All posts by nla22

EDI Blog Series – Part 2: Adib Allahham

About the Author:

Dr Adib Allahham is Senior Research Associate at School of Engineering, Newcastle University. His research focusses on renewable energy, smart grids, active buildings, electricity distribution, and multi-vector energy systems.

Adib is researcher working for the EPSRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration (CESI), involved in the research activities of the Active Building Centre (ABC), and leading three projects funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering in the field of smart grids, energy storage, and peer-to-peer energy trading.

 

My journey to one of the top universities in the UK

In September of 2021 I was promoted to Senior Research Associate at Newcastle University. This was a huge career landmark for me.

I was brought up in Damascus, the Syrian capital, which is classified as the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. It was here where I obtained my bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Damascus University and secured top rank in the five-year bachelor program

After securing my degree, I worked as a teaching assistant in the same department and institution for two years where I led the laboratory demonstration, assisted in the teaching activities, and supervised graduation project. It was during this time I received a scholarship from the French government to pursue further studies. I obtained MSc degree from the Grenoble Institute of Technology and awarded PhD from University of Joseph Fourier in 2004 and 2008 respectively.

After completion of my PhD, I worked as a post-doctoral researcher in Grenoble Institute of Technology until 2010. To fulfil my interests in research, teaching and willing to serve the home institution, I took the decision to come back to Syria, and worked as lecturer at Damascus University until 2016. Unfortunately, the Syrian conflict started in March 2011 and changed whole situation. The war forced me to re-think about research career.

How did the Syrian war affect your Engineering career?

My research and teaching duties were heavily increased as students from two other universities located in military conflict areas moved to Damascus University. In addition, I had to work as part-time lecturer in a private university to support my family as the conflict severely affected our economic situation. Due to these unforeseen situations, the safety of my family and to achieve my research goals, I had decided to leave Syria in 2015. Although the right decision, it was hard for me. I had to leave some of my family, friends, and stable job.

What are some of the unexpected challenges you faced?

I obtained a job offer from Grenoble Institute of Technology to work on an industrial project. Unfortunately, I could not obtain the visa and unable to join the French University. This was very disappointing and left me feeling down and frustrated. The most shocking in this visa rejection was that the rejection reasons were not given with the decision letter which took 67 days after the application submission.

However, I was given hope again! Whilst I was conducting research with my MSc student about Smart Grids demonstrators, I became aware of the Power Systems Group at Newcastle University. Immediately, I contacted the team leader and consequently I was offered the position of visiting researcher at Newcastle University. With this I started a new adventure with Newcastle University from June 2016.

“I took a risk by reaching out, and it paid off!”

was fortunate to work with friendly and knowledgeable researchers who included me in their research activities and gave the opportunity to develop my own research directions. In 2017, the team started to enlarge its scope of research activities to include not only Power Systems but also the Whole Energy System. This major change started with the launch of EPSRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration (CESI) led by Newcastle University and involved 5 other universities in which I was worked as a research associate.

In fact, moving to the UK was a challenge for me and my wife and now I’m happy that I made the right decision. At the same time when I moved to Newcastle University, she was also successful in getting a Chevening Scholarship, funded by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. She joined and obtained a MSc degree in international development at University of East Anglia. She is now working for Gateshead Council.

What piece of advice would you give to someone who might be in a similar situation as yours?

“As long as you plan your life and you are surrounded by supportive people, you will achieve your goals sooner or later.”

EDI Blog Series: Challenges in Your Career Pathway

About the Author:

Professor Sara Walker is the Director of The Centre for Energy, in the School of Engineering. Her research focusses on renewable energy and energy efficiency in buildings, energy policy, energy resilience, and whole energy systems.

Sara is Director of the EPSRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration, Deputy Director of the EPSRC Supergen Energy Networks Hub, and Deputy Research Director of the Active Building Centre.

 

My journey to Professorship

In November of 2021 I was promoted to Professor of Energy at Newcastle University. This has felt like such a career landmark for me.

I was brought up by my parents in Cramlington, a town to the north of Newcastle. When I was young my father was made redundant and the family moved into council housing. I never considered myself as poor, but I do remember we grew potatoes in the garden to save on food shopping and me and my younger sister would wear hand-me-down clothes. My older sister left school at 16 and got a job working in hospitality, and as my parents’ financial situation improved they were able to purchase their council house, but we were by no means affluent! At 15 I got a Saturday job at Whitley Bay ice rink in the cafeteria, and I started to earn my own money which was very empowering.

When I went to university at Leicester I noticed that my financial situation wasn’t the same as others around me. I had a grant from the council to cover most of my living costs and my parents also contributed to top my grant up. I got a part time job working at the bar in the students union, and also worked part time in a local pub. During summer vacations I always worked, normally bar work. I remember waiting to use the public telephone one weekend to chat to my parents whilst at university, and watching the person on the phone in front of me crying crocodile tears to her dad. She needed money to buy a ball gown since it wasn’t fair for her to be expected to wear her existing ball gown that she’d already worn. That’s when it really struck me that some of my fellow students were really well off! I didn’t join expensive societies like skiing and horse riding, I didn’t go to lots of balls and social events. For my graduation ball I hired my dress.

When I finished my undergraduate course in physics I was offered a PhD by my personal tutor at the university. I didn’t really know what a PhD was, I had been first in my family to go to university, and I turned it down. Instead, I did a teacher training course and got a job as teacher. After teaching for a short while I decided to go back to university to do a masters course in environmental science, because I had got really interested in energy issues through voluntary work. This led onto a research job, and an opportunity to complete a PhD part time whilst working as a researcher. I think this is the only way I could have completed a PhD since I didn’t have the financial resources to support myself on a student bursary. The part time PhD took five years whilst I worked as researcher and during that time I had my son Toby.

