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Leading on sustainable energy

17 Mehefin 2009

UKERC Executive Director John LoughheadUKERC Executive Director John Loughhead (seated) and Professor Nick Jenkins (right) with PhD student Ian Moore, discussing his research project on wind turbine power.

Re-thinking the National Grid, electric vehicles and biomass heating are among the issues in a major new sustainable energy research programme led by the School of Engineering.

Having won funding for a further five years of research, the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) has chosen Cardiff to lead the energy supply theme. There are only five theme leaders in UKERC’s overall programme – an indication of Cardiff’s strength in this field.

The aim of the overall programme, funded by three of the UK’s research councils, is to provide world-class energy research to inform government and other stakeholders, ensuring that the energy sector moves along a path compatible with climate policy goals, energy security, the wider international framework and environmental, social and economic needs.

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The School of Engineering has won £498,000 from the UKERC for its part in the study, with an additional £400,000 from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales to look at the energy supply situation as it affects Wales. Cardiff’s involvement also opens the possibility of access to a share of a further £4.5m funding, to be awarded competitively during the course of the UKERC project.

The team will investigate national energy supply up to the year 2050, looking at ways to achieve a smooth de-carbonisation of the system.

Specific research topics will include:

  • How the Grid can become more flexible as smaller renewable generators such as wind farms come on line in greater numbers. The National Grid is presently set up to take power from large generators, such as coal power stations.
  • The potential for small biomass plants to provide a heating network for villages and neighbourhoods. The issue is particularly relevant to Wales, where the Welsh Assembly Government has indicated that 10% of the nation’s domestic heat could come from renewable sources.
  • Electric vehicles and their capacity for power storage. The research will look at how vehicles could be integrated into a decarbonised energy supply system.

The five year programme will be led by Professor Nick Jenkins, Professor of Renewable Energy at Cardiff School of Engineering. Professor Jenkins has also just been appointed Director of the School’s Institute of Energy, which now co-ordinates all the School’s world-leading research in sustainable energy technology. This includes energy supply and storage, alternative transport fuels, low carbon heat and power generation, environmental management, fluid and thermal systems, electrical systems, thermoelectrics and power magnetics.

Professor Jenkins said: "It is a great compliment for the School to be asked to lead on the UK Energy Research Centre’s energy supply theme. The issues surrounding sustainable energy are complex and demand a partnership approach. We will be working with other colleagues appointed by UKERC, our international partners and our strong links in industry to develop solutions towards meeting demand for sustainable and low carbon technologies."

John Loughhead, Executive Director of UKERC, who visited the School of Engineering recently for the launch of the Institute of Energy, said: "It’s very pleasing to see the commitment Cardiff has made in relation to sustainability. They have invested money, brought people in and created new facilities to tackle some of the biggest challenges in energy research. This approach, working with partners in the UK and internationally, is vital to our mission to create a resilient low-carbon energy system."

Professor Phil Gummett, Chief Executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales said: "HEFCW is pleased to be able to provide additional support for Cardiff University following its achievement in securing funding through this energy research programme. This will help cement Wales’s position as a key element in the emerging programme of the UKERC."