it from 3mm Birch plywood
  • The thatch roof used coconut fibre and the ridge was cut strips from a hanging flower basket lining

The final model was informed by the research being carried out at the EPSRC National Centre for Energy System Integration (CESI) which both project team members participate in. CESI is investigating the value in taking an energy systems integration approach to the future energy system and evaluating the security, economic and environmental costs of the future energy and transport scenarios being considered for the UK.

More Technical Details about the project can be found in a series of blogs developed by Jannetta at her personal blog site: – brainwaves.jannetta.com

About the Project Team: Dr Jannetta Steyn

Jannetta is a Research Software Engineer at the Digital Institute, Newcastle University. As an experienced researcher and software engineer she has a background in data analysis, provenance and middleware programming. Jannetta does a large amount of outreach work, primarily in STEM, running a range of coding clubs and electronics clubs.

Contact:- Jannetta.Steyn@newcastle.ac.uk

http://brainwaves.jannetta.com/

About the Project Team: Laura Brown

Laura is the Centre Manager, EPSRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration and Energy Research Programme Manager, Newcastle University. Her research tackles the challenges of integration of state-of-the-art thinking and technology into legacy and future energy systems. Laura sits on the Tees and Tyne Regional Cluster Committee of the Women’s Engineering Society and is the group leader of the SDG7 subgroup of the WES Climate Emergency Group.

Contact:- laura.brown11@newcastle.ac.uk

Elements within the project

Training and Early Engagement

To help give us expertise the tricky art of public engagement and science communication, the WES 100 Violets Challenge Group organised two expert training sessions from a wonderful team of Science Communicator experts from Science Made Simple. The trainers gave us top tips on body language, communication tools and invalable guidance on the Health and Safety considerations of planning a public exhibit. We also got the chance to meet the other winners of the 100Violets Challenge and hear about their inventive ideas.

And to practice our new science communications skills, we organised an event with the students and staff of the School of Engineering at Newcastle University. As part of our exhibit were some elements of lego energy systems, we thought the students (and staff) would have fun helping us construct the model. And for extra measure, we borrowed some resources from our colleagues at Open Lab to allow some free lego building. The event was great fun and I’m pleased our research confirmed our hypothesis – engineers love playing with lego !!! What do you think of the results?

Community build with the Engineering students from Newcastle University

Gender Equality in Engineering

We aren’t sure who coined the phrase, “if you can’t see it, you can’t be it” as a rallying call to have positive role models from all sections of society in all walks of life but we felt even in this relatively light-hearted project there was some evidence of gender bias in the system. When we procured the rather fabulous lego wind turbine we were somewhat crestfallen when the two technicians were both males! That error was quickly fixed by some immediate head swaps. We then used this as a theme in the model that all the roles in the exhibit tableau would be engineers – a non-gendered noun.

The end of the beginning

By this time the model was starting to take shape. (More technical details can be found in a series of blogs developed by Jannetta blog site: – brainwaves.jannetta.com ).

  1. We had a date in the calendar for the big WES 100 Violets Exhibition
  2. We had procured all the parts of the model and constructed all the lego components
  3. 3D printing and Laser Cutting of the House was going well
  4. The IoT Smart Home was beginning to take shape
  5. The EV had been built and was (remotely) operational
  6. We had developed some engaging learning materials to accompany our exhibit
  7. Science Made Simple team had helped us perfect our Exhibition Pitch for our intended audience
  8. We had our first engagement event with the students (guinea pigs) completed and it had went well
  9. Our fabulous colleague Faye Harland had provided an amazing schematic of our planned model (See below)
  10. We had another local exhibition planned …
  11. It was February 2020 … it was all in hand … what could possibly go wrong …

… we suspect you can guess but we will provide some more of the story next week in our next blog. To be continued …

The visualisation of our idea. Artist: Faye Harland, Newcastle University

A CESI researcher’s secondment journey to the Government – Dr Zoya Pourmirza

The year 2020 will be remembered as an extraordinary year with the news of COVID outbreak. In January 2020, I started my one-year secondment as an advisor providing technical consultation to the UK Government Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV)”.

About the Author

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Dr Zoya Pourmirza, is a research associate at Newcastle University within the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. She was awarded her PhD in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Architecture for Smart Grids from University of Manchester in 2015. Her research expertise includes Smart Grids ICT networks, cyber-security, communication energy efficiency, and data compression.