My early experience of academia was still affected by my background somewhat. I had to think carefully about attending academic conferences, because I didn’t know how long it would take for my expenses to be paid back. One time an expensive overseas trip wasn’t paid in time before I had to pay the credit card bill, and I could only pay the minimum and incurred interest, something I couldn’t claim back from my employer. Conference dinners were a minefield, I didn’t have lots of spare cash to spend on cocktail dresses. Even work suits were often bought from the catalogue and paid for monthly when I first started out. Later in my career, financially and socially I found myself excluded from social events and the associated networking opportunities of corporate boxes at football, or golf at exclusive members courses.

Academic statistics do not portray the full picture

HESA statistics are available, to tell us something of the makeup of our UK professoriate. In 2019/20 there were 22,810 professors, of which 6,345 are “female”, 16,415 “male” and 50 “other” gender. Of the 21,055 professors with known ethnicity, 2,285 are BME. 735 professors are known to have a disability. Looking just at engineering, this discipline areas has the lowest proportion of female academics (see figure below). There are no statistics for socio-economic group, and no statistics for intersectionality (i.e. we don’t know how many BME are female, or how many BME have a disability, for example). There are also statistics for grant applications and success from EPSRC, by gender. Data for other protected characteristics are lacking.

 

Source: Departmental demographics of academic staff

Source: EPSRC Understanding our Portfolio

I am acutely aware of the lack of role models in academia from lower socio-economic backgrounds. But there are also a lack of role models who are LGBTQ+, minority ethnic, disabled, non-white, from different faiths, or any combination of these. In seeking out these role models, we expect people to be open about their protected characteristics, regardless of the discrimination this may attract.

Raising up colleagues, giving equality of opportunity, and being more aware of the potential barriers to engagement, are approaches we are taking at Newcastle University’s Centre for Energy. For example, we are working hard to encourage involvement from all job families in the Centre for Energy – research as an activity spans so many jobs including project managers, technicians, finance, research students, research staff and academic staff, for example. We want the Centre itself to address issues of fairness and equity in energy research, and so we have a theme on Justice, Governance and Ethics. We are tackling global issues of energy transition, issues which need a range of perspectives across gender, race, (dis)ability, sexual orientation and religion in order to come up with solutions that work for the majority, and not the select few.

I have a strong northern accent, and am proud of my roots and to be back in the north east working at a Russell Group university. But I am still that kid from the council estate. And I am proud of that too.

 

COP26: Implications for Energy Networks

Conference of the Parties (COP) is arguably one of the most important international conferences, bringing together governments and policymakers from across the globe to deliberate on matters concerning global climate.

About the Author

Dr. Andreas Elombo is a Research Associate in Future Energy Networks within the Supergen Energy Networks (SEN) Hub, under the School of Computer Science, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, and Engineering Mathematics (SCEEM) at the University of Bristol.

He holds a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Engineering Science from the University of Oxford (United Kingdom), and a Master of Science (MSc) in High Voltage Engineering from the University of Stellenbosch (South Africa).

 

Conference of the Parties (COP)

Since the first COP meeting in 1995, member countries have convened annually to agree guidelines that could be adopted by all member countries in order to commit to abating the global threat of climate change.

The Paris Agreement (2015) took on the mandate to hold to account all its signatories on the pledges they have made to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and commit to working together to limit global warming to below 2℃ or, more ambitiously, below 1.5℃ compared to pre-industrial levels.  

Figure 1 shows the Climate Action Tracker thermometer, an independent scientific tool that tracks government climate action and measures it against the globally agreed Paris Agreement targets.

Figure1: Climate Action Tracker Thermometer

Key Outcomes of COP26

In the context of the renewed urgency brought about by the fast-rising global temperatures, COP26 was a meeting at which countries of the world were faced with the pressure to arrive at a concrete agreement that helps put into action all tools required to move toward a net-zero global economy by 2050. Two key outcomes that capture the essence of this urgency are the Glasgow Climate Pact, as well as the finalization of the Paris Rulebook.

What do the outcomes of COP26 mean for energy networks?

There is an international consensus that now is the time to act with renewed efforts toward alleviating the impact of climate change and ensure that the factors contributing to the climate change crisis are abated.

Specific outcomes include the intensified drive to limit global temperatures below 1.5℃, the phasing down of coal-based power and the phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies, climate change and adaptation finances, and carbon markets incentives.  

From the perspective of energy networks, it means that the energy networks will need to adapt to the new energy resources and applications by essentially undergoing a rapid transformation that enables these networks to serve as a well-suited conduit for delivering energy to customers. The important function of energy networks is to deliver energy to customers in a reliable, sustainable, and cost-effective manner.  

Electric Vehicles

The electrification of motor vehicles has already given rise to the introduction of electric vehicles onto the energy networks. This is a new load that must be served by the energy networks. The charging of these vehicles, as one can imagine, will be very stochastic in nature. Combining the stochasticity of the charging of these vehicles with the intermittency in energy generation gives rise to a chaotic reality.

Heating

The heating sector is also undergoing a rapid revolution of decarbonization. It is believed that green hydrogen will act as cushion that will allow us to transition from fossil-based oil and gas dependency into an era of low-carbon heating. Existing heating fuel will most likely adopt green hydrogen in place of methane-based gas heating. What this means for energy networks is that the existing gas networks will need to undergo re-designing or some sort of adaptation in order to be able to transport green hydrogen reliably and securely.

Conclusions

The role of the energy sector in bringing about a net-zero reality is immense. Fossil fuels will be replaced with low-carbon energy resources such as solar, tidal, and wind energy resources, motor vehicles will be electrified, and heating will adopt green hydrogen as a form of fuel. All of this requires energy networks that are capable to deliver energy to customers in a reliable, sustainable, and cost-effective manner while navigating the complexity that arises from the integration of the variable energy sources (solar, tidal, and wind energy) and smart energy applications (V2G, demand-side response (DSR)).

