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)

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: 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.”


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.

Techno-economic-environmental evaluation framework for integrated gas and electricity distribution networks considering impact of different storage configurations

Researchers and Academics from the EPSRC funded Supergen Energy Networks Hub and the National Centre for Energy Systems Integration (CESI), Dr Adib Allahham, Dr Hamid Hosseini, Dr Vahid Vahidinasab, Dr Sara Walker & Professor Phil Taylor, recently published their journal paper in the International Journal of Electrical Power and Energy Systems.

About the Author

Dr Adib Allahham is a Research Associate within the Power Systems Research Team, School of Engineering, Newcastle University and currently works on several projects including the Supergen Energy Networks Hub and EPSRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration (CESI).  Adib received his PhD from the University of Joseph Fourier in the field of control engineering. His research involves projects around the electricity distribution and off-grid power sector and multi-vector energy systems. These projects are addressing the need to cost efficiently decarbonise the energy sector over the next thirty years by facilitating innovative network integration of new generation, and the integration of different energy vectors (electricity, gas, and heat). Computer simulation, laboratory investigation and demonstration projects are used together to produce new knowledge that delivers this requirement. He has published more than 25 technical papers in leading journals and conferences.

Adib Allahham contact details: @adiballahham and profile details

About the Paper

Governments around the world are working hard to reduce their Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. In the UK, the government has set a target of “Net Zero” GHG emissions by 2050 in order to reduce contribution to global warming [1]. This necessitates the integration of more Renewable Energy Sources (RESs) into the energy networks and consequently reduction in the use of fossil fuels while meeting and reducing energy demand.

To achieve this objective flexibly and reliably, it may be necessary to couple the energy networks using several network coupling components such as gas turbine (GT), power-to-gas (P2G) and Combined Heat and Power (CHP) [2]. Also, the energy networks may benefit from different types of Energy Storage Systems (ESSs) in order to be able to compensate for any energy carrier deficit or other constraints in energy supply in any of the networks [3].

In order to comprehensively study multi-vector integrated energy systems and analyse ESS potentials, a Techno-Economic-Environmental (TEE) evaluation framework needs to be designed to investigate the mutual impacts of each of the networks on the operational, economic and environmental performance of others. This is the main aim of this study.

The paper divides ESS into two different categories of Single Vector Storage (SVS) and Vector Coupling Storage (VCS).

Figure 1: A conceptual representation of SVS and VCS storage devices in an Integrated Gas and Electricity Distribution Network (IGEDN)

A literature review looked at models which have been used to perform planning of the whole energy system of several countries taking into account all layers of the energy system, as well as different types of energy storage in multi-vector energy networks. As well as using a case study from a rural area in Scotland which is connected to the electricity distribution network only, also benefitting from a small wind farm and roof-top PV’s.

Fig. 2. The schematic of the studied rural area in Scotland including the separate gas and electricity networks (without considering P2G and VCS) and IGEDN (with considering P2G and VCS) [4].

A framework was developed as a result of the literature review carried out and this was tested on the real-world rural area in Scotland.  The evaluation framework provides the ability to perform TEE operational analysis of future scenarios of Integrated Gas and Electricity Distribution Networks (IGEDN).  Several specifications and achievements from this study are identified in the paper which is available to read online and will be published in the November issue of the Journal.


[1] Committee on Climate Change. Net Zero – The UKś contribution to stopping global warming, 2019. Google Scholar

[2] S. Clegg, P. MancarellaIntegrated electrical and gas network flexibility assessment in low-carbon multi-energy systems IEEE Trans Sustainable Energy, 7 (2) (2016), pp. 718-731 CrossRefView Record in ScopusGoogle Scholar

[3] S.H.R. Hosseini, A. Allahham, P. TaylorTechno-economic-environmental analysis of integrated operation of gas and electricity networks 2018 IEEE International Symposium on Circuits and Systems (ISCAS) (2018), pp. 1-5 CrossRefView Record in ScopusGoogle Scholar

[4] EPSRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration (CESI)., 2017.

Optimal planning and operation of multi-vector energy networks: A systematic review [1]

Academics from the EPSRC Supergen Energy Networks Hub and National Centre for Energy Systems Integration (CESI), Dr Hamid Hosseini, Dr Adib Allahham, Dr Sara Walker and Prof Phil Taylor recently published their journal paper in Elsevier’s prestigious journal Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews (impact factor 12.11).

About the Author

Hamid joined Newcastle University in 2017 as a postdoctoral research associate to the EPSRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration (CESI).  Since joining the team, Hamid has been actively involved in research looking at planning, optimisation and operational analysis of integrated multi-vector energy networks. He also collaborated with a multi-disciplinary team on the UKRI Research and Innovation Infrastructure (RII) roadmap project, advising UKRI on the current landscape and future roadmap of Energy RIIs. He has supported and collaborated with several CESI Flex Fund projects to investigate further various aspects of Energy Systems Integration (ESI). Moreover, he is working with the Executive Board of Northern Gas Networks to identify the potential energy systems challenges that could be investigated at the Customer Energy Village of the Integrated Transport Electricity Gas Research Laboratory (InTEGReL), through collaboration with a multi-disciplinary team of  energy experts in industry and academia.

Contact email: and Profile details

About the Paper

The international aspiration to reach net zero carbon in energy systems by 2050 is growing. In the UK, the government has set a target of ‘Net Zero’ Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 in order to reduce contribution to global warming [2]. This necessitates performing energy evaluation through a system-of-systems approach, in order to understand the intrinsic properties of the main layer/sections of the Integrated Energy Systems (IESs), from natural resources and distribution to the final energy user as well as the interactions and interdependencies within each layer/section [3].

