How UK Universities Are Playing Key Role In The Smart Grid Revolution

  • Posted on: 15 June 2014
  • By: chw staff

Inline with current trends to reduce C02 emissions and other harmful greenhouse gases the UK is pulling out all the stops to modernise its power grid infrastructure.  Up and down the country, there are smart grid projects and pilot schemes to change the way they use, manage, supply and create electricity with the intention to use less, reduce its effect on the environment and reduce its cost.  In partnership with the private sector and government UK universities are playing an important role to make these goals achievable.

In early 2013 the city of Glasgow received a government grant of £24 million to develop solutions to demonstrate smart cities of the future. Now, Hewlett Packard (HP) is collaborating with Swansea University as part of a three-year programme to explore the development of sustainable next generation smart city solutions.

For the first phase of the project, a key objective set by the Welsh Government is for the teams to develop ways to reduce greenhouse emissions by 80 percent by 2050.  Using the University's campus as a test-bed, both teams will explore the optimal integration of smart meters, ultra-low-power wireless sensors, cyber security, smart grid technologies and resource management software to support the changes in energy provision and consumption required to achieve this target.

The Customer-Led Network Revolution (CLNR) project is another smart grid project with strong university influence from Durham University. The three-year project lead by Northern Powergird and partners such as British Gas will be trialling smart grid solution in cities such as Leeds, Sheffield, Durham and Newcastle.  The project includes the roll-out of smart meters into 14,000 customer homes.  Around 2,500 customers taking part will also be installing solar PV panels, heat pumps or provision for charging electric vehicles.

The Durham Energy Institute part of Durham University is one of the UK’s leading research facility in offshore wind, photovoltaics, electricity transmission, carbon capture and storage and smart grids. Working in partnership with Northern Powergrid the Durham Energy Institute key role is to: Contribute to the design of robust test plans and analysis methodology; oversee the academic process; Analyse trials results and draw conclusions; Develop recommendations for market structures.

Scottish Power has appointed University of Strathclyde Professor, Keith Bell has the Scottish Power Chair in Smart Grid Technology.  The appointment, said Scottish Power is to build on the relationship, support research, development and knowledge exchange in the smart grid domain.  The University of Strathclyde is already home to £89 million Technology and Innovation Centre and the Power Networks Demonstration Centre (PNDC) design for these projects and the first centre of its kind in Europe.

 “This is a challenging but exciting time to be a power systems engineer. We have to be imaginative and ambitious in getting the most out of power networks to enable a low carbon future, making them ‘smarter’, but not forgetting the importance to modern life of a reliable supply of electricity”, said Professor Bell, who is also Director of the Scottish Power Advanced Research Centre (SPARC) based at Strathclyde.