The race is on. The task is decarbonization. It is a global task. Collaboration is essential in accomplishing this task.  

The full article is available to download.

 

RA Catchup Event

On December 9th 2021, Research Assistants (RAs) met in Bristol for dinner ahead of the final Supergen networking event before the new year. On the 10th, in the magnificent ‘Engine Shed’ events hub, RAs presented research updates to their colleagues and discussed the possibility of collaborative research efforts in the future. This RA catchup event was an opportunity to share their achievements, progress, and ideas with others in the Supergen network. It was also a reminder of breadth of expertise among Supergen’s researchers:

“I personally consider that the team has a unique range of skills and research interests” – Andrei-Nicolas Manea

The opportunity to share ideas and receive feedback from colleagues with different research interests showed a real strength of the Structure of the Supergen network. The multidisciplinary research team was able to offer a range of insights that very few other workshops could.

“I shared my recent work and got meaningful feedback, thanks to this forum” – Wie Gan

Throughout a difficult 2021, the RAs in the wider Supergen network have shown themselves to be resilient to the challenges facing academic enquiry. Despite these hurdles, RAs have managed to continue their research, produce new papers and disseminate their work at conferences and COP events. Meeting face to face, after an extended period dominated by online networking events, therefore came as a welcome change:

“It was fantastic to meet other researchers face to face, having only very limited opportunities to do so since starting my PhD” – Jonathan Amirmadhi.

“It was great to meet colleagues after almost 2 years of remote working” – Muditha Abeyseker.

Once those who presented their research had done so, the event ended with a discussion, chaired by Laiz Souto, on the future direction of the Supergen RA investigations, specifically ‘what understanding, shaping and challenging is still required for a move towards Net Zero?’

Discussants covered several topics:

  • The role of energy networks/companies in future decision making.
  • The financial burden of upgrading/developing networks.
  • The transportation of energy throughout the country.
  • The concerns of energy firms/distributors regarding risk.
  • Possible energy futures, and what an integrated energy future might look like.

Discussants mentioned that more interactions with policymakers/regulators would be beneficial and that their suggestions could be directly investigated and tested by Supergen RAs. Summarising these discussions, it was suggested that RAs should meet again for further workshops and should work towards coauthoring a piece of work that could be presented to appropriate policymakers/regulators. This idea has been very well received among the RAs:

“I am excited to see how the group could produce a coherent collaborative piece of work” – Jonathan Amirmadhi.

“Lots of opportunities are present for further collaboration between each of the different institutions, and there is a feeling among the researchers that we could bring our ideas together to deliver a single body of work” – Daniel Carr

Overall, the event demonstrated the importance of face-to-face meetings for large projects, especially those with researchers from different academic institutions with a range of research interests. The entire catchup event was optimistic, constructive, and set the foundations for future collaborations. It is hoped that, in the coming year, Supergen RAs will be able to meet more frequently, supporting each other’s research.

“I hope to continue to communicate with my friends and colleagues and do more for the Supergen project together” – Wei Gan

“The was real enthusiasm for the work that we are all doing, and I am looking forward to future face to face meetings over the duration of the research project” – Daniel Carr

Attendees:

  • Daniel Carr, Cardiff
  • Nicolas Manea, Cardiff
  • Laiz Souto, Bristol
  • Amirreza Azimipoor, Cardiff
  • Wei Gan, Cardiff
  • Jonathan Amirmadhi, Cardiff
  • Andrei Manea, Cardiff
  • Muditha Abeyseker, Cardiff
  • Richard Oduro, Leeds
  • Minghao Xu, Bath
  • Phil Taylor, Bristol
  • Furong Li, Bath
  • Jack Dury, Bristol

Who perseveres wins!

About the Author:

Dr Susan Claire Scholes is a post-doctoral researcher within the School of Engineering.  Susan’s current research is in the field of whole systems energy research, working with the Supergen Energy Networks Hub at Newcastle University.

Previous research interests were in bioengineering where Susan was responsible for the investigation of explanted metal-on-metal hip prostheses and explanted knee prostheses.

 

Matlab and the GB Network System

Let me tell you a story….  It feels like it started a long, long time ago but in reality it has only been 20 months (this may still seem like a long time to some, depending on your age!).  Twenty months of hard work but important work.  This is when I started working on a model of the GB network system.  This model already existed [1, 2] but it needed some work to be done on it to allow it to perform the tasks that I required.

Now, I had minimal experience (or knowledge) on Matlab but I am always eager to learn so I saw this as an opportunity to develop my research skills even further (I’ve been working in academic research for 21 years now, so it’s never too late to learn!).

I familiarised myself with Matlab and the model so I understood the background to my project; and this understanding developed as the time progressed.  The adjustments needed on the model were only small; small in capacity but mammoth in the necessary effort to succeed!

The cost functions of each generation type in the GB network model were already in the model but they were just given as merit order equations; this was so the model was able to calculate the proportion of expected generation from each type of generation provider (wind, gas, coal, nuclear and hydro).  But I needed it to calculate the true costs.

I knew this wouldn’t be easy, or quick!  As a modeller, it is important to analyse results obtained and question their validity; you need to have confidence in the results that your model provides.  It is essential that you compare your results with appropriate published data and relevant work done by others.

Using known data from previous years I was able to identify when the results from my model were not as good as they needed to be; and it allowed me to gain confidence in my work as it developed.  This was an iterative process that required many hours of hard and repetitive work.

