Energy Revolution Research Consortium - Plus - EnergyREV - Next Wave of Local Energy Systems in a Whole Systems Context

Lead Research Organisation: University of Strathclyde
Department Name: Electronic and Electrical Engineering

Abstract

A key potential pillar of the energy revolution - and one of the most uncertain in its technological configuration, economic impact, societal trade-offs and regulatory control - is the growth of local energy systems (LES) based on new business models, new relationships between consumers and their energy supply and greater integration across heat, gas, electricity and transport infrastructures. A LES is locality where energy resources (such as solar thermal or photovoltaic panels, combined heat and power plant, energy storage) are managed to provide a high proportion of the needs of local users across heating/cooling, vehicle charging and electrical power. It is envisaged that demand for energy can also be managed to some extent to ease the burden of balancing supply and demand but that energy flows to/from a national system are required at times.

The UK government's Industrial Strategy focus on Prospering from the Energy Revolution, and the resultant ERRC EnergyRev Core consortium is designed to understand and ensure maximum benefits from the opportunism of LES.

* The successful scale-up of LES rests upon anticipating and resolving a multi-criteria set of tensions in a whole systems context:

* The scale-up of LES depends on infrastructures, generation plant, capital flows or environmental impacts that are external to the spatial boundaries of the LES

* The scale-up of LES results in key vulnerabilities at peak times, at geographical bottlenecks or on the capabilities of market actors

* The scale-up of LES is path dependent with near-term decisions having a structural impact on long-term energy system configurations

* The scale-up of LES exhibits emergent properties from societal uptake and unintended consequences in a systems context, acknowledging the multiple influences on end-users and their decisions

This ERRC Plus project is targeted at understanding and quantifying these systems impacts - spatially, temporally and across agents - of widespread LES scale-up and evolution of successful new energy demonstrators and business models. In this way it builds out the whole energy systems depth of the ERRC Energy Rev Core consortium.

The long-term evolution of energy systems is set by the actions of many parties under the influence of local and national government policies, support mechanisms and the energy market as a whole. The extent to which this evolving energy system meets the needs of the nation for secure, affordable and sustainable energy is crucial but challenging to foresee. This project aims to evaluate how the system might evolve for the particular case of promotion of LES.

Our vision is to create a set of interacting models of the economy, energy technologies and human behaviour and interlink them. The four university research groups who come together in this project have UK leading modelling teams in interdisciplinary whole systems analysis. The project will leverage the evaluation of demonstrator projects undertaken in the Core section of the EnergyRev consortium, and by the broader evaluation of industrial strategy, health benefits and community cohesion of LES. Its focus will then be on investments and innovation in key technologies, the interactions and pressures placed on national gas, electricity and transport infrastructures, representing and exploring how people adopt new technologies (such as home automation apps or electric vehicles), and required institutional and regulatory change to understand how - under widespread growth of smart LES - the energy system as a whole will function.

We will then create detailed and specific evidence that policy makers in local and national governments and decision makers in energy companies can use to plot a course to exploit the opportunities of the LES energy revolution. This includes state-of-the-art open access models, high profile workshops, targeted policy briefs and bi-directional online engagement routes.

Planned Impact

The scale up of local energy systems (LES) and their integration into an optimised national energy system creates a range of opportunities and challenges across industry, government and regulatory bodies. Providing a framework to analyse, understand and evidence the key issues for LES scale up has the potential to reduce expenditure for system operators and brings the ability to accelerate the deployment of new technologies and regulatory frameworks. In this project, we will therefore engage with key industry stakeholders and policy makers, both local and national, in addition to disseminating our research findings to the academic community.

We will use the tools created in this project to generate evidence for decision makers in government departments and bodies. In particular, we will engage with those local authorities that are actively engaged in developing LES demonstrators, as well as working with government nationally through, for example, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC). Impact beneficiaries in industry include system operators, technology providers, SMEs providing new energy service models and equipment vendors looking to provide flexible technologies to create LES. In addition to leveraging existing channels and relationships, we will engage with each of these beneficiaries through a series of stakeholder engagement workshops to maintain a dialogue and understand stakeholder needs, and to communicate new modelling insights from our research.

We will identify the value to the wider energy system of key technologies, flexibility and the broader integration of future LES: delivering new control and operational functions to integrate LES demonstrators into the future energy system will be of direct relevance to system operators, thereby providing impact on national system optimisation. Our agent-based modelling will provide a framework for understanding technology adoption at the individual and household level (for example, in the context of electric vehicle adoption and smart homes) and user engagement with demand side response initiatives. These insights from our research can lead to a significant cost saving as the future energy system is developed.

Finally, we deliver academic impact through publishing our research in peer-reviewed journals and conference presentations to contribute to academic debate and discussion. We also place importance on the development of early career researchers, using talented individuals on the project and connecting with outstanding junior Fellows, helping them to diversify and apply their work more broadly.

Publications

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