Zoya carries out a wide range of research for CESI in the area of cyber-security on energy and transport systems.

Contact:- Zoya.Pourmirza@newcastle.ac.uk

The UK Government’s Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) is a cross-government team between the Department for Transport and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, supporting the transition to zero emission vehicles (ZEVs). As soon as I started, following a warm welcome from the team, I was impressed by devotion and dedication of the team. Within a few months into the role, while I was enjoying working with the team and gaining new experiences, the UK went into the lockdown. In the following months, we moved all our activities to online platforms which are known to all of us.

This secondment was planned to assist shaping a more secure EV eco-system in future. In 2019, Government consulted on cyber security requirements for smart chargepoints. There is an intention to follow with legislation mandating requirements for smart chargepoints, including cyber security, in 2021. My work was intended to help informing Government approach in 2021 legislation.

My tasks during this Secondment was to support different workstreams with OZEV and wider work in BEIS on smart energy cybersecurity. This included:

Project 1 – EVHS grant scheme

Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) is a grant provided by the OZEV, designed to offer an additional incentive to EV drivers. EV manufacturers who wish to apply for authorisation for chargepoints under EVHS should confirm they comply with EVHS technical specifications. In terms of cyber security specifications, OZEV requires chargepoints to be accessed by using the Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP v1.6 or above). During my time at DfT I assessed how many EVHS grant applications were likely meeting or not complying with requirements on cyber security, and if these applications are considering a similar level of cyber security measures provided in the OCPP. I also recommended some specific changes to be made to the scheme requirements, which are being considered by Government.

Project 2BSI PAS review

The British Standards Institution (BSI) has been sponsored by Government to develop two PAS standards. The PAS 1878 is for Energy Smart Appliances (ESA), including smart chargepoint cyber security requirements and PAS 1879 is for a Demand Side Response (DSR) framework. The DSR framework PAS is intending to develop the ‘environment’ within which ESAs can operate. Both PAS’s involved cyber security considerations. The cyber security approaches employed in these standards are encryption and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). The end-to-end secure framework is intended to:

  • provide secure assets, these assets are such as Energy Smart Appliance (ESA) and Consumer Energy Manager (CEM)
  • verify the actors such as Demand Side Response Provider (DSRSP)
  • provide a secure communication between ESA and CEM, and between CEM and DSRSP

During my time at BEIS, I reviewed the draft PAS standards at different stages of their development and recommended a series of changes to improve the standard and better embed cyber security within them. These comments were welcomed by the standard leads, and it is expected to be reflected in the final version.

Project 3 Cyber risk assessments – I worked along the BEIS team and the PA consulting on cyber risk assessment for smart energy systems to identify the risks and shape appropriate mitigations techniques. This work is underway within the BEIS team and will be completed in 2021. In this study we realised that as the proliferation of smart energy devices including EV smart chargepoints and associated smart energy platforms increases, the cyber security risks will grow too. These risks will become material in 2025. For example, the ability for a large number of smart energy devices to be switched on or off at the same time, which will cause a large power swing on the electricity network, is one of the main risks identified by the team.

Project 4 – Reports and recommendations

I shaped a report for the Government discussing the cyber security challenges in smart energy system and EV chargepoints, the risks and mitigation techniques, and the future roadmap. The recommendation provided in this report could potentially inform the legislation this year.

Thoughts on the experience

All these tasks were carried out to pave the way for a more secure future of the EV ecosystem. My sincere thanks to both teams at the Newcastle University and the Government who provided this unique opportunity for me to get involved in Government’s policy development and legislation process and develop new skills. This was an extremely valuable experience working at the heart of civil service to provide consultation and apply my expertise to help meet the key government objectives for EV smart charging.

Approaching Equality, Diversity and Inclusion within research teams

As EPSRC publishes their findings on gender perspectives within their research funding portfolio, our Centre Director, Dr Sara Walker and Centre Manager, Laura Brown discuss the challenges women working to help rebalance the mismatch face.

About the authors: Dr Sara Walker

Dr Sara Walker is Director of the EPSRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration, Director of the Newcastle University Centre for Energy and Reader of Energy in the University’s School of Engineering. Her research is on energy efficiency and renewable energy at building scale.

About the authors: Laura Brown

Laura is the Centre Manager, EPSRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration and Energy Research Programme Manager, Newcastle University. Her research tackles the challenges of integration of state-of-the-art thinking and technology into legacy energy systems.

