Multi-energy Control of Cyber-Physical Urban Energy Systems (MC2)

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Sch of Engineering


Urban energy systems play a crucial role in the economic, social and environmental performance of large towns and cities. There are many dense newly built urban areas in China, with limited space for renewables but resilience and clean energy with less air pollution are key issues. The UK has legacy urban energy infrastructure and decarbonisation has priority. All these challenges will place unprecedented requirements on the load demand and distributed generation of urban energy systems. Although the driving forces and the objectives of development of urban energy systems are different in the UK and China, sustainable, cost effective and reliable urban power supply is one of the key research topics in both countries.

This project will focus on novel methods for sustainable power supply, and will address the following two key research challenges, each of which has associated objectives.

(1) Conventional control approaches for urban power supply do not address the emerging opportunities offered by increased measurement and control of urban energy systems, do not consider the flexibility provided by other energy vectors, and do not proactively and self-adaptively deal with the inevitable uncertainties associated with the fast-evolving urban energy systems; and

(2) current urban energy systems rely on external bulk power supply with low resilience, i.e. interruption of external power supply will have catastrophic consequences, and supply restoration from such abnormal events will be difficult and time consuming. Coupling of different energy vectors to maximise the benefits of system integration must be coordinated with decoupling of electricity networks (create islandable urban energy systems) during abnormal events to increase the system resilience by maintaining energy supply to un-faulted urban areas.

The objectives of the project are to combine research strengths of the leading institutions in the UK and China to respond to the above challenges and:

(1) investigate multi-zone and multi-energy evolving system and control architecture of urban energy systems. Digital twins will be used to model and analyse each multi-energy system that is connected to the urban electric power network. Their system coupling and system-integration potential will be identified and flexibility provision quantified;

(2) develop a novel method for both current situational awareness and future situational forecasting of an urban energy system, based on the digital twin of each multi-energy system and network measurements;

(3) investigate smart interconnection of different urban zones using Soft Open Points in medium voltage (MV) electricity networks for accurate, real-time and resilient power flow control, and smart interconnection of multiple players using distributed ledger technology (DLT) for fully decentralised trust-based control;

(4) develop a multi-energy control strategy for an urban energy system, which employs situational awareness and smart interconnection methods to significantly improve performance and resilience of the urban energy system by setting up coordinated control and energy islanding capability; and

(5) validate the effectiveness of the proposed multi-energy control using hardware-in-the-loop (HiL) test facilities and selected case studies, and provide cost and benefit analysis (CBA).

The MC2 project will provide strategic direction for the future of sustainable urban power supply in the 2030-2050 time frame and deliver methodologies and technologies of alternative network control in order to facilitate a cost effective evolution to a resilient, affordable, low carbon and even net-zero future. The complementary, cross-country expertise will allow us to undertake the challenging research with substantially reduced cost, time and effort. The two-nation cross-fertilisation will make sure that the value of our research is for both developed and developing nations.

Planned Impact

The MC2 project will provide strategic direction for the future of sustainable urban power supply in the 2030-2050 time frame and deliver methodologies and technologies of alternative network control in order to facilitate a cost effective evolution to a resilient, affordable, low carbon and even net-zero future. The beneficiaries are potentially very wide-ranging, including: utility companies; multi-energy asset owners and operators; government bodies; equipment manufacturers for urban energy; software and ICT solution providers; academics in the wide range of disciplines (especially urban energy, power networks, multi-energy and ICT) that we are working on, and demand customers. The impact on these beneficiaries with identified priorities will be delivered through Partnership, Communication, and Exploitation & Application.

We will empower all of our consortium to cultivate links in partner organisations, by training and mentoring our researchers, whilst making the most of the PI and CoI's extensive and longstanding networks. We will grow relationships through consultations (including focused workshops with stakeholders during project meetings). Our aim is to understand the evolving drivers and the key decision points that are on the horizon, so that we can match the technologies that MC2 will create with the challenges that end users are facing. The project will be supported by a High-level Advisory Board (HAB) which represents the main potential beneficiaries and are in an exceptional position to support the research, maximise dissemination opportunities and enable impact.

We will establish MC2 as a visible focal point for sustainable urban power supply research in the UK, China and internationally. We will learn from international experience; publicise the existence, objectives, activities, and findings of the MC2 project through the project web site, presentations at relevant meetings, publications in professional journals/conferences, and disseminate results through the HAB and the leading research consortia in both countries.

Consortium members have extensive industrially focussed partnership experience, and contributions will continue to be made through technology evaluation and demonstration; engagement in BEIS/Ofgem committees, NIC and NIA projects, all provide the academics with pathways to impact. The focus on tangible technological outputs, together with the informing context of case studies, provides a strong delivery mechanism for communicating new thinking.

The exploitation and application of the research outcome will benefit international activities on research and development of sustainable urban power supply. Opportunities for exploitation will be pursued through licensing, spin-outs, etc. The opportunities for further development of technology will furthermore be affected by the senior academics providing strategic input into the UKRI, BEIS, Ofgem, NFSC, and the Ministry of Science and Technology of China, whereby follow-on funds can be identified in a timely fashion.


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