This paper provides a systematic review of recent publications on simulation and analysis of integrated multi-vector energy networks (rather than energy hubs) and carries this out through the lens of the internationally accepted concept of the energy trilemma, i.e. Flexibility of Operation, Security of Supply and Affordability. The significant detail included in the paper and the link to the trilemma is required in order to identify gaps and directions for an appropriate future applied research for facilitating the path to a decarbonised economy.

A systematic literature review of nearly 200 published papers was carried out using keywords to analyse Integrated Energy Networks (IENs). The papers have a wide, international authorship (Figure 1), showing that the topic of energy networks analysis is an important topic for governments around the world, as this supports meeting carbon reduction targets. 

Figure 1 The number of reviewed papers from different countries, based on the affiliation of the first author

The reviewed papers were classified into three groups (i) Operational analysis (ii) Optimal dispatch and (iii) Optimal planning, focussing on energy networks including gas, electricity and district heating networks as well as their interactions and interdependencies.

Figure 2 The three subject groups of papers reviewed and their topics

A detailed evaluation of the energy trilemma was carried out for each of the three groups of papers.

The paper looks at key findings, provides insights for the energy research community towards pursuit of low carbon transition and makes recommendations for future research priorities including: (i) development and demonstration of cyber resilient smart energy management frameworks, (ii) ways to overcome organisational and regulatory barriers for future increased energy networks integration, (iii) uncertainty analysis of the future performance of IENs, (iv) potential economic value of energy systems integration and (v) deployment of smart multi-energy regions.

The full paper, will appear in the November 2020 issue of the Elsevier journal, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, and is available to view online.


[1] Hosseini, SHR, Allahham, A, Walker, SL, Taylor, P. (2020). Optimal planning and operation of multi-vector energy networks: A systematic review. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 133. DOI: j.rseer.2020.110216

[2] Committee on Climate Change. Net Zero – the UK’s contribution to stopping global warming. 2019. accessed, net-zero-the-uks-contribution-to-stopping-global-warming/. [Accessed 28 October 2019].

[3] Eusgel I, Nan C, Dietz S. System-of-systems approach for interdependent critical infrastructures. Reliab Eng Syst Saf 2011;96(6):679–86.

The Energy Sector and UK Recovery in the Wake of the COVID Pandemic

About the Author

Dr Sara Walker is currently a Reader in Energy and Director of The Centre for Energy as well as Director of the National Centre for Energy Systems Integration and Deputy Director of the Supergen Energy Networks Hub in the School of Engineering at Newcastle University. Her research is on energy efficiency and renewable energy at the building scale.

Resilience and the need for Change?

The COVID pandemic has, for some sectors of UK society and business, brought into sharp relief the need for change. Resilience is today’s buzzword, along side opaque phrases such as “build back better”. How can we put some detail to the call for a “better” future? And what does this mean for the UK energy sector as we look to transform towards 2050 commitment?

Climate Change Emergency

Many are likely to be redefining their understanding of key worker as our vital infrastructure keeps the wheels of society turning. The energy sector is a critical infrastructure for the UK, confirmed by the UK Government at the height of the COVID lockdown[1]. Whilst our energy utilities focus on keeping the country supplied with electricity, gas, oil and LPG, for example, they do so in a period of uncertain customer demand, since there is no historical precedent for the extent of economic lockdown which the UK has experienced. Whilst we deal with these pressures in the short term, longer term issues of climate change and the Government target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 cannot afford to be ignored. The Conference of the Parties 2020 in Glasgow may have been postponed for a year, but there is no pause in the evidence of climate change as May 2020 was 0.95°C above the average[2].

How to address these long term issues? To look for win-wins with the short term COVID-recovery issue is a start. The lockdown has resulted, across the UK, in dramatic reduction in traffic and air pollution (see, for example, In the mobility space, the need for physical distancing has opened up conversations about pavement widths, safe space for cycling and redesigning our spaces to enable walking and cycling and to enable sufficient physical distancing.

Figure 1. Proposed increase in public walking and cycling space in Newcastle city centre
Figure 2. Novel analysis by Newcastle University of pedestrian spacing, to evaluate adherence to physical distancing guidelines and identify locations where physical distancing is constrained.

Energy Sector Pressures

With vast numbers working and studying at home, the electricity sector has seen overall demand drop (as industrial and commercial loads reduce) but increases in use at home. At particular times during the COVID lockdown, we have had periods of relatively low demand for electricity and relatively high proportions of inflexible electricity generation (for example nuclear, wind and solar). This is an issue for supply-demand balancing for electricity in particular, since balancing is needed in order to keep the system frequency within certain quality boundaries. The UK power sector is seen as a world-leading industry, and solutions here have relevance to power systems across the globe.

Balancing is likely to be an issue moving forward with more renewable generation, and so we need to identify appropriate sources of flexibility for our energy systems.

There are two possible sources of flexibility which we would like to highlight here. Integration with the gas network, and active buildings.

System Integration and the Role of Gas and Hydrogen

The future UK energy system is of course uncertain, it is difficult to predict what it will be like in 2050. But we do know that system investment now will still be part of the 2050 operational system. So it is vital that our decisions are with 2050 in mind, rather than interim targets on the journey to net zero. Scenarios by a multitude of organisations generally see a greater role for electricity in the space heating and transport sectors, and decarbonisation of electricity through greater use of renewable energy technologies.