As an academic team, we have a responsibility to consider Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the way we conduct our teaching, research and knowledge exchange. Doing the right thing is not always easy. We are in no way experts. But surely it is better to try, and accept that we will sometimes get it wrong?

Our research is funded by the EPSRC, for the National Centre for Energy Systems Integration and the Supergen Energy Networks Hub. So, we were interested to read the recently published EPSRC report Understanding our portfolio:  A gender perspective.

Within their report they state, “Underrepresentation of women in the engineering and physical sciences remains one of EPSRC’s largest equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) challenges and is a well-known issue in the engineering and physical sciences community.” We applaud the transparency that EPSRC has shown in issuing the report as we know, as scientists and engineers, one of the best ways of tackling problems is by considering the underlying data.

In our opinion, the findings of the report can be considered both worrying and illuminating. For example, higher value awards show significantly lower award rates to female Principal Investigators. Since 2007, applications of value over £10million have been received from 5 females, compared to 80 males. In 2018-19 (the latest year we have data for), just 15% of applications received were from female Principal Investigators.

Factors affecting application rates by female academics are likely to be numerous and complex, affecting individuals in different ways.

Some of these could be:

  • Women win fewer scientific prizes and so the public see fewer “success stories” of women, discouraging women to take up science subjects. (Callier, Conversation,  Jan 2019)
  • Women are evaluated by their students as less effective teachers than male counterparts, which may impact career progression (Basow, JEP, Sep 1987
  • Women are less likely to be selected at application stage for things like access to equipment. This was noted in a study of Hubble telescope time , for example. ( Johnson  & Kirk, HBR, Mar 2020)
  • Women get paid less: “The EPSRC’s analysis of the salaries which applicants request on grants is a very effective illustration of the gender pay gap. Using age as a proxy for career stage, we see men get paid more than women at similar career stages, and this effect increases with seniority level.” From @TIGERinSTEMM
  • The large grant applications are required to come from the Research PVC, of which we have very few women (Donald, Blog, Oct 2020)
  • Women undertake more unpaid work than male counterparts as parents, carers and in household duties, and this impacts the time available for, and consequent success in, delivery of those measures of “success” which are valued for promotion in the workplace. This impact of unpaid work has been particularly marked during COVID lockdown for women in academia ( Gewin, Nature, Jul 2020) and (Pinho-Gomes, BMJ GH Vol 5 Iss 7)

We underline could in the above section, because there is simply a lack of data. Reading “Invisible Women” by Caroline Criado Perez (Vintage, ISBN: 9781784706289) makes you realise that “lack of data in academia” can be replaced with “lack of data in society”.

Data is not available from EPSRC for other protected characteristics, and so our understanding of the academic experience is often limited to our own lived experience. In order to address EDI in our institutions, we often ask those in the protected characteristic groups to represent a heterogeneous mix of people and experience. As two white women we bring our white privilege to the table (a great resource on this is here: https://www.racialequitytools.org/resourcefiles/mcintosh.pdf). Even within white privilege there are intersections with our Northern and Scottish roots, and class, for example.

McIntosh (1989) lists several white privileges, and given recent discussions in the UK of decolonisation of the curriculum and the during the current Black History Month, this one gives pause:

“When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization”, I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.”

McIntosh (1989) White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

We are more than white women. We are white, heterosexual, married women who have children. So, as EDI champions, how can we reflect the experience of the full diversity of women? Women of colour, women without children, women who are disabled, women who are homosexual, or people who do not associate with binary expressions of gender? We may be very close to women with different lived experiences and have an appreciation of their experience through family and friends for example. And what role for men, how can they better understand the lived experiences of the full diversity of men? How can our research teams become better environments for all, regardless of difference?

We conclude it behoves each of us to read, observe and educate ourselves about the experiences of others. Be a good example. To take responsibility for our own awareness, to be reflective, and commit to being a better global citizen. To be kind. To be human.

Getting it done? The UK 2020 Budget and the support for a net-zero transition in the energy sector.


About the authors:

Dr Sara Walker is Reader in Energy at Newcastle University and Director of Newcastle University Centre for Energy.

Professor David Flynn is Professor of Smart Systems at Heriot Watt University

Both Sara and David are Associate Directors of the EPSRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration, a £20m collaborative research programme with industry and government investigating the social, ecconomic and technical value in energy systems integration.


