SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

National Centre for Energy Systems Integration

Energy systems are vitally important to the future of UK industry and society. However, the energy trilemma (balancing security, affordability and sustainability) presents many complex interconnected challenges.

A unique partnership of five research-intensive universities and strategic partner Siemens, the National Centre for Energy Systems Integration (CESI) is primarily funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), alongside support from industry – with a large input from Siemens – and academic partners. The project’s Co-Investigators include Professors Gordon Mackerron and Steve Sorrell.

Current modelling and simulation techniques are inadequate. They are unable to provide sufficiently accurate, detailed or integrated representations of the multiple aspects of real energy systems, and struggle to provide robust long term visions, failing to accommodate for uncertainties and surprises.

CESI is addressing these weaknesses and reducing the risks associated with securing and delivering a fully-integrated future energy system for the UK. CESI aims to develop a modular 'plug-n-play' environment in which components of the energy system can be co-simulated and optimised in detail. With no technology considered in isolation, viewing sectors as an interlinked whole, the interactions and rebound effects across technologies and users can be examined.  Part of this process, led from SPRU, is to consider some of the wider social implications of visualising the future in formalised ways, including issues of inclusion and exclusion.

Methodology

CESI is developing radically different methodologies that use holistic modelling, simulation and optimisation. It uses existing high-level tools from academic, industry and government networks and couples them with detailed models, validated using full-scale multi-vector demonstration systems, while explicitly considering the social and innovation implications of the new approaches.

The centre uses uncertainty quantification to test the models and identify areas for improvement, in order to maximise learning about the real world. This approach and the associated models and data, will be made available to the energy community and will provide a rigorous basis for current integrated energy systems research. This will aid future energy system planning and policy formulation, enabling it to be carried out with a greater degree of confidence than is currently possible.

CESI will have a physical base in Newcastle University’s new £60m Urban Sciences Building, equipped to lead international research into digitally-enabled urban sustainability. The state-of-the-art building will feature an Urban Observatory – for collecting a diverse set of data from across the city – and a 3D Decision Theatre, which will enable real-time data to be analysed, explored and allow the testing of hypotheses.

Impact and Outreach

Working closely with the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) – along with a number of Supergen hubs, EPSRC and other energy research networks – CESI seeks to maximise its impact not only in the field of academic research, but also on the economy and society. In addition to developing new (and advancing existing) frameworks and models for energy system analysis, CESI will develop future scenarios showing how integrated energy systems can provide solutions for the UK.

In order to encourage industry and the public sector to benefit from its research, CESI will endeavour to release all tools, models, scenarios and data. Its findings will be disseminated through regular policy briefings – alongside workshops and demonstrator open days – covering energy systems integration issues for policy makers, local government, equipment manufacturers and suppliers, NGOs and wider civil society.

Partners

  • Newcastle University
  • Durham University
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • Heriot-Watt University
  • The University of Sussex (SPRU)
  • Siemens