One way to address the issue of balancing for the electricity sector, in this future of greater demand and greater use of renewables, is to better integrate electricity and gas. This would then enable the two energy vectors to mutually support one another in times of stress. In particular, there are options to enable the generation of hydrogen using electricity at time of excess generation compared with demand. This hydrogen can then be stored in the gas network, which could be hydrogen ready by 2030[3]. Hydrogen is of significant interest for the UK Government for applications in industry, in transport (particularly marine, long distance and heavy road, air and rail transport).

Repurposing of the existing natural gas network has benefit of reduced stranded assets, and substitution of hydrogen into the gas system at mixes of up to 20% can enable the UK to begin the demonstration phase prior to full scale roll out of a hydrogen system.

InTEGReL is a new integrated energy test and demonstration facility in Gateshead, north east England. Led by Northern Gas Networks and in partnership with Northern Powergrid and Newcastle University, the facility is a second phase demonstrator for the HyDeploy project, to test the blend of hydrogen in natural gas networks for a range of customers and networks.

Flexibility in Demand – The Role of Active Buildings

10% of UK households (2018 figure) are classed as being in fuel poverty, although up to date figures are unavailable. Longer term impacts to incomes of households during an economic downturn, and increased energy use by households, are likely to push numbers of fuel poor upwards. The UK faces a significant risk, as we move towards colder winter months, of a growth in cold-related illness and excess winter deaths at the same time as our NHS struggles to recover from COVID.

A win-win is to address the poor housing stock in the UK. A retrofit stimulus aimed at the construction sector has a significant advantage in terms of job creation. Furthermore, these are local jobs, contributing to the Government’s ambition to “level-up” the regions and nations of the UK. Retrofit investment has the potential to move households out of fuel poverty. Energy efficiency has been highlighted by a number of organisations as a vital element of a green economic recovery for the UK[4] [5]. By improving our housing stock in a way which enables the building to play an active role on energy networks, the buildings can also provide flexibility to those networks. This might involve using more energy at times when it is abundant and cheap, charging up electric vehicles and filling heat and electrical storage in the home. It might also involve demand reduction at times of network stress and demand peak. So this might involve using local generation, home energy storage, and turning down or off certain loads (such as heat pumps).


The case for change in our energy sector was powerful pre-Covid, it is even more so today.  In light of the Government’s own 2050 target, we must not lose this catalytic moment to take action.  There is much to do, and taking urgent action trumps more debate and prevarication.  The energy transition is no longer an aspiration, it is an imperative.

The full article is available to view.



[3] Iron Mains Replacement Programme is replacing gas mains iron pipework with polyethylene pipes, which can be used with hydrogen.



Potential use of interconnectors for exteme events; leading to net-zero and after

About the Author

Dr Susan Claire Scholes is a postdoctoral research associate with the Supergen Energy Networks Hub at Newcastle University

The new extraordinary?

On 10th May 2020, the GB electricity network encountered an extraordinary occurrence which, with the increase of electricity generation by renewable sources, is unlikely to remain extraordinary in future times. 

During the early hours of the morning on Sunday 10th May, there was forecasted high wind along with other inflexible generation that would lead to an excess of electricity generation at a time of low demand.  This could lead to system instability and the associated problems of system imbalance.  Shortly before this event, National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) had introduced a new control mechanism that was targeted at the changes in power needs and potential excess generation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic (less capacity required by industry along with greater numbers of people working from home).  This was the voluntary termination of distributed generation known as Optional Downward Flexibility Management (ODFM).

Optional Downward Flexiblity Management (ODFM)

ODFM is a new tool to balance the system at times of low demand.  When extremely low demand coincides with periods of higher generation due to renewable sources this could lead to significant operational risk.  ODFM allows providers to offer termination of their services for a period of time to reduce electricity generation and help balance the system.  Along with this, the National Grid has also recently approved a Grid Code modification allowing the ESO to instruct a Distribution Network Operator (DNO) to disconnect embedded generation in emergency events.  On May 10th 2020, the forecast suggested the need to use the Grid Code service during a period of high forecasted wind generation and low demand in the early hours of the morning.  During the actual event, however, the timing of this wind peak shifted to between the hours of 04:00 – 07:00 and emergency termination of embedded distributed generation was not necessary1.  Embedded generation was cut through the new ODFM service.  The peak generation was further managed using Market Coupling, with lower importing from and some exporting to our European links via the interconnectors. 

The interconnector use can be seen in the figures below.  Figure 1 shows the interconnector use during this period of low demand and high generation in GB (04:00 – 07:00 outlined), where import to GB is positive and export from GB is negative.  The second figure (Figure 2) is the interconnector use a week earlier during normal demand and generation.  These clearly show that the Market Coupling service was taken advantage of on 10th May.

Figure 1: Interconnector usage on Sunday, 10 May 2020 (Elexon)
Figure 2: Interconnector usage on Sunday, 3 May 2020 (Elexon)

Services from interconnectors

Selling power to the continent to create exports on the interconnectors, to help balance our system, is an action that National Grid ESO prioritises above the new ODFM, providing the associated costs (price differentials) are financially beneficial to GB; and is an example of the many services interconnectors could provide to the electricity system.