March 2020 Budget

On 11th March 2020, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak presented to Parliament the Government budget¹. This was an opportunity for the UK Government to clearly signal its commitment to deliver on the net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target for 2050 and to also lay the groundwork for COP26 as the host nation.

Albeit the language of the previous administration associated with “industrial strategy” was dropped, the Government retained a reference to the Grand Challenges, indicating that there is likely to be continued investment into energy innovation and climate change mitigation. A key indication of this is the commitment to at least double investment in the Energy Innovation Programme.

Firstly

The first mention of issues related to energy in the Chancellor’s speech came with an announcement to continue the freeze on fuel duty. For comment on this, and other transport initiatives in the Budget, we refer you to DecarboN8’s review². In a separate announcement, Business Secretary Alok Sharma previously confirmed a £36.7 million investment to design, test and manufacture electric machines. £30 million will be used to create a national network cutting-edge centers led from Newcastle University – based in Newport, Nottingham, Strathclyde, and Sunderland – to research and develop green electric machines including planes, ships, and cars. This represents the “demonstrator” element of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Driving the Electric Revolution Challenge.

And then …

The second mention of energy came in an announcement, as part of the Research and Development (R&D) spend, of £900m funding for nuclear fusion, space, and electric vehicles. As employees of research organizations, we welcome the announcement of £22bn per year by 2024-25, in research and development. However, the role of new nuclear in the Committee on Climate Change Net Zero technical report³ is relatively minor.
On housing, the Budget refers to £12.2bn for the Affordable Homes Programme over 5 years, a push for 300,000 new homes per year, and reforms to planning to accelerate development. No commitment is made to the standard of new homesª, or retrofit of existing homes, which is inconsistent with the Committee on Climate Change Net Zero report, which found that high levels of energy efficiency are needed to get close to the zero targets.

What does this mean for energy sector? 

There is a clear need to improve the quality of UK homes, in a way that reduces energy use and moves us towards heating systems that use lower-carbon fuels. We need to make urgent changes in this area, from research to improve the performance of individual technology like heat pumps, to understanding possible future housing performance and the energy needs associated with that. The EPSRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration (CESI) is looking at these types of research challenges.

The meat of the Budget from an energy perspective is in the Budget report section on “Growing a greener economy”. There is an announcement to double the size of the Energy Innovation Programme as mentioned previously, although some of this money is for R&D and therefore likely to be included in the figures above. A further £800m was announced by the Chancellor for the development of two Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) sites through the creation of a CCS Infrastructure Fund. CCS support was removed by previous administrations but is integral to many scenarios within the Committee on Climate Change Net Zero report.

No figures are mentioned, but the Budget report includes a new support scheme for biomethane funded by a Green Gas Levy, and a Low Carbon Heat Support Scheme to enable the installation of biomass boilers and heat pumps. £270m is promised to enable new and existing heat networks to adopt low carbon heat sources, to follow on from funding of £97m for the final year of the Heat Networks Investment Project (HNIP). There is a rise in the Climate Change Levy on gas (for 2022-23 and 2023-24). The Renewable Heat Incentive is extended to 31st March 2022. Furthermore, £10m in 2020-21 is to support the design and delivery of net zero policies and programs. Heat networks are an area of research for the EPSRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration (CESI), and we also expect to investigate more scenarios with hydrogen and CCS now that the goal for the UK has changed from 80% to a net-zero target.

And Finally

Given the critical interdependencies of our energy infrastructure to other vital services e.g. water, transport, services from public buildings, we also see opportunities to accelerate and distribute the efforts in decarbonisation by utilising the opportunities of the Making the most of Government knowledge assets initiative. The public sector holds around £150 billion of knowledge assets (intellectual property, tech, data, etc.), which is vital in shaping the operation and planning of decarbonised services. However, the absence of any Budget support for solar, wind, and storage – elements seen as vital with renewable generation four times current levels in some Committee on Climate Change scenarios – is of great concern. As is the lack of investment to decarbonise the building stock.

Getting it done isn’t the same as getting it right. And for the UK energy sector, there is very little in the budget which gives confidence that we are doing enough, let alone doing it well.