To get this done well it required a lot of effort and determination (and a few handkerchiefs to mop up the inevitable tears of frustration!).  For months I was stuck in what seemed to be a never-ending loop:

  • adjust the model, write the script, run the model – no joy
  • adjust the model, adjust the script, run the model – it works!, review the results
  • adjust the model/script, run the model – it works (but sometimes it didn’t!), review the results
  • adjust the model/script, run the model – it works!, review the results, confirm results, add results to paper, find some new information
  • adjust the model/script, run the model – it works!, review the results, confirm results, add results to paper, find some new information
  • again, again and again until…
  • adjust the model/script, run the model – it works!, review the results, confirm results, write the paper (with confidence that the model used is the most appropriate and performs the task well) and submit!

So, what have I learned during this time?  Perseverance is key, determination is needed and patience would have been a bonus but I’ve always lacked in that!  Unexpected things, like the University’s cyber security attack, and even a pandemic, can be obstacles but with the correct support they are not insurmountable.  I also needed to learn that all models have their limitations.

You can minimise these limitations to produce the best model for your purpose but your model cannot do all, it will not be suitable for everything.  Spend time on the model, like I say, for it to produce relevant results for your work but understand that there will always be limitations as to what the model can do.

As long as you are aware of these and you are able to explain the limitations imposed on your work (and why these are acceptable) then you should feel proud.  Proud of the valid, valuable work you have achieved and the advancements you have made in your field of research.  It was all worth it in the end!

References

  1. Bell, K.R.W. and A.N.D. Tleis. Test system requirements for modelling future power systems. in IEEE PES General Meeting. 2010.
  2. Asvapoositkul, S. and R. Preece. Analysis of the variables influencing inter-area oscillations in the future Great Britain power system. in 15th IET International Conference on AC and DC Power Transmission (ACDC 2019). 2019.

Looking Back at the Supergen COP26 Fishbowl Event

The Supergen COP26 Fishbowl was a public engagement activity in which participants from different groups, organisations, and backgrounds discussed their visions for an energy future with net-zero carbon emissions. It took place at the Ramshorn Theatre in Glasgow during the COP26 Energy Day on the 4th of November.

Each Supergen hub – Solar, Offshore Renewable Energy, Bioenergy, Energy Networks, Energy Storage, Hydrogen and Fuel Cell – nominated up to two academics and early-career researchers to make up the surrounding audience and contribute to the discussion with specialist knowledge. I am glad that I was among them and had the opportunity to join the event in person.

In the next paragraphs, I will describe the concept of a fishbowl discussion, summarize the discussion points of the Supergen COP26 Fishbowl event, and provide an overview of my experience in Glasgow during the COP26 Energy Day

About the Author

Laiz Souto is  a Research Associate on the Supergen Energy Networks Hub, with a PhD in Electrical Engineering and  is also a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Future Energy Networks at the University of  Bristol with the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

Laiz has a broad interest in the energy transition, including energy infrastructures, low carbon energy systems, optimization and statistical techniques applied to energy systems planning and operation, uncertainty quantification in large scale energy systems, energy systems integration, power system resilience to extreme weather events, power system reliability and security of supply, and power systems protection, automation, and control, among other topics.

What is a fishbowl discussion?

A fishbowl is a form of conversation which allows several people to participate in a conversation. In a fishbowl discussion, chairs are arranged in concentric rings. Participants seated in the inner circle (i.e., the fishbowl) actively take part in the conversation by sharing their thoughts, whereas participants seated in the outer circles listen carefully to the topics being discussed. Participants in the outer circles may enter the inner circle to share their thoughts when a seat is available. Participants in the inner circle are encouraged to vacate their seats after contributing to the discussion so that other participants can join the conversation.

The Supergen COP26 Fishbowl event followed this format with six inner chairs and roughly twenty outer chairs. The inner chairs were occupied by the facilitator and the academics nominated by each of the five Supergen hubs at the start of the live stream. Before the start of the event, participants agreed to leave an empty seat in the inner circle whenever possible so that different participants could join the ongoing discussion. As an outcome, participants from different backgrounds, organizations, and career stages could share their thoughts on distinct aspects involved in the energy transition towards a net-zero carbon emissions future.

What was discussed in the Supergen COP26 Fishbowl event?

The Supergen COP26 Fishbowl agenda was divided into four chapters over one hour and a half. The event facilitator moderated the discussion, ensuring that the duration of each chapter was roughly the same and that all participants who joined the inner circle could share their ideas.

At the start of the live stream, academics delivered a short presentation about the perspective of their hub to contextualize the debate. The role of the research conducted by each Supergen hub towards a net-zero carbon emissions future was briefly introduced.

Chapter 1: “How do we generate our energy in a net zero world”

The role of different energy sources in a net-zero carbon emissions future was discussed. Energy production from renewable sources, energy storage, nuclear power plants, hydrogen, integrated electricity-gas-heating networks, and the phasing-out of fossil fuels were debated. Other aspects were also linked to the energy production in a net zero world, such as the importance of a just energy transition leaving nobody behind to achieve the climate targets previously set in the Paris Agreement.

Chapter 2: “How do we deliver that net zero energy to the public”

The role of different technologies in the energy supply chain was discussed. Among them, smart grid capabilities, artificial intelligence, flexibility options, and distributed energy resources were associated to disruptive changes in the provision of energy to the customers in a net-zero carbon emissions future. In this context, the role of energy networks in the transportation of energy in its different forms from generation sites to consumption sites was emphasized. Challenges and opportunities posed by the increasing electrification of other sectors were also discussed.

Chapter 3: “How do we utilize that net zero energy”

Changes in energy consumption in a net-zero world were debated, highlighting the role of the customers towards net-zero carbon emissions. The impact of the choices made by the customers on the final uses of energy was debated, considering aspects that could incentivize the adoption of clean energy technologies and energy efficient appliances, such as subsidization. Changes introduced by the increasing electrification of economies worldwide were also discussed.