Further services that could be on offer from the interconnectors include Short Term Operating Reserve (STOR), black start or frequency response.  Of course, the availability of these services will depend on the price differential to allow it to be financially beneficial to use the interconnectors in this way.  Currently GB has 5 GW of interconnector capacity (2 GW to France (IFA), 1 GW to the Netherlands (BritNed), 500 MW to Northern Ireland (Moyle) (although only half of this is available due to subsea cabling defects), 500 MW to the Republic of Ireland (East West) and the most recent addition 1 GW to Belgium (NEMO)).  Further interconnectors are planned; at the time of writing an additional 6.7 GW of power is scheduled to become available through new interconnector links by 2022.  This will more than double the power that is available to Great Britain through the interconnectors.  This increase in power availability through the numerous additional interconnectors is likely to have an effect on the price differences between countries.  The predicted decreased price differential will reduce the earnings from the sale of power through the interconnectors so the purchase from/to Europe will be less financially beneficial, potentially leading to other opportunities for the use of interconnectors for ancillary services.

Multi-Vector Solutions

There are other potential solutions for an imbalance of demand and generation in the future.  These are multi-vector solutions that involve the whole energy system.  Excess electricity generation could be used to create hydrogen to then either be stored for future use; or this hydrogen could be blended into the gas network.  In addition to this, the consumer could play a more active role in system demand by participating in active demand response (ADR).  In ADR the consumer may adjust their demand in response to the requirements of the ESO; importantly, the consumer would need to have the flexibility to increase demand or reduce demand (e.g. charging of electric vehicles at appropriate times, smart appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers).

Limitations of interconnectors?

There may, however, be limitations on the use of interconnectors for these balancing services.  The time difference between GB and the interconnected countries is one hour, and therefore times of low demand in GB are likely to also be times of low demand in these countries.  Furthermore, power exchanges over the interconnectors are driven by price differences, whether it is cheaper to import power or more beneficial to export power.  During times of low demand and high generation, we would need to ensure we are exporting power, which would mean ensuring our prices encourage this, but we would still be reliant on the need of other countries to import this power.  In addition to this, the capacity on the interconnectors may be capped due to operability constraints, thus limiting the power availability for these services.

Lessons Learnt

Extreme events of today may be an insight into our future challenges, for the net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target of 2050.  The changes in energy needs highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic have allowed us to anticipate future energy dilemmas that may occur due to the likely excess electricity generation from renewables.  This has given us an advanced insight into the potential solutions for these problems.

On 10th May 2020, intelligent use of the interconnectors allowed us to prioritise electricity generation from renewable sources within GB.  This demonstrates the benefits of interconnectors to:

  • balance our system
  • meet demand at a good price (importing from other countries) and
  • export excess generation (to other countries at a low price) during times of low demand and high generation from renewable sources.

Thus, both ends of the interconnected countries benefit from this intelligent use of interconnector services.



I would like to acknowledge the assistance of Dr Sara Walker and Dr David Greenwood, both from Newcastle University, in the preparation of this article.

Online Conference 2020

From the 29 April to the 1 June 2020, the Supergen Energy Networks Hub organised and delivered a six week online conference programme which attracted more than 480 registrations.

Phil Taylor, opened the conference with an overview of the Energy Networks (EN) Hub introducing the Supergen EN Co-Investigators and the Research Project Coordinators, working across the hub from Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester, Cardiff and Bath and illustrating how the hub community has grown since starting in October 2018.

Phil discussed the core research programme as well as the activities and roles which are currently being undertaken by the hub as well as the 3 Working Groups on Architectures, Climate Adaptation & Mitigation and Markets & Regulation which have been established.

Conference Sessions:

Chaired by Nazmiye Ozkan, Cranfield University, we held three separate Network Interdependency sessions.  The first session was presented by Bethan Winter, Wales & West Utilities on Network Interdependencies: Gas Networks: The Key to Unlocking Renewable Energy. Bethan discussed how networks are becoming increasingly integrated and that investment in new technologies will be required with whole system and regional modelling essential to provide insight on future network usage.

The second session concentrated on the UK Power Blackout, August 2019 and this was presented by Janusz Bialek, Newcastle University.  Janusz talked about the UK power outage on the 9 August 2019 and what this tells us about GB power systems.  He advised that the power system reacted largely as expected to a non-secured contingency, however unexpected train failures caused wide spread disruption and public anger, concluding that interactions between the power system and critical infrastructures should be reviewed.

Spyros Skarvelis-Kazakos, Sussex University and Mathaios Panteli, Manchester University, presented our third Network Interdependencies session.  They presented the outline of their future work based on COVID19 and the impact of interdependent infrastructure including resilience and sector interdependencies.

Our session on Climate Adaptation & Mitigation was presented by Alberto Troccoli, World Energy & Meteorology Council (WEMC). Alberto discussed Energy & Meteorology (weather and climate), looking at the basics of climate modelling and climate impacts on networks which could potentially cause large losses. The session was chaired by Konstantinos Chalvatzis, University of East Anglia.

Mary Susan Abbo, Centre for Research in Energy and Energy Conservation (CREEC) presented a keynote presentation on Energy Networks in Uganda and Africa.  The presentation including statistics on the energy status in Uganda, noting that 69% of Ugandans use three stone fires for cooking.  Mary Susan discussed several large Hydropower Projects which are currently in planning across the country.