References

  1. https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/budget-speech-2020
  2. https://decarbon8.org.uk/budget-2020-transport-we-cant-build-our-way-out-of-the-climate-challenge/ with for example: £403m for the Plug-In Car Grant; £129.5m to extend the scheme to vans, taxis and motorcycles; Vehicle Excise Duty exemption; £500m over 5 years to roll out rapid charging; removing red diesel tax relief; £304m for NOx reduction; freeze of fuel duty; £20m midlands rail hub; £5bn for new buses and cycling; £500m pothole fund; all dwarfed by the £27bn between 2020 and 2025 for road investment. Aviation is also mentioned with regards regional connectivity.
  3. https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Net-Zero-Technical-report-CCC.pdf

ªhttps://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/871799/Budget_2020_Web_Accessible_Complete.pdf “2.95 Future Homes Standard – The government is committed to reducing emissions from homes and to helping keep household energy costs low now and in the future. In due course, the government will announce plans to improve the standards of new built homes.”

UPDATED: What does the power outage on 9 August 2019 tell us about GB power system?


About the author:

Professor Janusz Bialek is Professor of Power and Energy Systems at Newcastle University, UK.


9th of August Power Outage on GB system

UPDATED to include reference to the authors, Energy Policy Research Group working paper with Cambridge University¹ 

The power outage on 9th August 2019 that affected over 1 million customers in England and Wales and caused a major disruption to other critical infrastructures was a major news item and sparked wide-spread discussions about who is to blame. Power outages are like stress tests exposing strengths and weaknesses of the power system as the whole and its constituent elements and other critical infrastructures connected to it so our main aim is to consider the title question: what does the power outage tell us about the state of GB power system?

A uniformly accepted (N-1) reliability criterion stipules that there should be enough fast power reserves to respond to a loss of one power station, as the probability of two power stations simultaneously failing is very low. On 19 August a lightning strike caused two power stations to trip, so it was (N-2) event. Consequently, frequency dropped below the statutory limits to 48.8 Hz which triggered under-frequency load shedding. Frequency was then returned to 50 Hz in about 5 mins and power supplies were restored within 40 mins. The main adverse effect of the blackout was a severe disruption to rail service around London due to an unexpected failure of trains when frequency dropped below 49 Hz. Hence, everything seemed fine as the power system itself responded exactly how it was designed to. Should we then be happy about the state of the GB power system? The answer is: not really. The blackout has uncovered important fault lines which may significantly affect reliability of the system in a near future.

August 2019 blackout frequency drop

Changing landscape 

Over the last 10 years or so the GB power system has changed quite rapidly and significantly with renewables, often embedded in the distribution level, replacing traditional gas/coal generation and increasing deployment of energy storage, active demand and smart grids technologies. To put in simple terms, it means that a lot of new gear and controls were added to the system in a very short time. Hence it is increasingly difficult for the Electricity System Operator (ESO) to fully monitor, model and control the whole system. As a consequence, the probability of hidden common modes of failures, affecting one than more unit, has increased – as exemplified by the 9 August outage. This would suggest that it might be prudent to strengthen the old (N-1) security standard by providing extra security margin.

There were also other issues highlighted by the outage. Embedded generation reached such a high penetration level that it cannot be treated any longer as negative demand. Its importance for real-time power balancing and in a response to disturbances requires a new approach. Traditional under-frequency load shedding disconnects indiscriminately all customers on the disconnected feeders, including embedded generation and frequency response units which are essential for the system to survive. With rapid advances in telecommunication, it should be possible to assess in real time the actual loading on individual feeders so that load shedding has the maximum possible effect and perhaps also implement load shedding at 11 kV level, rather than 33 kV, hence allowing more selective operation.

Lessons learned

As power systems are more likely to be affected by large disturbances due to the reasons outlined above, the ability of critical infrastructures and services to ride through the disturbances has to be closely monitored and tested. Not only back-up supplies have to be regularly checked but also compliance with the regulations must be enforced to make sure that the infrastructures can survive large frequency deviations.

Finally a question arises why some GB outages that affected hundreds of thousands of people over the last two decades attracted a public attention and media coverage and others did not. Our conclusion is that short-duration outages matter only if they affect critical infrastructures, especially transport, in London and the surrounding areas. What really matters to the public is not the number of people affected by a power outage but how the disturbance affects their life. Hence if a disturbance is of a relatively short-duration and does not disrupt significantly critical infrastructures, it does not attract much attention. Also outages affecting metropolitan areas such as London are more likely to attract the attention of media than those happening elsewhere.

