Addressing the urban energy challenge: The role of distributed thermal storage in future low carbon city energy systems

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Chemical and Process Engineering


This project will seek to understand how thermal energy storage technologies can be deployed within the future energy system and help to address the trilemma of providing clean, cheap and secure energy. To date, much of the focus in decarbonising the UK's energy system has been on electricity. However, the challenge cannot be addressed without tackling the 40% of final energy demand for heating which accounts for 20% of UK carbon emissions.

The trend to urbanisation is clear and unequivocal. In the UK around 80% of the population already lives in cities and they are responsible for the vast majority of carbon emissions. Globally cities are already responsible for 75% of energy consumption and with 1.5 million people moving to urban areas every week, they are a vital part of the fundamental energy transformation that will be required between now and 2050.

The project will develop our understanding of the potential deployment configurations and applications for decentralised heat storage within the urban environment, by investigating:

- How thermal storage can balance the interface between urban heat and electricity systems
- How future electricity grid decarbonisation will change the way energy is used for heating and cooling including the expansion of heat pump technology
- How thermal storage can help mitigate the impact of increased demands for low carbon electricity for heating
- How the use of waste heat from urban systems can be maximised through integrating thermal storage with district heating and cooling

Cities can be thought of as complex systems and to better understand the interacting elements and emergent behaviours of the system, complexity-based tools and techniques will be employed which recognise the importance and interaction of social, technological, economic and environmental aspects of urban energy systems. A number of detailed case studies will be developed with which to model the application of thermal storage at a range of scales.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509681/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1958986 Studentship EP/N509681/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2021 David Barns