CREEC goal is to enhance access to modern types of energy through research, training and consultancy in East Africa

Mary Susan Abbo

A further session on International Perspectives was chaired by Jianzhong Wu, Cardiff University. Abhishek Shivakuma and Vignesh Sridharan, from KTH Royal Institute of Technology Stockholm, Sweden presented a session on Co-Creating Energy-Land-Water resource, planning models with national governments to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). The session looked at the challenges in working towards SDG’s as well as interlinkages between systems looking at OSeMOSYS (Open Source Energy Modelling System)

On the 11 May we welcomed our first panel session of the online conference.  Chaired by Karen Henwood, Cardiff University, the panel consisted of both Industry and Academia who presented on the Societal Perspectives of Energy Networks. The session was entitled: Network Resilience and Intersectoral Connectivity: Energy Infrastructure, Carbon Literacy and Vulnerability. The session started with a short talk from Peter Smith, National Energy Action (NEA).  Peter discussed existing drivers for fuel poverty and NEA’s collaborations with networks, as well as their previous and current work with GDNs and DNO’s and opportunities for upcoming RIIO2 consultation.

Muditha Abeysekera, Cardiff University presented his work on Decarbonisation of the Public Sector which included a background of the public estate which consumes 6% of the UK’s energy supply, with the government spending over £2billion per annum on its energy bills. Muditha concluded his talk advising that ‘good quality energy data collection and analysis is an important area that needs improvement and that accessible, user -friendly ‘decision support tools’ are needed to identify improvement opportunities of public sector energy systems’.

Our third talk in this session was from Simon Roberts, Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE). Simon discussed why we need an energy system that is both ‘smart and fair’ and the role of energy network companies in delivering it.

Keith Owen, Northern Gas Networks (NGN) discussed the Net Zero Challenge, GB Energy Consumption and advised on the numerous GB Gas Industry projects throughout the country, specifically those which NGN are involved in: HyDeploy and H21 (Link) as well as an update on the InTEGReL (Integrated Transport Electricity and Gas Research Laboratory) project based in Gateshead which is in collaboration with Newcastle University, Northern Powergrid and Siemens among others.

Carlos Ugalde-Loo, Cardiff University presented his work on flexibility provision in District Cooling Systems looking at Integrated Energy Systems (IES) and how ‘IES can use complementary advantages of having various energy vectors.’ We also had presentations from Spyros Skarvelis-Kazakos, Sussex University and John Barton, Loughborough University which included information on the role of hydrogen storage in resource aggregation and virtual power plants as well as Hydrogen and Heat Delivery. The session was chaired by Upul Wijayantha, Loughborough University.

The Early Career Researcher (ECR) session on the 20 May, chaired by Robin Preece, Manchester University consisted of several presenters from Academia and Industry.  The session focused on Career Pathways for Early Career Researchers starting with a talk from Keith Bell, Strathclyde University and his pathway to becoming a Professor as well as a talk from Tingyan Guo, consultant at Deloitte and how she has moved into Industry following completion of her PhD in Electrical Energy and Power Systems.  We also had talks from Rose Chard, Energy Systems Catapult, Celia Butler, Synopsys, Jacqueline Edge, Imperial College and Nick Wooley,

As part of the conference we held an offshore session which was hosted by Lars Johanning, University of Exeter and featured talks from Industry and Academia. Simon Cheeseman, Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult discussed Tidal Stream & Hydrogen System Integration, how the energy system will differ significantly to the existing energy system in 2050, with the majority of electricity expected to be generated by renewable sources including offshore wind.

Ajit Pillai, University of Exeter talked about the complex bathymetry which is considered when locating wind turbines such as high seabed slope and wrecks and AI approaches for the Offshore Cable Network reliability based design. The third talk in this session was from David Parish, Planet A solutions, discussed a case for symbiotic, cross vector, multi technology networks and the need for a flexible microgrid with cross vector energy flows preventing network stress.

Michael Pollitt, Cambridge University spoke about the Regulation of Energy Markets including his work on the MERLIN (Modelling the Economic Reactions Linking Individual Networks) project.

‘Having a supportive regulatory environment around flexibility procurement is crucial’

The session also included a talk from Rebecca Willis, Lancaster University. Rebecca discussed getting Energy Governance right, the GB Energy Governance: current institutions and responsibilities which include BEIS, DfT and Defra and how an Energy Transformation Commission, a coordinating body, may be able to act on behalf of the government by pulling together the different government departments

The Digital Networks Session, chaired by Myriam Neaimeh, Alan Turing Institute involved 3 presentations from Myriam, Dragan Cetenovic, Manchester University and Xavier Bellekens, Strathclyde University. 

[Cyber Security] costing £27billion p.a)

The session included information on Digital Twinning, a cloud based platform to modernise energy data access and network planning as well as real-time state estimation and FDI (False Data Injection) attacks and the challenges of cyber-threat detection and mitigation for energy networks. Understanding complex threats from Tier 1 to Tier 6 attackers and the energy challenges which need to be thought about in anticipation of a Cyber attack.

Our final conference session was an Industrial keynote from Emma Pinchbeck, Energy UK and Rebecca Williamson, Renewable UK.

Emma and Rebecca discussed how to get to net zero and the changing energy industry in relation to electricity, hydrogen and land use, etc as well as technology innovation to make use of onshore and offshore wind.

Chair, Sara Walker, Newcastle University, concluded the conference with a summary of the online programme.


Over the six week period we delivered fourteen online conference sessions with thirty-two speakers from Industry and Academia and a live attendance of between 50 – 100 delegates dialling in to each session. 

A feedback form has been sent through to all conference delegates, our aim is for their feedback to add to our own reflections.

[The conference] was a great event –lots of interesting discussions and ideas for potential proposals

In moving forward we aim to ensure sessions have a more diverse range of speaker and that dial in details can be distributed in a more efficient way.

‘The conference has gone from a potential another cancelled event to a great success!’