Chapter 4: “What steps should the UK be taking to make our energy system net zero by 2050”

Policy decisions were discussed with a sense of urgency. Stopping subsidization of fossil fuels and increasing investments in state-of-the-art clean energy technologies along with the required network infrastructure were emphasized as key commitments towards a net-zero carbon emissions future. In this context, taking into consideration regional aspects along with clean energy technologies currently available was recommended to accelerate the energy transition towards net-zero carbon emissions.

What was like to be in Glasgow during the COP26 Energy Day?

For many participants like me, COP26 – and the Supergen COP26 Fishbowl in particular – brought the first opportunity to attend a conference in person after the pandemic lockdowns and travel restrictions had been lifted in the UK. This made the opportunity to be in Glasgow during COP26 – and during the COP26 Energy Day in particular – even more unique.

The city was overbooked and fully decorated with COP26 banners, some of which also including reminders of how individual choices contribute to greenhouse gas emissions in different ways. The atmosphere in Glasgow was tense, as the decisions to be made during the next few days of COP26 were expected to determine the world’s ability to curb global warming. Expectations among the COP26 attendees were high, given the importance and urgency of climate change mitigation and adaptation worldwide and the lack of ambitious commitments linked to action plans at the previous conferences. During the COP26 Energy Day and the Supergen COP26 Fishbowl event, I was happy to see and engage in interesting discussions about the role of energy networks in climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Now that COP26 is over and the Glasgow Climate Pact is ready, I hope to see governments implementing ambitious action plans that lead to rapid decarbonization worldwide. Ultimately, I look forward to seeing bold climate commitments put into practice towards net-zero carbon emissions in the next few years.

An Interdisciplinary Research Perspective on the Future of Multi-Vector Energy Networks

About the Author:

Dr Dragan Cetenovic is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Manchester, where he works as a part of the core research team of the Supergen Energy Network Hub to develop approaches for advanced monitoring and control of multi-energy systems using novel sensor, ICT and Big Data approaches. My focus is on development of methods for advanced state-estimation for dynamic security assessment of integrated multi-energy networks, integration of signals from different types of sensors into a data acquisition platform, and development of efficient methods for real-time Big Data processing and knowledge extraction in future energy networks.

Introduction

Despite their vital importance to the UK’s energy sector, industry and society, there is no current whole systems approach to studying the interconnected and interdependent nature of energy network infrastructure and the challenges it faces. Inspired by this, team of Researchers and Academics from the Supergen Energy Networks Hub, led by Hub Director, Professor Phil Taylor, recently published their joint paper in the International Journal of Electrical Power and Energy Systems (IJEPES).

The paper is available online and will be published in the February 2022 issue of the Journal. The paper has been written through a well-organized coordination and professional commitment of all signed authors. It is now a good starting point for moving forward with new publications in high impact papers. The IJEPES is a highly respected, Q1‑journal (IF=4.63), with a tradition of 40 years of successful publication of high-quality research papers in the field of power and energy systems.

About the paper

The energy sector worldwide is facing considerable pressure arising from the growing demand for clean energy, the need to reduce carbon emissions substantially while adapting to the inevitable impacts of climate change and coping with the depletion of fossil fuels and geopolitical issues around the location of remaining fossil fuel reserves. In this regard, UK Government has committed to a net zero carbon economy by 2050 [1]. Energy networks are vitally important enablers in the global pursuit of a just transition to net zero [2].

The transition to net zero and the energy trilemma (energy security, environmental impact and social cost) present many complex interconnected international challenges. There are different challenges regarding systems, plants, physical infrastructure, sources and nature of uncertainties, ICT requirements, cyber security, big data analytics, innovative business models and markets, and policy and societal changes. As technology and society changes, so do these challenges, and therefore the planning, design and operation of energy networks needs to be revisited and optimised.

Current energy networks research does not fully embrace a whole systems approach and is therefore not developing a deep enough understanding of the interconnected and interdependent nature of energy network infrastructure [3, 4]. This paper provides a novel interdisciplinary perspective intended to enable deeper understanding of multi-vector energy networks. The expected benefits would be enhanced flexibility and higher resilience, as well as reduced costs of an integrated energy system.

Considering drivers like societal evolution, climate change and technology advances, this paper describes the most important aspects which have to be taken into account when designing, planning and operating future multi-vector energy networks. For this purpose, the issues addressing future architecture, infrastructure, interdependencies and interactions of energy network infrastructures are elaborated through a novel interdisciplinary perspective. Aspects related to optimal operation of multi-vector energy networks, implementation of novel technologies, jointly with new concepts and algorithms, are extensively discussed. The role of policy, markets and regulation in facilitating multi-vector energy networks is also reported. Last but not least, the aspects of risks and uncertainties, relevant for secure and optimal operation of future multi-vector energy networks are discussed.

Fig. 1 Block-diagram of the framework for investigation of interfaces between modelling, policy, markets, ICT and risks in multi-vector energy networks.

References

  • Committee on Climate Change, “Net Zero: The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming”, May 2019.
  • International Energy Agency Report, “World Energy Outlook 2020”, IEA, Paris, 2020 https://www.iea.org/reports/world-energy-outlook-2020
  • H. R. Hosseini, A. Allahham, S. L. Walker, P. Taylor, “Optimal planning and operation of multi-vector energy networks: A systematic review”, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, vol. 133, 2020. doi: 10.1016/j.rser.2020.110216
  • Mancarella, “MES (multi-energy systems): An overview of concepts and evaluation models”, Energy, vol. 65, pp. 1–17. 2014. doi: 10.1016/j.energy.2013.10.041

Looking back at our event on digital inclusion in the energy market

On the afternoon of the 26th of May, a team with partners from University of Liverpool, Good Things Foundation, National Energy Action, the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University, and the Supergen Energy Networks Hub, hosted an event on digital inclusion in the energy market. The event was split across two sessions: the first featuring reflections from Good Things Foundation’s community partner organisations about their experiences of supporting digitally excluded consumers with the energy market, and the second showcasing new and ongoing research undertaken by Citizens Advice, the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers, and Good Things Foundation. This was followed by a panel discussion, joined by representatives from the Supergen Energy Networks Hub and the EU-wide energy consumer advocacy organisation, Next Energy Consumer.

