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, ev.energy.

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 supergenen@newcastle.ac.uk

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: supergenEN@newcastle.ac.uk or visit our website.

Inaugural Conference

About the Author:

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

Contact: supergenEN@newcastle.ac.uk


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: supergenEN@newcastle.ac.uk

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.

Modelling of Integrated Multi-Energy Networks – Current Practices and Innovation Gap

About the Authors:

Jianzhong Wu is a Professor of Multi-Vector Energy Systems and Head of Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Cardiff University.

He is  Co-Director of Supergen Energy Networks Hub , Co-Director of INCOSE UK Energy Systems Interest Group, a member of Wales Smart Energy System Group, the Scottish Power Energy Networks Strategic Stakeholder Panel for England and Wales, and the Academic Promotions Committee of Cardiff University.

Contact details: WuJ5@cardiff.ac.uk   Prof. Jianzhong Wu’s Profile

Karolina Rucinska is a PhD student and a research assistant at Cardiff University and provides administrative support to the Hub at Cardiff University.

Contact details:  RucinskaKA@cardiff.ac.uk  Miss Karolina Rucinska’s Profile

The energy trilemma (energy security, environmental impact and social cost) present various complex interconnected challenges. These challenges extend throughout the UK and have a significant international bearing.  There is vast diversity in challenges faced regionally due to historical, geographic, political, economic and cultural reasons. As technology and society change so do these challenges.  Therefore energy networks planning, design and operation need to adapt.

Whole-systems approach to energy networks research is not considered the norm. Comprehensive knowledge of the interconnected and interdependent nature of energy network infrastructure is simply not available.  The recent development of local energy systems and global energy internet bring further uncertainties and challenges to the development of our energy systems.

Currently, there is a lack of:

  • modelling experience and skills
  • replicable models
  • commercial software
  • awareness of the value of integrated multi-energy networks in the UK.

To better understand the relationships among different energy vector networks, ICT, policy, markets, and risk need to shape future energy development.  Through understanding how external factors may lead to significant changes in the way energy networks behave, we can plan and operate accordingly.

To address the issues above the EPSRC Supergen Energy Networks Hub and the INCOSE UK Energy Systems Interest Group hosted a joint workshop to investigate modelling for Integrated Multi-Energy Networks.  The workshop on the 12th April saw 31 invited participants from academia, government, industry and independent organisations come together to share current best practices in multi-energy system modelling and to discuss how to tackle the barriers and identify innovation gaps.

The first session of the workshop, chaired by Prof Jianzhong Wu from Cardiff University, was devoted to sharing experiences and practices of modelling.  It provided an insight into the challenges of modelling complex systems while giving examples of new tools, models and projects.   There were several interesting presentations by:

  • BEIS (Dr Noramalina Mansor, top left photo),
  • Energy Systems Catapult (Dr David Wyatt, bottom right),
  • West and Wales Utilities (Mr Chris Clark, top right photo), and

academia (Prof Mark Barret, UCL; Prof. Goran Strbac, bottom left photo, Imperial College London; Dr Sara Walker, Newcastle University and Dr Meysam Qadrdan, Cardiff University).

The second session considered how to tackle some of the pressing challenges, difficulties and uncertainties faced by energy systems modellers and the wider community. This session helped to identify research gaps, questions and potential research topics within energy networks.

There were lots of open discussions led by Professor Phil Taylor, Director of the Supergen Energy Networks Hub on how to move forward in terms of research and practice within energy networks modelling.

The suggestions were to focus on demonstration projects, modelling of extreme events as well as the design of simpler but interconnected models among other things.  Moving forward, the participants expressed an interest in another set of such workshops, with a focus on balancing the needs of the local and national systems.




Creating Bridges with Chinese Partners interested in the Supergen Energy Networks Hub

Prof Vladimir Terzija creates bridges with Chinese academic and industrial partners and talks about his recent academic visits to China.

About the Author:

Prof Vladimir Terzija is a Co-Investigator of the £5 million EPSRC funded Supergen Energy Networks Hub. Since 2006 he has been the EPSRC Chair Professor in Power System Engineering with the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, The University of Manchester. From 2000 to 2006, he was a senior specialist for switchgear and distribution automation with ABB, Ratingen, Germany. Over the last decade he has been the PI on several large scale EPSRC, Network Innovation Competition (Ofgem) and Horizon 2020 projects. His current research interests include smart grid applications; wide-area monitoring, protection and control; switchgear and transient processes; ICT, data analytics and digital signal processing applications in multi-energy systems.