If you would like any further information regarding the online conference programme please contact Lindsey Allen or Linda Ward

How Should the Security Contribution of Interconnectors be Calculated?

Feedback provided to BEIS Panel of Technical Experts on ‘Modelling de-rating factor ranges for interconnected countries in the capacity market in the 2020 Electricity Capacity Report’

The GB capacity market is designed to ensure that there is enough electrical generating capacity to meet peak demands. Approximately £700 million was allocated in the ‘T-4’ capacity auction in 2020, with the portfolio covering a range of technologies, including renewables, demand side response, and interconnectors. With the total capacity of electrical interconnectors doubling to more than 20% of peak demand in the next five years, they can and do make a substantial contribution to GB system security.

Determining a monetary value for the security contribution of interconnectors is difficult compared to that of either conventional or renewable capacity, as interconnectors can both increase and reduce system demands. Earlier this month, the Supergen Energy Network (SEN) Hub responded to a call for feedback from the Electricity Market Reform (EMR) Delivery Body on the methodology for calculating interconnector de-rating factors (a link to our response). The call is of interest to the SEN hub as it lies at the intersection of network operation with ‘Markets and Regulation’ and ‘Risk and Reliability’ work packages.

Table 1: Total interconnector capacity is projected to increase from 4 GW at the start of 2019 to more than 11 GW by the end of 2022. Source: OFGEM

What is the GB Capacity Market for?

The UK Government’s EMR reforms of 2013 attempts to solve the ‘missing money’ problem in medium term planning of power systems. The problem states that energy-only markets fail to incentivise the building of generation due to the marginal cost of energy (in £/MWh) being too low when the system margin is tight. The EMR introduced a number of reforms to incentivise the investment in capacity required to meet system peaks, one of which was the GB capacity market.

Figure 1: GB half-hourly transmission system demand for December 2019. As well as providing energy, interconnectors provide value by being responsive to peaks when they occur.

For conventional generators (such as nuclear or gas), the method of calculating the capacity market value of a generator is relatively straightforward. Historic data from forced outages (periods where plant is unable to supply power due to unexpected equipment failure) are collected; from this, an overall de-rating factor is calculated based on the likelihood of a generator being unavailable during a system peak. A similar method can be used for renewable generators, based on the coincidence of meteorological patterns and demand. Generators are then paid in proportion to their de-rating factor.

How are the Interconnectors accounted for in the analysis?

Interconnectors are treated in a similar way in the calculation of their contribution to security, using de-rating factors. However, interconnectors are generally more complex than generators, with power flows largely driven by price differentials. For example, nuclear power on the French system tends to be inexpensive compared to gas turbines that are common in the GB system, and so the GB system frequently imports through the French interconnector. On the other hand, if the energy price is higher on the French system (perhaps due to unforeseen nuclear generation outages) then the interconnector is likely to export to France, potentially reducing security.

The EMR Delivery Body models the countries to which the GB system is connected using an ‘economic dispatch model’. Prices during system stress events are estimated and the resulting flows used to determine interconnector de-rating factors. The model uses many decades of weather data, allowing the impact of increasing penetrations of renewables in future years to be factored in.

The estimation of de-rating factors for interconnectors across many countries years into the future makes for a very challenging modelling task. Whilst the approach used by the EMR Delivery Body has only been presented at a high level (i.e., with few technical details), there were two issues which we identified and highlighted in our response. These points were based on a combination of our understanding of these high-level details (as described here) and the published capacity market rules.

What was our feedback?

We considered their approach using the principle of parsimony: a model should be as concise as possible, whilst still being able to explain all significant phenomenon. Implicitly, this requires a judgement of what constitutes the main ‘thing’ that a model is trying to predict or explain.

It follows, therefore, that the method should be validated against the model out-turn (the ‘reality’ the model is predicting). In this case, the out-turn is the expected flows of interconnectors during formal system stress events up to five years in the future. Only a validation against an approximation of this reality is likely to be meaningful, not least because there is yet to be a formal system stress event, but also because there are many exogenous factors (e.g. transmission constraints) which can have a significant impact on resultant power flows.

This point is particularly relevant as, until last year, the capacity market rules stated that the economic dispatch model should be compared against an historic benchmark. There are several reasons as to why this hindcast-based approach is not advisable – for example, the generating fleet in countries such as Germany is due to change significantly in the next five years. However, it is our view that the outputs of a model should still be validated publicly, with decision makers made aware of the method of validation and the results. The validation could be, for example, against periods of high Loss of Load Probability (LOLP), or some other indicator of system stress.

The second point we raise is on a similar topic. If you do compare historic interconnectors flows against the LOLP, it appears to be the case that some countries tend to export when the LOLP is high, whilst others tend to import. (Exports during stress periods could occur, for example, if two countries have highly correlated peak demands.) As a result, some interconnectors may in fact be tending to diminish the system security, even if most interconnectors are improving security. The capacity market rules do not explain how this effect could be taken into account in the analysis. Our judgement is that this is a major part of the ‘reality’ of interconnectors, which should therefore be recognised by the method.

What is the future for interconnectors within the GB system?

Generally, it is known that interconnectors provide huge benefits to the GB system. Social welfare benefits of interconnectors are measured in hundreds of millions of pounds per year, with strong evidence of positive impacts in terms of reduced system carbon intensity and increased network resilience. It is important, however, for methods of remuneration within the capacity market be made robust, so that decision makers and investors can be fully informed as to their value within the system, both today and in the future.