Reflections

Reflecting back on the event, one of the most important messages that stands out is just how pervasively digital exclusion intersects with other vulnerabilities and other forms of exclusion to limit fair and affordable access to energy. For instance, Fareeha Usman, the found of the charity Being Woman, discussed how rural areas of Northumberland face complex challenges not just in accessing the internet, but electricity itself. Hayley Nelson, the Director of Learn For Life, also relayed the multiple challenges and exclusions faced by refugees in accessing the core energy and digital services they need shortly after their arrival in the UK. They cannot access their bills online, search for deals, or embrace smart technology, and Good Things Foundation’s partner organisations returned time and time again to how they have to interpret information for people and help them to understand and access essential services.

Of course, we also know that exclusions are not primarily a result of personal characteristics, but of the way the energy market is designed. In different ways, almost all of the speakers discussed the ways that energy systems and infrastructures are often seemingly designed to make things harder and more complicated for those who do not have the digital skills or connection to take full advantage of them. Caroline Jacobs, Head of Development at the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers, touched on the inaccessibility of EV charging infrastructures for disabled consumers, and other speakers criticised the lack of non-digital means of switching energy supplier, and the exclusivity of the best deals to online switching sites.

Inclusive Design Principles

These conversations underlined that it is becoming ever clearer that we need inclusive design principles and ‘users’ of all kinds to be more centrally involved in how these infrastructures are conceived and built. This was conveyed strongly by Arun Rao, Senior Policy Advisor at Citizens Advice, who emphasised the need for suppliers to improve the accessibility of information as well as the importance of maintaining multiple channels of communication for customers, so they can get in touch in the way that is most suited to their preferences and needs.

This however begs the question, how can changes like this be achieved? At one point, an audience member mused whether there was anyone from energy regulators, or from government, in attendance. If not, why not? they continued. A short time later, two responses appeared in the chat from attendees based in two of the UK’s regulators, essentially saying ‘yes, here I am’, and providing assurances that the issues being discussed would be fed back to colleagues. he need to work together across the third-sector, industry, government, and energy regulators to amplify the issues and work collaboratively towards more inclusive solutions was spoken about, implicitly and explicitly, by all of our presenters – including across borders, as Marine Cornelis, founder of the EU wide consumer organisation Next Energy Consumer, aptly reminded us.

Next Steps

As the decarbonisation and digitalisation of the energy system gathers pace, we need to continue these conversations and take forward efforts to tackle the twin inequalities of digital exclusion and access to affordable energy services. There is always more to do, but as one of Good Things Foundation’s community organisations put it after the event, it was energising (if you’ll pardon the pun) to see so many members of the energy sector in attendance listening to their experiences and wanting to do more to support digitally excluded customers. As the government takes forward plans to coordinate the digitalisation of the energy system, carving spaces for articulating these experiences and trying to embed them in policymaking remains an urgent and important task.

About the Author

For further information please contact Matthew Scott (National Energy Action).

Impacts of Climate Change on Security of Supply via the GB Capacity Market

Feedback to BEIS Panel of Technical Experts on interconnector modelling in the
2021 Electricity Capacity Report

Dr Matthew Deakin, Dr Hannah Bloomfield

Background

National Grid Electricity System Operator (NGESO) recently requested feedback from the community on their Summary Briefing Note, “Modelling de-rating factors for interconnected countries in the 2021 Electricity Capacity Report”. The severe Texas blackouts this winter have brought the issue of resource adequacy sharply into focus, with technical developments in European capacity markets via the European Resource Adequacy Assessment (ERAA) ongoing to ensure market-based solutions can provide energy system resilience as countries transition to net-zero.

Supergen Energy Networks (SEN) responded to NGESO’s call for feedback last year. We discussed how bidirectional flows from interconnectors mean that the marginal value of increased interconnection for individual countries can be both positive and negative with respect to resilience (particularly when the stress periods of multiple countries coincide), in contrast to conventional generation assets which always improve resilience. This year, NGESO have specifically requested feedback on the scenarios they are developing for interconnected countries, used to inform sensitivity analysis which identify a range of de-rating factors for new and existing interconnectors. Ultimately, de-rating factors are then used by the Secretary of State to determine the capacity volumes that interconnectors can bid into the capacity market.

How are Scenarios used in the GB Capacity Market?

Capacity markets are designed to provide a price signal to incentivise investment in generation to provide resilience, explicitly taking into account uncertainties in supply and demand. On the supply side, these uncertainties include the closing date of generators close to the end of their life, the commissioning dates of new assets, or even the availability of network infrastructure such as subsea cables. On the demand side, the uptake of new technologies mean that both peak and average GB demand changes from year to year, whilst nascent Demand Side Response technologies can also address tight margins, as they have done in GB for many years under the guise of ‘Triad avoidance’. Additionally, as we discuss in this note, both supply and demand are sensitive to climate variability and climate change, due to the weather sensitivity of renewables and demand.

The GB Capacity Market uses the “Least Worst Regret” approach to determine the required Capacity to Secure under these uncertainties (the Capacity to Secure subsequently determines how much generating capacity is procured for future winters). This approach evaluates the capacity that would be required to meet demand under a wide range of credible scenarios. The overall target Capacity to Secure is then calculated that will minimise the cost of generation overspend (based on the costs of building new generation) against the societal costs of controlled demand disconnection (based on the value of lost load) so that the target demand for the capacity market will minimise the potential ‘regret’ of overspend.

