New funding for research on ‘whole-system architecture’ for UK electricity network

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The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has received new government funding for its work on addressing new challenges facing the electricity network as the UK moves to a low carbon economy.

These challenges include two-way local power flows and less predictable generation, as well as new system demands such as battery-powered vehicles (BPVs) and heating.

The report has been greeted with widespread interest from the industry, government and UK regulator. The work has strong synergies with work also underway within the Department for Energy and the energy regulator, Ofgem, looking at whole-system issues.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has received the new funding for the second phase of its Power Networks Joint Vision project (PNJV) from the UK government’s Technology Strategy Board. The funding will also enable the project to gain valuable new understanding and knowledge of the role systems architects already play in other industries in the UK, such as air traffic control, railways, defence and telecoms.

The PNJV calls for a ‘whole system’ approach to adapting Great Britain’s power grid for decarbonisation, with a ‘systems architect’ at the helm.

The current piece of work is being driven by Professor Roger Kemp at Lancaster University, whose final results and recommendations are due to be published this autumn.

Dr Simon Harrison, Chair of the IET Energy Policy Panel and PNJV project, said: “We must look at the energy system holistically, rather than at individual parts in isolation, and there is recognition within the industry that exploring the feasibility of a systems architect for our electricity system could be a significant step forward.

“This latest funding means we can develop our initial thinking into a fully researched and substantiated set of recommendations.

“These recommendations can then help create a long-term strategy for building a future energy system that is reliable, affordable and fit-for-purpose in a low carbon world.”

The IET is one of the world’s largest organisations for engineers and technicians, with more than 150,000 members in 127 countries around the world.

 Nick Smailes, Lead Technologist for Energy at the Technology Strategy Board, added: “We are working with industry and government to launch an Energy Systems Catapult in 2015.

 “The work by the IET will help us understand the challenges that Britain’s energy sector faces and we welcome its work on whole-system thinking -including ideas for an energy systems architect – which is a relatively new concept for energy systems in Britain.”  

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