UK (University of Bristol) University of Bristol-led energy research centre bolstered by £5 million Government funding

The Supergen Energy Networks (SEN) Hub, set up to help facilitate transition to a fully sustainable energy sector, has received substantial financial backing from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The SEN hub, which is run in partnership with Leeds, Cardiff, Manchester, Bath, Birmingham, Newcastle Universities and Energy Systems Catapult, carries out highly impactful interdisciplinary research so that energy networks are not just enablers of the low carbon transition but are a driving force towards a rapid, safe and just transition to net zero.

Electricity, gas and heat networks are vitally important enablers for the UK energy sector and UK industry and society as a whole. However as technology and society evolves, planning, design and operation of energy networks need to be revisited and optimised to maximise impact.

SEN research will be strongly aligned with the Government’s Net Zero Research and Innovation Framework  and feed directly into the Net Zero Delivery plan through its membership of the Net Zero Innovation Board.

Professor Philip Taylor, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at the University of Bristol, and Head of the SEN Hub, said: “The global energy sector is facing considerable pressure arising from climate change, depletion of fossil fuels and geopolitical issues around the location of remaining fossil fuel reserves. Energy networks exist primarily to exploit and facilitate temporal and spatial diversity in energy production and use and to exploit economies of scale where they exist.

“The modernisation of energy networks’ technology, processes and governance is a necessity for the energy sector to be fit for the future. Good progress has been made in de-carbonisation in some areas but this has not been fast enough, widespread enough across vectors or sectors and not enough of the innovation is being deployed at scale. This project will accelerate the development, scale up the deployment and increase the impact delivered.”

Paul Beasley, Head of Research and Development UK at Siemens, one of the hubs largest industry partners said: “Siemens offer strong support for the Supergen Energy Networks Hub to tackle the global challenges within multi-vector networks, supply and demand activity in order to support real world solutions to achieve net zero in the future.

“We are particularly excited at the prospect of building on existing investments at many of these universities (ie Smart Grid Lab, Smart Campus living lab, etc) and combining the best UK universities on this strategic theme to deliver world class research.”

Johnson Fernandes, CEO & Founder at industry partner Equiwatt Ltd, added: “Absolutely thrilled to hear about the continued support from EPSRC for the Supergen Energy Networks Hub. I am certain the SEN hub will continue to impact more innovative technologies and early stage ventures within academia and industry. A joint effort between industry, academia and innovators will help accelerate a whole systems approach to solving some of the energy network challenges. This is crucial to supporting a sustainable, secure and equitable clean energy transition.

“Equiwatt has benefitted from the SEN Hub since the early days of inception. The support has enabled us to take our innovative residential demand-side response technology from idea to business venture. We are proud to be able to collaborate with SEN hub project partners in continuing the research efforts to shorten the time to market of innovative energy network solutions and help accelerate transition to a sustainable, secure and equitable clean energy network.”

Peter Smith, Director of Energy and Policy at National Energy Action explained: “Collaborations between National Energy Action and the Supergen Energy Networks Hub have helped our charity, as well as a wide range of other private and public sector organisations, better understand the opportunities for energy networks – particularly Distribution Network Operators – to support vulnerable customers.

“Supergen Energy Networks are ideally placed to co-ordinate and engage organisations, other academic centres and other stakeholders representing vulnerable groups, local decisions-makers and network operators to help foster our work in addressing vulnerability amongst energy users.”

Matt Hindle, Head of Net Zero and Sustainability at Wales and West Utilities, said: “We’re proud to be supporting Phase 2 of the Supergen Energy Networks hub. The hub has created invaluable links between academics and industry, and we share its vision for an ambitious, solution-focused net zero energy system.

“In phase 2, we’ll be contributing to all aspects of the hub, from networking events and workshops, to data provision and analysis. We’re also pleased to offer the outputs and findings of our unique Pathfinder model.

“We’re keen to expand the connections developed with academic partners in Phase 1 and look forward to further collaboration in this next phase.”

Arjun Parekh, Senior Manager, Self-Learning Networks Research at BT, said: “Reducing energy consumption, lowering the carbon footprint and increasing resilience are all of vital importance to the future of BT Group’s mobile and fixed networks, which support and enable the services that are essential to lives, businesses and communities across the UK.”

Made up of a varied community of more than 600 Industrial, Academic and Early Career Research partners, the hub is funded by the Engineering Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Partners also include Northern Power Grid and National Grid.

A total of £17.5 million investment in three Supergen research hubs is aimed at boosting innovation in energy distribution, both nationally and internationally, and propel discoveries in renewable energy into impactful new technologies.

Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation, said:

“The government has set a target of reaching net zero emissions by 2050, and UKRI is supporting this ambition with investments that will catalyse innovation and create new green technologies.

“The funding announced today will support researchers to develop game changing ideas to improve domestic, industrial and transport energy systems.”