UKERC awards £2M for topical energy projects

UKERC awards £2M for topical energy projects

Professor Pete Smith of the University of Aberdeen will lead an assessment of the impacts on global ecosystem services of electricity generation from coal, nuclear, wind and bioenergy as part of a package of new awards announced by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC).

The UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) has committed over £2M to support new research addressing some of the most important energy developments in the UK and overseas.

Six new research projects will cover

·         the take-up and design of offers under the Government’s Green Deal initiative promoting energy efficiency in homes

·         the impact of UK energy activity on “ecosystem services” provided by natural ecosystems globally and in the UK

·         a detailed analysis of global gas security and the prospects for global gas governance.

·         scenarios for the development of smart grids

·         a risk assessment of UK energy policy

The research teams have leading expertise in ecology, biology, energy policy, psychology, engineering and marketing and come from 12 research institutions across the UK.

UKERC is supporting the projects via its flexible research fund, which was set up to allow researchers within and outside the Centre to apply for additional funding for specific energy research projects. The scheme has attracted a wider range of researchers and disciplines into UKERC’s research programme, incorporating the best science and allowing the programme to develop flexibly in the light of new scientific insights and policy developments. 

UKERC has now commissioned 16 research fund projects with the latest confirmed as:

1. Optimising Value Propositions for Energy Efficient Renovations
Researchers from Norwich Business School and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia will assess how services provided under the Government's new Green Deal scheme can influence UK householders towards improving the energy efficiency of their homes.

The project will be the first of its kind to examine how the Green Deal incentives can be made attractive to potential customers. The scheme is intended to improve the energy efficiency of British properties by enabling consumers to make energy-savings. Customers can install energy efficient improvements to their homes with no upfront cost and pay later through instalments on their energy bill.

Principal Investigator:  Dr George Chryssochoidis, Norwich Business School, University of East Anglia

2. A Global Framework for Quantifying the Ecosystem Service Impacts of Oil and Biofuel Production
The goal of this project is to develop a new methodology that will allow the impacts on ecosystem services globally of using different transport fuels – oil or biofuels - to be compared. “Ecosystem service” is a concept used to measure the benefits that society obtains from natural ecosystems.

Researchers from the University of Southampton, Imperial College London and the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), will map the area covered by the infrastructure needed to produce oil and the areas that are currently used to grow crops for biofuels, They will also assess what ecosystem services have been lost as a result of producing these fuels in different parts of the world.

The project is a collaborative effort between ecologists and experts in oil and biofuel production, with input from government, major conservation organisations, and the UK’s major oil producers.

Principal Investigator: Dr Felix Eigenbrod, University of Southampton

3.Assessing the global and local impacts on ecosystem services of energy provision in the UK
In a related project, Professor Peter Smith from the University of Aberdeen will lead an assessment of the impacts on global ecosystem services of electricity generation from coal, nuclear, wind and bioenergy.

The research aims to identify the impact of energy generation, either at the location at which the power is generated or where the feedstock is sourced, and project them forwards under different possible future energy pathways for the UK using scenarios developed by UKERC for its Energy 2050 project.

It will provide the first assessment of how UK energy activities affect ecosystem services in a global context, as opposed to previous assessments which only included local or UK level impacts.

Principal investigator: Professor Pete Smith, University of Aberdeen

4.The Geopolitical Economy of Global Gas Security and Governance: Implications for the UK
The aim of this project is to develop a clear understanding of the geopolitical drivers, governance challenges and risks shaping current and future global gas security through to the late 2020s and beyond.

Researchers from the Universities of Leicester, Birmingham, Sussex and Manchester will conduct a detailed analysis of global gas security, considering major issues likely to shape future demand and supply, market relations and gas pricing, and the prospects for global gas governance. The project will take into account the Eurasian pipeline system, liquefied natural gas markets and new developments in unconventional gas

Principal investigator:  Professor Michael Bradshaw, University of Leicester

5.Scenarios for the development of smart grids in the UK
Smart grids will be able to respond intelligently to the behaviour and actions of all electrical power users and producers. They will improve the flexibility of electricity networks, helping to manage increasing demand from consumers, enable increasing amounts of renewable generation to be connected, and monitor the equipment that makes up the network. Smart grids offer clear potential to contribute to the UK’s policy goal of a transition to a low-carbon economy

Carried out by a multidisciplinary research team, the project will identify key steps that will determine the future shape of smart grids and go on to develop and evaluate a number of socio-technical scenarios.  These will take into account the views of a range of stakeholders and will explore deployment, cost and finance, regulation, and user issues.

Principal Investigator: Dr Nazmiye Ozkan, University of Westminster

6.  UK energy futures: mapping uncertainties and risks*

Future energy systems are dependent on the structure of the current system and understanding current limitations and risks. These will directly impact decisions affecting the evolution of the system. For example, coal and gas-fired generation are likely to remain part of the UK energy supply mix after 2020 due to the presence of existing assets/infrastructure and their operational flexibility, while renewable technologies will have an important role in the medium and longer terms.  There is a need for a robust methodology to assist policymakers to allow the comparison of the risks and uncertainties involved in each case.

This project will develop a risk-based tool capable of a policy-level analysis and uncertainty assessment. The project will be supported by a baseline assessment of current risk and uncertainty associated with the existing energy system, which will be used to inform the plausibility of future scenarios.

Principal Investigator: Professor Simon Pollard, Cranfield University

*subject to final contract negotiation