Reference

¹ https://www.eprg.group.cam.ac.uk/eprg-working-paper-2006/

Heads or tails: achieving Net Zero by 2050 – Claire Copeland

As part of our Year 3 review of CESI research, we are re-publishing a SPRU blog written by Claire Copeland, CESI researcher on Future Energy Scenarios.


About the author:

Claire Copeland is a Research Fellow in SPRU (SPRU – Science Policy Research Unit) at the University of Sussex.

Her principal research interest is in energy futures focusing on the development of narrative scenarios for the UK and the role of energy-economy models in scenario development processes.

Contact details: claire.copeland@sussex.ac.uk Profile Details


First published on the SPRU Blog site – May 17th, 2019

Another climate report and another urgent call for action, along with a dizzying array of graphs and figures. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), who advise the UK government on policies and planning for a low carbon economy, have produced their analysis and recommendations on how to stop UK’s contribution to global warming by 2050. This follows the “Paris Agreement” signed in December 2015 where the UK, along with 196 other countries, agreed to reduce their nation’s greenhouse gas emissions in efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

The CCC’s excellent and thorough report makes for some tough reading; not for its 277 pages and plethora of statistics and figures, but for the scale of collective effort required. The benign-sounding estimate of costs – 1-2% of GDP – disguises the extent of system change and efforts required, not only of government and businesses, but households as well.

Technological fix is not enough

For net zero emissions in the UK; industry and transport need to be completely decarbonised as well as almost entirely how we heat buildings. CCC suggests this can be achieved with electrification and hydrogen technologies, requiring deployment of four times the current level of renewables. Critically, this also depends on the deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS), including net negative technologies such as bio-energy carbon capture and storage (BECCS), and some direct air capture (DAC) to take CO2 from the air and sequester underground. BECCS and DAC are needed because of the difficulties in decarbonising aviation and shipping.

ccs
Carbon capture and storage technology in Alberta, USA (Free image)

The UK has so far had little success in getting CCS off the ground: In 2015, the then chancellor George Osborne, said it was “too costly” and pulled the plug on £1 billion of government funding. This makes deployment of CCS at the scale required much more difficult. However, there has been recent renewed interest from the government in CCS, but this is with a smaller pot (£20 million) and with broader ambitions to include industrial decarbonisation.

Much is made in the report about progress to date and the fall in the cost of deploying renewable technologies, particularly from wind. The CCC’s estimate of costs, incredibly, is a similar size relative to GDP as they estimated for achieving the Climate Change Act 2008. However, the UK is not on track to meeting its obligations set out in 2008, and there is also no guarantee that renewables will remain low cost. Wind turbines have towers made from steel and industrial decarbonisation efforts, whether here or elsewhere, could lead to that steel becoming substantially more expensive. For example, a fossil free steel plant initiative in Sweden, predict rising global demand could result steel prices increasing 20-30%. This will impact on the cost of wind power and potentially result in questionable financial viability if deploying in places that are less favourable for wind.

wind
Rampion Wind Farm seen from the coast of Brighton. Photo by Dominic Alves shared under CC BY 2.0 license

But all these technologies will not be enough. As has been highlighted by some news articles so far, efforts to change consumer behaviour will also be needed: Flights will need to be curbed and a switch in diets away from meat, poultry, fish and dairy will be needed, impacting on UK’s livestock farmers. If consumer behaviour overall does not shift in the direction and to the extent required, then this will need to be compensated for elsewhere and could result in higher costs.

No better than the toss of a coin?

Even if CCC’s recommendations are implemented, and replicated around the world, the chances of limiting warming to 1.5°C would be over 50%. This means that the chances of success could be little better than the toss of a coin. It is curious that the CCC’s estimate of costs for action under the Climate Act 2008, used higher chances (66%) in limiting warming (to 2°C). By setting the chances of succeeding lower, CCC has reduced the costs and efforts required. Presumably so as to make this politically palatable.

This does not appear to be consistent with the Paris Agreement’s requirement for the “highest possible ambition” and there are calls for the UK to cut emissions even faster and be net zero. However reducing emissions faster, say the CCC, would be “very risky”– particularly for the UK economy that would see capital being terminated too early and scrapped.