Read our response submitted to BEIS’ Panel of Technical Experts (PTE)

Author Bio

Dr Matthew Deakin is a postdoctoral research associate with the Supergen Energy Networks Hub at Newcastle University. His research interests include whole energy systems analysis, power system planning and operations, and smart grids.

Additional contributions to this post were made by Sarah Sheehy (Durham University), Dr David Greenwood (Newcastle University), Prof. Furong Li (University of Bath), Dr Robin Preece (University of Manchester), Dr Sara Walker and Prof. Phil Taylor (Newcastle University).

Climate Change: Think Global, Act Local

Dove Marine

About the Author

Richard Smithson is a retired GP, married to Sue, father and grandfather, climate activist and concerned citizen, lives in Whitley Bay.

‘In the absence of decisive action from our politicians, it is important that local communities act together to reduce our carbon footprint. Increased use of hydrogen both in domestic supplies and transport would be a big step in the right direction. We are also considering community ownership of solar farms and promoting cycling and cheaper public transport  to get people out of their cars. Electric vehicles can help in the short term but there is no single solution and we must try a multifaceted approach’

Richard Smithson

The Event

While the UK is the first country to pass into law net-zero emissions by 2050, much work needs to be done across government, public, private and voluntary sectors, and communities to tackle this immense challenge. Some local governments, cities, institutions and universities have declared a climate emergency, but what are the next steps to actually ending greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors in the UK and throughout the world?

On the 5 March, the Supergen Energy Networks Hub (SupergenEN) in collaboration with the National Centre for Energy Systems Integration (CESI) and in association with Extinction Rebellion, held a Public Engagement event at the Dove Marine Laboratory, Cullercoats, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Over 65 people attended the meeting which focussed on the UK governments aim for net-zero emissions by 2050, discussing a multi vector energy approach and in particular, Hydrogen for Heat & Transport as well as Climate Change Adaptation – Resilience.

The talk by Phil Taylor, Newcastle University, introduced the Integrated Transport Electricity Gas Research Laboratory (InTEGRel) project, the UK’s first multi-sector energy networks research centre, a collaboration between Newcastle University, Northern Powergrid and Northern Gas Networks. As well as the e4future project, a collaboration between Newcastle University & Imperial College London and a number of Industrial and government partners including Nissan, e-on, National Grid and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The talk was followed by a Q&A and a “post-it note” session. This enabled attendees to ask questions and write down their concerns and suggest ideas to reduce Carbon Emissions in the North Tyneside and wider region .

Questions included: Are schemes available for installing Domestic Solar Panels? What are the benefits of Tidal Energy and is this something that could be considered? Is it expensive to retrofit air source heat pumps to homes? When will Hydrogen Boilers be available to buy? Is Biomass worth exploring?


Project Ideas

After the session we gathered a number of project ideas which we hope to look into in more detail with the help of the North Tynside Community and in collaboration with SupergenEN and CESI.

Projects for consideration

For more information please contact: or visit our website.

Inaugural Conference

About the Author:

Lindsey Allen is a Research Project Coordinator based in the School of Engineering, Newcastle University.



We are in the initial stages of arranging the inaugural Supergen Energy Networks Conference which will take place on the 29 and 30 April 2020 in London. We needed to ensure our conference venue was both accessible and inclusive for our diverse community which consists of researchers and academics, as well as industrial and governmental partners.

After investigating a wide range of conference locations we chose IMechE HeadQuarters in Westminster. The venue provides space for a range of different conference activities and its central location is of benefit for our international delegates.

Conference Sessions:

We have over 600 stakeholders in the Supergen Energy Networks Hub, we canvased all our members to gauge interest in contributing to the conference in various ways as well as gauging opinion on relevant session topics that they would most like to see.

Following a meeting in Manchester in January with the conference committee, we decided on a combination of 10 parallel and plenary sessions as illustrated below. We also have an Early Career Researcher (ECR) reception the evening of the 28 April.

Keynote Speakers:

We have confirmed a number of Keynote Speakers:

  • Charles Tsai, Chief Executive Officer & Director, Power Assets Holdings
  • Mary Suzan Abbo, Managing Director, Centre for Research in Energy and Energy Conservation
  • Emma Pinchbeck, Chief Executive, Energy UK
  • Rebecca Williams, Head of Policy & Regulation, Renewable UK
  • Simon Bennett, Analyst, International Energy Agency


Registration for the conference is FREE and is now OPEN. We are also offering a contribution towards travel and accommodation costs for the first 30 Early Career Researchers to register to attend the conference.

For more information and for the draft agenda, please visit our website.

Future Markets and Regulations

About the Author:

Ian Hower is a research associate in the Faculty of Science, Agriculture & Engineering at Newcastle University. With a background in policy, Ian’s research surrounds the policy and market frameworks for the UK energy system.

Contact details:

Supergen Energy Networks Hub brought together a group of stakeholders in May 2019 to discuss the future of energy markets and regulation. The stakeholders included:

  • academia such as Professor Furong Li of the University of Bath and Professor Michael Pollitt of the University of Cambridge
  • regulators such as Marcia Poletti of Ofgem
  • industry representatives including Chris Harris of NPower and Nigel Turvey of Western Power Distribution
  • early career researchers (ECRs) from University of Oxford, Imperial College and University of Bath

Each presenter gave a slightly different view on the same theme. They acknowledged the need for increased flexibility, the challenge of decarbonising heat, power and transport, and the current barriers to creating an efficient and renewable future energy system posed by current pricing and regulatory challenges. Each also put forward their view of research activities and forward thinking how best to overcome some of the barriers.