Prof Terzija is Editor in Chief of the International Journal of Electrical Power and Energy Systems, Alexander von Humboldt Fellow, IEEE Fellow, as well as a DAAD and Taishan Scholar. He is the National Thousand Talents Distinguished Professor at Shandong University, China. For his contributions in creating bridges between Chinese and UK academic institutions, in 2018 he was awarded with the prestigious Qilu Friendship Award.

Contact details: vladimir.terzija@manchester.ac.uk            Prof. Vladimir Terzija’s Profile

Since joining The University of Manchester, I have been collaborating with a number of Chinese academic institutions, including Shandong University, Tsinghua University, North China Electric Power University and Tianjin University. This has resulted in a number of collaborative activities relating to future Smart Grid solutions and implementation of novel ICT and sensor technology.

As a Visiting Professor at the Shandong University I lead a research team involving both Professors and PhD students. Jointly with the Tsinghua University, I support their research on power system protection and control.

Since 2017, I have attended several high impact events organised by Chinese partners and related to multi-energy networks. I will briefly update you about them in the following text.


The 1st and the 2nd IEEE Conference on Energy Internet and Energy System Integration, Beijing, China

The 1st conference was held in December 2017, whereas the 2nd conference was held in October 2018. Both events were held in Beijing.

The conference focuses on innovative technologies and practical implementations around “Energy Internet” and “Energy System Integration” (EI2). These can be interpreted as the fusion of energy systems with information technologies and artificial intelligence, as well as, the coupling of multiple energy systems (e.g., heating, cooling, electricity, gas, and transportation). This conference promotes innovative EI2 technologies and practical applications which aim to fully realize the interconnection, openness, sharing, and collaboration of various energy resources, and to create green, low-carbon, high-efficiency and low-cost smart energy systems.

The conference has offered opportunities to share experience on a number of topics and I was privileged to meet two of my respected colleagues, who are currently acting Editors in Chief of the hey(? Need to check this with VT) journals relevant for our profession: Prof Nikos Hatziargyriou (IEEE Transactions on Power Systems) and Prof Jianhui Wang (IEEE Trans on Smart Grid). We exchanged our experiences in leading our international journals and discussed how to incorporate, in our journals, results relevant to multi-energy systems/networks.


GEI Panel Discussion on 26th September 2018 in Jinan, Shandong Province, China

A Global Energy Interconnection (GEI) panel discussion was held as a part of a more general Forum, attended by the leading Chinese and international authorities interested in future challenges of energy related industries.

GEI is a clean energy-dominant, electric-centric modern energy system that is globally interconnected, jointly constructed and mutually beneficial to all. It is an important platform for large-scale development, transmission and consumption of clean energy resources worldwide. In essence, GEI is “Smart Grid + UHV Grid + Clean Energy”.

The panel has been moderated by Sr Michel Sterling and discussed the following two questions:

Question 1: Based on your own special fields and experience, could you please share with us your thoughts on how universities, research institutions and international organizations shall play their respective advantages to promote the innovation development of GEI?

Question 2: Could you forecast what unprecedented opportunities will GEI bring, and what kind of cooperation mechanism shall be established as institutional support, so as to guide all parties to participate in the development of GEI?

As one of panellists, I tried to address those issues linking strategies relevant to academia, industry and global society. In this context, I elaborated the concept in which the benefits for the global society should be enabled through joint collaborative work between industry and academia. This collaboration should be fair, open and honest. Industry can help academia to shape the directions of the university research activities, putting to the top of agenda the interest of the society we are leaving in. A typical example are efforts towards reduction of CO2 emission, or optimal operation of multi-energy systems. I particularly discussed the advantages of integration of massive power systems across the globe. In my address, I just reminded the respected audience that e.g. when it comes to solar energy, it is always somewhere available and could be used anywhere in the World, or stored locally, or somewhere remotely.