How could Climate Change Variability affect these Scenarios?

The scenarios that are selected for modelling are overlaid on top of a central scenario, representing a best guess of the state of the future system in between one- and five-years’ time, using nominal uncertainties on both the supply and demand side (Figure 1). One source of uncertainty here is the weather. To account for this, 30-40 years of historical weather data would typically be used to model a wide range of possible outputs from weather-dependent renewables in this central scenario, rather than selecting a year with particularly poor weather (which is typically included instead as an individual scenario). Similarly, as demand is strongly dependent on temperature (Figure 2) due to electric heating loads, the distribution of daily peak demand can also be ‘hindcast’ using 30-40 years of historic temperature.

Figure 1: Scenarios used to determine the capacity to secure for the 2024/5 winter, from the 2020 Electricity Capacity Report. The Base Case (BC) is used as a central scenario, with sensitives around this considering uncertain outcomes on both the supply and demand-side that could increase or decrease the required Capacity to Secure to a given security standard (eg, 3 hours expected loss of load per year). [Figure reproduced with permission]

There are therefore two ways that climate variability and climate change can impact on the scenarios used in the capacity market. Firstly, as the 30-40 year period used in historical assessment is relatively short, it may therefore be that as-yet unseen weather conditions, simulated in climate models, may need to be considered to adequately study possible risks of shortfalls. Additionally, long-term climate variability can also lead to the likelihood of adverse conditions being much greater in a given decade. Plausible scenarios modelling challenging weather years may need to be synthesised to model periods with higher demands and lower wind generation than exists in the historic record.

Figure 2: Weekday peak demand for 2016/17-2018/19 winters against population-weighted temperature for France and Great Britain. If the likelihood of very cold weather is reduced due to climate change, the likelihood of very high demands is also reduced.

Additionally, it could be that the modelling of the Central scenario, based on the long-term climate, will also be impacted by climate change. This could affect the Capacity to Secure calculations of all scenarios (except those scenarios focusing on specific weather conditions). For example, there is a clear warming trend in historic temperature data over France since 1980 (Figure 3a), such that if the temperature is corrected to account for this, the modelled northwest European temperature would rise close to 1°C. Although the change in mean temperature is relatively small, the shift in the temperature distribution (Figure 3b) means that the likelihood of cold temperatures can be affected significantly. For example, the likelihood of the mean daily temperature of France being below freezing reduces from 12.2% to 6.5%.

Physically, this de-trending of temperatures is meaningful as circulation in the atmosphere (driving weather fronts and wind) is thought to only be weakly dependent on the background temperature. Milder temperatures lead to reduced peak demands and therefore reduced requirements for expensive peaking capacity.

Figure 3: The distribution of temperatures in France changes if the historic, long term climate change signal is corrected for.

What was the feedback we provided to BEIS Panel of Technical Experts?

Given the sensitivity of peak demand to temperature shown in Figure 2, a 1°C increase in winter temperatures would lead to a reduction in the required capacity of around 500 MW in GB, or more than 2000 MW in France. The costs of providing this capacity are not inconsequential – for example, at a cost of new entry of £49/kW used in the GB capacity market, a 500 MW overestimation in the capacity required leads to an increase in costs of £24.5m per year. It is worth noting however, that this could also lead to a slight reduction in the likelihood of shortfalls.

In our feedback we took the view that the scenarios that NGESO have discussed around the modelling of interconnectors (including concerns around early closure of Coal and Nuclear plants in mainland Europe) are well justified. However, we also suggest that accounting for long-term climate change can and will have an impact on calculations of target Capacity to Secure. The de-trending of temperature is a relatively minor technical fix that could avoid costly over-procurement in the long run. Incorporating as-yet unseen, severe winter events is also a possibility by making use of longer-periods of historical data (including appropriate detrending) or output from climate model simulations. Ongoing work as part of the CLEARHEADS project will be further exploring these areas, and will be providing open-access suitable de-trended data. This will give energy modelers easy access to the data required to study the impacts of climate change on a wide variety of problems beyond the capacity adequacy issues discussed here.

Conclusions and future challenges

Systemic changes in climatic conditions will change the risk profile of energy systems heading toward net-zero, particularly in view of rapid increases in renewable capacity and electrification of heating demands in winter-peaking systems. Understanding both the severity and coincidence of system stress is necessary for an accurate determination of the value of interconnection for providing resilience.

The provision of secure, cost-effective and low-carbon energy will result in energy systems becoming increasingly weather dependent. We conclude that energy modelers will therefore need to become highly skilled in the handling and analysis of significant quantities of climate and weather data, used across a wide range of scales and contexts, to effectively address whole energy system design challenges on the path to net zero.

Feedback to BEIS Panel of Technical Experts

The feedback is available to view and was written with contributions from Dr David Greenwood, Dr Susan Scholes, Dr David Brayshaw and Professor Furong Li. The authors are also grateful for feedback from industrial advisor to the project, Dr Chris Harris. Matt and Hannah are support by the Supergen Energy Networks CLEARHEADS Flex Fund project, led by the University of Reading. Contact: matthew.deakin@newcastle.ac.uk; h.c.bloomfield@reading.ac.uk

About the authors

Dr Matthew Deakin is a postdoctoral Research Associate at Newcastle University with the Power Systems group. His research interests include whole energy systems analysis, power system planning and operations, and smart grids.

Dr Hannah Bloomfield is a post doctoral Research currently working in the University of Reading meteorology department. Her research focuses on understanding natural and societal challenges to present and near-future energy systems. Her past work focused on the impacts of climate variability and climate change on international power systems including large proportions of renewables.