Talking the talk, but not walking…

While UK Parliament has declared a climate emergency, recent decisions made by the UK government are at odds with halting contribution to climate change: Expansion of Heathrow with an extra 16 million long haul seats available by 2040, and overriding local concerns for shale gas development. While attempts were made to overturn the government’s Heathrow expansion decision this was not successful. Furthermore, without the deployment of CCS, there is absolutely no room for developing new natural gas reserves for UK to become a net zero emissions nation.

heathrow
Heathrow Airport runway (free image)

Where the burden of costs should fall is going to be a highly politicised issue. The CCC state clearly that the distribution of costs should not only be determined (by the government) as fair, but be perceived to be fair. No matter what the cost is in proportion to the GDP is overall – what will matter is not only the appetite, but crucially the ability, to absorb costs whether it be a particular project, business, employee, consumer, or household.

Costs of mitigating climate change became a hot topic in the recent elections in Finland. The Finns Party campaigned against those costs and resulted in coming second in the election. Given our own problems with whether or not and how to leave the EU, and the lack of understanding of (or even regard to) the financial consequences of doing so, action to mitigate climate change is likely to be a contentious issue.

While there are signs that the public mood is changing, there is no room for complacency and action is needed by each of us, since politics and technological fixes alone will not get the UK to net zero emissions. The right noises have come from UK’s politicians, but this has yet to be translated into the urgent action needed to steer our energy system and economic activity onto the right track. As individuals we also need to do our bit and be willing to change our lifestyles, before nature does this for us. Making sure this transition happens in a way that is fair and just to all is going to be critical to its success.

CESI Profile: Professor Simone Abram – CESI’s newest professor discusses her career and advice to aspiring researchers

CESI Profiles

We are showcasing the diverse range of expertise of the academics of CESI in a series of discussion-with sessions. In this first in the series, we speak with newly promoted Professor Simone Abram, CESI Co-Investigator.


Professor Simone Abram is Durham Energy Institute’s Co-Director for Social Sciences and Health and a Professor at the Department of Anthropology at Durham University. Her research has brought together science studies and governance, through studies of tourism, urban development and land-use planning. Simone’s energy interests lie in relating different disciplinary perspectives on energy and society, including the governance of energy developments, recent transformations of energy markets, ethical questions in energy modelling, and the changing social and political significance of energies, particularly electricity.

Simone is a member of the European PERSON network for social sciences in energy research and co-convenes the European Energy Anthropology Network.

Email: simone.abram@durham.ac.uk


Can you tell us about your career path to Professor? 

I graduated with a BSc/MEng in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from Manchester University in 1988. I was sponsored by GEC Turbines and worked for the company during the summer months. The degree program was very broad covering History of Industry, Philosophy of Science and Law, in addition to more traditional engineering subjects. In my 4th year project I investigated cable insulation breakdown.  As a result, I was invited to work towards a PhD in this area.

Through my work at GEC Turbines, I had become very interested in the effects of the construction of power stations in “remote” areas of the world. Instead of a PhD in engineering, I applied for an MSt in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Oxford. I stayed at Oxford to carry out my PhD on history and heritage the Auvergne, France.  After my PhD, I took a a Post Doc position at Newcastle University working with the Centre for Rural Economy on a project investigating the representation of the Middle Class in planning decisions. I then gained a fellowship at Cardiff University continuing looking at the representation of social groups in the planning process from the point of view of Deliberative Democracy.  Throughout, I was in contact with fellow researchers in Norway and I was invited to be a visiting researcher at the University of Oslo.

My first permanent lectureship was at Sheffield University in the Planning Department in 2000, and I later became a Senior Lecturer. I joined the Department of Anthropology at Durham University in 2013 to set up their new MSc in Energy and Society, becoming a co-director of the Durham Energy Institute soon after, and I was promoted to professor in 2017.

What do you most enjoy about your teaching role? 

I enjoy teaching collaboratively and encouraging the students to learn together. I really appreciate the engagement with the students, and learn from them as well as facilitating their learning.

What does your day-to-day role as a Professor involve? 

It is a very busy schedule. Today I will be involved in a number of things:-

  • teaching and planning teaching material; today I am carrying out a review and planning next year’s MSc Energy and Society curriculum
  • reading and commenting on a PhD thesis chapter
  • responding to a publisher’s review of a book I have written
  • meeting with the Project Administration team of the National Centre for Energy Systems Integration
  • Meeting with my CESI Post Doc RA
  • Departmental administration tasks around student recruitment
  • Meeting with external partners – today it’s representatives from local government
  • Preparing a research funding application
  • Attending a guest lecture by a distinguished academic
  • And of course … keeping up with emails!