From the perspective of the cooperation mechanisms, I insisted on the collaboration in which younger researchers, creative and ambitious to contribute to new and high quality innovation, should be particularly involved at all spheres of the collaboration.


December 2018 Gathering with the Premier of China at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, China

This event focused on the global challenges of Chinese Government in terms of the selection of an appropriate strategy on how to move forward (move forward with what?). The host of the event was the Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, Mr Keqiang Li. Three Nobel Prize Laureates gave their personal views about the future technological and societal development of China. One of them was Prof Kostya Novoselov (The University of Manchester). In his address, an interesting and exciting information about the future role of “smart materials” opened very vibrant discussions, leading to conclusions that a number of new opportunities for future collaboration are indeed very obvious.

The conclusion is that instead of insisting on the “speed of technological development” the focus should be on the “quality of this development”. This is also directly tackling movements in the sphere of energy systems and networks. Their future development should include attributes like “high quality standards”, “high quality solutions” etc. Just putting the speed of the development to the top of the agenda, might lead to sub-optimal solutions and not the top quality of the innovation. My personal impression was that the planned research activities within our Supergen Energy Networks Hub indeed insist on the quality research, instead on the quantity of results and uncontrolled rush towards scheduled targets

More information of the event and videos of the discussions is available online.

In conclusion, the activities related to Energy Networks development in China is very intensive and the Supergen Energy Networks Hub look forward to collaborating with the above mentioned Chinese partners.



Addressing Equality Diversity and Inclusion in Engineering

Dr Sara Walker, a keen advocate of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), discusses the EDI imbalances in engineering and how the Supergen Energy Networks Hub hopes to address it.

About the Author:

Dr Sara Walker is an Assistant Director and Co-Investigator of the £5 million EPSRC funded Supergen Energy Networks Hub.  Additionally she is also Associate Director and Co-Investigator at CESI. Her research focus is regarding renewable energy technology and transitions to low carbon systems, with a particular focus on policy and building scale solutions. She is Director of Expertise for Infrastructure at the School of Engineering at Newcastle University.


Contact details: sara.walker@ncl.ac.uk     Dr Sara Walker’s Profile 

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in Engineering

I recently attended and event called ‘Data Driven Culture Change’ at the Royal Academy of Engineering where the startling results of an industry survey showed:

  • 11% of surveyed companies had a generic EDI Policy, and 1% has a specific EDI Plan
  • 4% of surveyed companies had some way of measuring EDI
  • 42% of surveyed companies planned general activities around diversity and inclusion.

That means those activities typically aren’t aligned to any strategic plan and the impact of activities aren’t being measured, in the majority of cases.

The Royal Academy of Engineering has a vision to address the engineering skills and diversity challenge. The scale of the diversity issue is being reported more frequently in the mainstream press, particularly recently with the gender pay gap reporting hitting headlines:

Across the energy sector, Powerful Women report a similarly disappointing picture for the top 80 energy companies.

  • Women occupy only 13% of board seats
  • Women make up 6% of executive board seats
  • 86% have no female Executive Director
  • Half have no women on their Board

The Supergen Energy Networks Hub wishes to better understand EDI for the community, to develop and implement good practice in EDI in the way we engage with the community, and to create a sense of belonging for all regardless of background.


Well firstly because it is the right thing to do. Discrimination is not something we wish to support. We intend to engage widely in a way which is inclusive to all.

And secondly, because it is good for research.  Diverse teams outperform homogenous teams for creativity and innovation, which is just what we are looking for in order to tackle the thorny issue of future energy networks.

Thirdly, it makes business sense.  There is strong evidence that diversity in the workplace results in better financial performance (Powerful Women report companies in the top quartile for gender diversity outperform those in the bottom quartile by 35%).

Our approach to EDI for the Supergen Energy Networks Hub is:

  1. To initially audit EDI statistics of the community who we engage with
  2. To ask the community where their needs lie with regards to EDI
  3. To investigate and implement best practice in our own activities around events, recruitment, flexible funding and the many other ways in which we interact with our community
  4. To agree an action plan for the 4 year duration of the Hub.
  5. To continually monitor EDI, to evaluate the impact of the Action Plan, and to update it as required.

Complete our first EDI audit here.

Get in touch if you would like more information at supergenEN@newcastle.ac.uk