Marcia Poletti of Ofgem highlighted the principal foci for regulating the energy industry going forward; independent decision making, broader consumer protection and greater use of markets and price signals. Regulators are especially interested in the information behind the price signals as the data indicate where investment and regulation are needed. They expect significant movement toward more granular data and thus more granular pricing.

In this evolution, not only will massive changes need to be made to physical infrastructure, but questions about who will have access to data, markets and prices will also need to be addressed. For consumers to fully engage in demand side response, they need to be exposed to the sharp price signals. To aid this, Chris Harris of NPower argued that there should be a liberalisation of who can contract with whom, but cautioned that this process must be done slowly to prevent a free-for-all and unjust market capture. He also advocated that prosumer contracts should be fed into balancing and settlement, for the same reasons wholesale energy contracts are included in balancing and settlement.

This begs the question of how best to ‘liberalise’ the market to allow more granular price signals to reach consumers, while ensuring equity and justice. How can we both liberalise the market while also ensuring the market is fully incentivised to meet the ‘Net Zero’ emission targets?

Attempting to harmonize how future retailers can understand customers’ network needs and optimise capacity at least cost, Harris argued that demand side response (DSR) is the number one priority for Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) and the wider system going forward. Harris critiqued the techno-optimist view that technology alone can successfully address climate change, arguing there are no models, predictions or calculations that get us to the 2050 carbon goals without significant demand side response. To achieve this, Harris suggests that we must develop decentralised democratised markets to meet the evolving needs of energy supply and demand. In doing so, he suggested changes in both the regulatory market architecture and culture that would move the UK away from price socialisation, something that resonates with Ofgem’s call for increased price signals and competition.

Nigel Turvey of Western Power Distribution (WPD) discussed how DNOs will adapt to this new future, and the plans for preventing possible conflicts of interest between asset solutions and the use of third-party flexibility by separating DSO activities into a separate management structure.

Michael Pollitt also gave insights into his current thinking on ancillary service markets, namely that companies operating in this space need to be more transparent and that there should be more oversight of this. Pollitt was especially concerned about the dual impact of domestic PV and wider adoption of EVs on the burden of fixed costs. He discussed research which showed those with solar will pay a lower portion of the system’s fixed costs under current charging methodologies.

Pollitt’s broad argument acknowledged that the UK is one of the few countries to have a fully privatised energy network, and thus the massive changes that are coming to the industry need to coincide with regulators ensuring that the benefits of these changes are equitably distributed to consumers and society, not just shareholders. He also emphasised that the benefits of a faster, smarter connection need to be shared out better, in a way that all parties, (particularly DNOs and wider society) clearly benefit.

Furong Li discussed how network capacity could be provided under differing demand flexibility and uncertainty, to underpin a new philosophy in network access arrangement in a highly uncertain energy future. She highlighted key drivers for the new philosophy as flexibility shifting from the central to regional and local system, and an increase in instruments in providing distribution network capacity. Li identified a number of key research questions:

    • How to factor differing capacity provisions/increased optional efficiency into network pricing?
    • How to quantify ‘value of wait’ for an investment option with differing/changing levels of generation and load uncertainty?
    • How to quantify/estimate current and future operational capability from differing degrees of network and customer flexibility?
    • What are the key drivers to determine the right balance between cost recovery from network investment and network operation?

ECRs were also given the opportunity to present their latest research findings in flexibility markets:

  • Thomas Morstyn – on liquidity and granularity questioning whether prosumers can provide flexibility for the system, and emphasising the importance of markets staying interconnected.
  • Dimitrios Papadaskalopoulos – on assessing the value of flexibility, and the modelling needed to move from a centralised to a distributed optimisation. He highlighted the dangers of group think as illustrated by the 01.30 peak that emerged with the introduction of Economy 7.
  • Antonio de Paola – on the capability of thermostatic loads acting in energy frequency markets.

Ran Li – on the importance of price elasticity in electricity supply, or the lack of it! He believed that attitudes and technological change were key.

Overall, the themes that arose from the event surrounded the massive changes anticipated for the system, and how best to prepare with minimise energy cost and carbon emissions through energy transition.

  • There are significant shortcomings in the current market, network access and regulation, and missing market components to minimise the cost of low carbon transition, cope with uncertainty, and ensuring customers benefits
  • Interestingly, both Harris and Pollitt – and later the rest of the attendees – agreed that the biggest technical challenge facing the UK is the decarbonisation of heat, where electrical systems could play a key role.
  • In Harris’ words, the substantial energy policy decision of our generation is “what gas will flow through what pipes in 2050”.
  • Meanwhile, the transition to renewable sources of energy in the power and transport sectors are already well underway.
  • To help encourage these positive changes – and to ensure that the benefits are spread equitably throughout society – proper pricing, access to network and regulations are needed.
  • Various ideas for what form these pricing methods and regulations should take were put forth, including new ways of capturing costs currently omitted from pricing methods such as carbon emissions and constraint costs.

It also became clear through the course of the event that the various players in the industry will have to work together on a deeper level than they do today. To fully extract the benefits of a carbon-neutral energy industry, players will have to collaborate to fully engage each other’s efficiencies and flexibilities to help ensure security of supply and decarbonisation, while also helping contribute to the economy and keeping costs down for consumers. However, underpinning all of this is the primary concern expressed by all stakeholders was that everyone must work to ensure that this increase in collaboration, marketisation, and decarbonisation provides real and noticeable benefits to every corner of the UK.

Further information on the workshop and access to presentations can be found here.