Combined capacity and operation optimisation for multi-vector local energy systems

Academics and researchers involved in the EPSRC Supergen Energy Networks Hub, based in the School of Engineering at University of Warwick, Dr Dacheng Li, Mr Songshan Guo, Dr Wei He, Mr Markus King and Prof Jihong Wang recently published the paper “Combined capacity and operation optimisation of lithium-ion battery energy storage working with a combined heat and power system” in Elsevier’s journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.

About the Author

Dr Dacheng Li has worked as an Assistant Professor, Associate Professor in Chinese Academy of Sciences since 2012, and joined the Power and Control Systems Research Laboratory, University of Warwick in 2019. His research focuses on the intelligent optimisation of energy storage (i.e., Phase Change Materials, Compressed air, Lithium-ion Battery) based multi-vector energy systems. He has worked as a project leader sponsored by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Key deployment project of Chinese Academy of Sciences for optimisation and demonstration of kW, MW-level energy storage systems.  Currently, he is involved in the RCUK’s Energy Programme and works on self-powered active cooling and cleaning technology for solar PV systems to improve the efficiency of renewable energy utilisation. Additionally, he is participating in the investigation on the on-line condition monitoring for biomass power plant mills. He has published more than 20 academic articles in leading journals and conferences, and 6 patents have been applied or authorised.

Contact email: dacheng.li@warwick.ac.uk

About the Paper

The paper reports the work completed in the first stage for the research project of combined capacity and operation optimisation for multi-vector local energy systems. The work is to investigate how energy storage can help improve CHP operation efficiency, reduce operation cost and CO2 emissions based on the campus energy system structure. In supporting future system and infrastructure design and planning, optimisation algorithms are developed which are able to derive the optimal solutions with consideration of the operation optimisation, optimal energy capacity, technical constrains and energy market information. The research is continuing to bring local renewable power generation, electrification of heating and EV to the optimisation process and extend from the campus energy system to the urban local energy system analysis.

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems are considered as a transitional solution towards zero carbon emissions in the next couple of decades [1]. The current CHP systems are mainly controlled by thermally led strategy, that is, the electrical power generation depends on the thermal energy demand. The mismatch between the power generation and load demand leads to the deficient energy utilisation and economic loss. In this context, electrical energy storage technologies could open up an opportunity to reduce energy bills by improving power utilisation locally and mitigate otherwise necessary network upgrades. Moreover, electricity storage could also enable the integrated system to gain additional economic benefits using the Time-of-Use (ToU) pricing structures.

Lithium-ion Battery (LIB) is a promising electrical storage technology because of its high energy density and Coulombic efficiency. Integration of a Lithium-ion Battery Storage System (LBSS) with CHP systems can provide operational flexibility and improve the self-sufficiency rate. However, the lifetime cash flow of a battery storage integrated CHP system is inherently complex. An installation of LBSS leads to an increase in system capital expenditure; real-time operation of the battery system under varying user-load patterns and ToU rates determines the system operating expenses (including revenues), and the LBSS system lifetime [2]. All these factors are coupled and interactively affect the economic viability of using LBSS in CHP systems.

An innovative combined planning method is proposed in the paper to improve the economic gains of the CHP systems by integrating the lithium-ion battery storage system. The paper focuses on the simultaneous optimisation of storage capacity design and operation strategy formulation of the LBSS subject to the variations of the load and power generation from CHP with consideration of LBSS degradation and cost, and ToU pricing structures. The new strategy is implemented and tested using the University of Warwick (UoW) campus CHP system combined with the LBSS facilities.

A techno-economic model that describes LBSS-integrated CHP system operation, performance, and economic gains was derived, using the historic and experimental data. Then an integrated optimisation framework with the Biogeography-Based Optimisation (BBO) method that co-optimises battery storage capacity (Capital Expenditure) and temporal operational strategy (Operating Expensed) was proposed, considering control-dependent battery degradation rate at the system planning stage (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Main logic process of the LBSS operation for combined planning. (a) Main logic process of flag 1. (b) Main logic process of flag 2. (c) Main logic process of flag 3.

A real campus-scale CHP system and a 50 kW demonstration LBSS at the UoW was used to verify the effectiveness of our proposed method, which also exhibits the contribution of the LBSS in improving the economic performance of CHP systems (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Combined optimisation results for seasons. (a) Optimal operation cost and capacity of the LBSS. (b) Operation strategy of the LBSS for Spring case. (c) Operation strategy of the LBSS for Autumn case. (d) Operation strategy of the LBSS for Winter case.

Besides, considering that the price of the LBSS would decrease gradually and the profitability from the ToU structure remains uncertainty in the following decades [3], this paper investigates the variation trend of profit gain and the corresponding Number of Battery (NOB) under different LBSS price and ToU rates to predict the future contribution of the LBSS technology in improving the economy of the CHP system (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Combined optimisation results for one year. (a) Optimal operation cost with the change of the LBSS price and ToU structure. (b) Optimal storage capacity with the change of the LBSS price and ToU structure.

Application results demonstrated that a combined management mechanism was established to achieve the optimal balance between the profit gain and capital loss of the LBSS integration. The conducted work for maximising potential profits and optimising number of batteries with the change of LBSS cost and ToU structure would provide competitive guidance for investors to develop a reasonable solution to improve the economy of CHP systems by integrating of LBSS in the next decades.

The full paper is available to view.

Reference:

[1] Department for Business, Energy & industrial strategy. Digest of UK energy statistics (DUKES) [Chapter 7]: Combined heat and power 2019.

[2] Davies DM, Verde MG, Mnyshenko O, Chen YR, Rajeev R, Meng YS, et al. Combined economic and technological evaluation of battery energy storage for grid applications. Nat Energy 2019;4:42–50.

[3] Oliver Schmidt, Sylvain Melchior, Adam Hawkes, Iain Staffell. Projecting the Future Levelized Cost of Electricity Storage Technologies. Joule 2019;3:81-100.