University of Glasgow lends support to SP Energy Networks net zero projects

Researchers from the University of Glasgow are lending their support to three new projects led by SP Energy Networks to to help tackle some of the UK’s biggest and most complex network challenges.

The projects, which focus on novel approaches to heat, data and digitalisation, are among a total of nine of SP Energy Networks’ newly-funded initiatives, worth 1.2m, funded by network users and consumers under the Strategic Innovation Fund, an Ofgem programme managed in partnership with Innovate UK.

The projects are set to move into an early trial phase where their solutions to help move the country towards achieving its net zero emissions targets will be assessed.

The SIF initiative was launched in 2021 by energy industry regulator Ofgem and Innovation UK to find and fund ambitious, innovative projects with the potential to accelerate the transition to net zero across the electricity and gas sectors.

The three projects which will be supported by the University of Glasgow are:

Flexible Heat , led by Professor Zhibin Yu of the James Watt School of Engineering. This project will maximise the amount of flexibility available through domestic heat to reduce and smooth peak demand. It will demonstrate the technologies which may be deployed to achieve this including thermal storage technologies and smart control solutions.

Heat Balance , led by Professor Gioia Falcone of the James Watt School of Engineering, will look at the international best practice and develop large-scale thermal storage as part of the overall energy systems landscape. It will investigate the deployment of large-scale thermal storage solutions (both short and long term) to understand how these will perform in the context of both physical considerations (such as the geology in the UK) and network technical characteristics, together with the regulatory and commercial framework. Due to being one of the lowest cost forms of energy storage, this will drive the overall cost of heat down to benefit the consumer.

Predict4Resilience , led by Dr Jethro Browell of the School of Mathematics and Statistics. As a result of climate change, the instances of severe and extreme weather instances are increasing. By combining state-of-the-art ensemble weather forecasting products with novel statistical post-processing, Predict4Resilience will produce actionable forecasts of weather-related network faults and outages up to two weeks ahead - doubling the current forecasting range. Improved fault forecasting will reduce outage time for customers and result in significant cost savings for both consumers and network companies.

Professor Chris Pearce, Vice Principal for Research at the University of Glasgow, said: "We’re pleased to be partnering with SP Energy Networks to apply our expertise in energy engineering and data analysis to these projects, which aim to tackle some of the most important challenges we will face in the years to come.

"We have our own ambitious agenda to tackle climate change, including setting a target to achieve net-zero by 2030, and we have a broad range of research currently underway which will help find new ways to mitigate and adapt to our changing planet. These projects are a great example of how we are working to turn fundamental research into partnerships which have a real impact."

Graham Campbell, Director of Processes and Technology at SP Energy Networks, said: "This significant investment from the Strategic Innovation Fund shows the critical role innovation plays in us achieving net zero.

"These nine projects are a culmination of several months of collaboration across the industry to drive change. In 2021 we engaged with over 100 stakeholders, which has led to us now working with 27 partners including academics, industry experts, solutions providers and product delivery partners. These projects are being delivered by our industry, and we’re committed to working with parties of all sizes in the wider SIF portfolio, continuing to give opportunity to SMEs".

The Strategic Innovation Fund is currently in its ’Discovery’ phase for each project, where proposed solutions to industry challenges are assessed. Until the end of April 2022, project teams will frame the challenge, quantify the benefits of their proposed solution, engage with key users and then identify the most cost-effective way to deliver it.

The projects will then apply to the ’Alpha’ phase of the SIF programme, where they will test the solutions and build a consortium before seeking funding for the final ’Beta’ stage, where the solution will be demonstrated.


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