Would you share some top-tip advice to anyone considering becoming a Professor?

I don’t envy anyone setting out on this path today, as conditions in academia are getting harder and harder. I never set out to become a professor, but see it as a recognition of some of the things I’ve been able to achieve. There are a few lessons I have picked up along the way, though.

  • Remember that universities are institutions, and that if you want to get something out of them, you have to find your way through the rules – and the unwritten rules. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be steered by institutional hurdles – jump them if it suits you, but there are more important things in life.
  • For women in particular, you have to put yourself forward and not be too modest.
  • There’s no point in doing research that no-one needs – communicate it to industry and government if you can, as well as to students and academics – in a language they can understand, if possible, enjoy!
  • It’s up to you to look for opportunities for research funding and collaborations – they won’t fall into your lap unless you have done the groundwork.
  • Treat colleagues with respect, maintain your enthusiasm for research, but don’t put up with bad behaviour.  I have had to speak out about bad practice on a number of occasions, but it hasn’t held be back in the long term.  If everyone did the same, we’d all be better off.

Keeping warm: deep geothermal potential of the UK – Professor Jon Gluyas and Dr Charlotte Adams

Jon Gluyas and Charlotte Adams discuss  recent CESI research which looks at how the UK’s heat supply can be decarbonized and national energy security improved.


About the authors

Dr Charlotte Adams is Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at Durham University and a Mid Career fellow in the Durham Energy Institute.  She is Manager of BritGeothermal, a UK-based consortium focusing on deep geothermal research both in the UK and internationally.

Contact: c.a.adams@durham.ac.uk      Profile Details

 

 

Professor Jon Gluyas is an Associate Director of CESI,
Executive Director of Durham Energy Institute and
holds the ØRSTED/IKON Chair in Geoenergy, Carbon Capture & Storage in the Department of Earth Sciences at Durham University.  Jon has published widely, including text books, memoirs and over 100 per review papers

Contact:  j.g.gluyas@durham.ac.uk      Profile Details


Two recent papers to emerge from CESI examine the potential to decarbonize the UK’s heat supply and simultaneously improve national energy security. It is likely that most will view improvement of UK energy security as the priority given threats to UK gas supplies resulting from the diplomatic fall out between the UK and Russia. The link between gas supply and heat is straightforward.

About half the UK’s energy consumption is used to generate heat for domestic, commercial and industrial spaces and burning natural gas generates most of that heat. Since 2005 the UK has been progressively more dependent upon gas imports to meet demand. Currently, we can supply around 35-40% of our needs with about the same coming from Norway via the Langeled Pipeline. Much of the remainder is supplied as LNG from Qatar leaving about 5% that comes via the interconnectors from Belgium and the Netherlands. No single molecule of methane travels from Moscow to London but that 5% from Europe is essentially controlled by Russia because of its dominance on the European gas supply market. To exacerbate the situation, the UK has but a few days gas storage supply, mostly though changing the pressure in the nationwide gas network. This compares very unfavourably with both Germany and France both of which have about 3 months stored supply.

Gas supply warnings, though infrequent, demonstrate how precarious the situation is. The most recent was issued on 1st March 2018 amid the icy conditions of a late-winter cold snap. Others have accompanied similarly freezing weather in 2010 and problems with the Langeled Pipeline in 2009. The ongoing tiff between Qatar and Saudi Arabia has not yet had an impact on supplies of LNG but it could. National Grid was able to withdraw its warning after about 24 hours but it remains highly likely that UK gas and hence heating supplies could be interrupted by either political or technical issues. We are vulnerable!

The two papers referred to at the start of this article lay out the resource potential of low enthalpy geothermal heat in the UK. The article by Gluyas et al on ‘Keeping warm: a review of deep geothermal potential of the UK’ examines how much heat could be extracted from sedimentary basins and granite bodies while Adams and Gluyas article on ‘We could use old coal mines to decarbonize heat – here’s how’ looked at the resource potential of ultra-low enthalpy heat in abandoned flooded coal mines. A very conservative estimation indicates that at current levels of heat use there is an absolute minimum of 100 years heat supply from these sources. Moreover, such heat sources have a near zero carbon footprint.