Economic and Social Research Council
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New hubs will lead innovation towards a net zero energy sector

An investment of £53 million in six research hubs and centres will drive forward change in the energy system and help to meet the UK’s net zero target by 2050.

The energy research centres and hubs will boost knowledge, create innovative green technologies and reduce demand for energy to achieve greener, cleaner domestic, industrial and transport energy systems.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has awarded:

  • £15 million for a new Energy Demand Research Centre that will provide solutions for energy demand reduction, understand the impact on consumers, and enable equitable policy decision-making
  • £17.5 million investment in three Supergen research hubs that will boost innovation in energy distribution, both nationally and internationally, and propel discoveries in renewable energy into impactful new technologies
  • £20 million in two hubs that deliver options to integrate clean and sustainable hydrogen into the domestic, industrial and transport energy systems

Boost our energy security

Lord Callanan, Minister for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance, said:

Our world-leading expertise and knowledge on the latest clean technologies starts in our universities.

Today’s Government funding will support cutting-edge research across Britain, helping to deliver cleaner, cheaper home-grown renewable energy sources – helping grow our economy and boost our energy security.

A portfolio of investments

Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive of UKRI, said:

The government has set a target of reaching net zero emissions by 2050, requiring rapid decarbonisation of our energy systems. UKRI is leveraging its ability to work across disciplines to support this ambition through a major portfolio of investments that will catalyse innovation and new green energy systems.

The funding announced today will support researchers and innovators to develop game changing ideas to improve domestic, industrial and transport energy systems.

Energy Demand Research Centre

Reducing energy use could help meet half of the required emissions reductions we need to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

A new national Energy Demand Research Centre will build an evidence base for understanding consumer behaviour, assessing the impact of socio-technical energy demand reduction measures, and research mechanisms to improve energy efficiency.

The centre, based at the universities of Sussex and Newcastle, will investigate how domestic, industrial and transport energy demand reduction can be delivered on a local and national level across the UK.

The centre has been awarded £15 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council.

Hydrogen Hubs

Hydrogen and hydrogen-based, low-carbon liquid fuels, such as ammonia, are essential for the UK to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Hydrogen is a highly versatile energy vector suitable for use in many hard-to-decarbonise sectors where other energy options, such as electricity, are not suitable.

These two hubs will drive forward the national effort in hydrogen research that is needed to facilitate this critical area of technology to meet industry and government needs.

UK-HyRES Hub

The UK Hub for Research Challenges in Hydrogen and Alternative Liquid Fuels (UK-HyRES) is led by the University of Bath.

It aims to become an international leader in hydrogen research and to deliver practical hydrogen and alternative liquid fuel technologies that are safe, acceptable, and environmentally and economically sustainable.

HI-ACT Hub

The Hydrogen Integration for Accelerated Energy Transitions (HI-ACT) Hub is led by Newcastle University.

It will evaluate routes to effective integration of hydrogen into the wider energy landscape, addressing interactions with electricity, natural gas, heat, and transport. By considering a whole systems perspective, the research shall identify where hydrogen offers most value.

Each hub has been awarded £10 million funding by EPSRC.

Supergen Impact Hubs

Three impact hubs will study how the UK can take advantage of the latest research in energy generation from renewable sources.

Supergen Energy Networks Impact Hub

The Supergen Energy Networks Impact Hub is based at the University of Bristol.

The hub will investigate modernisation of energy distribution systems between suppliers and users to become a driving force towards a rapid, safe and just transition to net zero.

Supergen Offshore Renewable Energy Impact Hub

Based at the University of Plymouth, the Supergen Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Impact Hub delivers research to accelerate the impact of current generation and future ORE devices and systems.

Researchers focus on innovation and new technologies in wave, tidal, solar and wind power.

Supergen Bioenergy Impact Hub

The Supergen Bioenergy Impact Hub, based at Aston University, will continue to support the UK’s transition to a low carbon energy future by identifying pathways for delivering bioenergy with wider social, economic and environmental benefits.

The hubs are funded by EPSRC, with the Supergen Bioenergy Impact Hub also receiving support from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Further information

Hydrogen Hubs have been awarded £20 million.

HI-ACT Hub

Led by Professor Sara Walker, Newcastle University

Partner universities: University College London, Cardiff University, University of Exeter, University of Glasgow, University of Birmingham, Queens University Belfast, The University of Manchester, University of Warwick, Imperial College London.

The UK government has set out high expectations for the role of hydrogen, with demand predicted to be 250 to 460 TWh in 2050 (with early adoption in industry and transport) equivalent to 20 to 35% of UK’s total expected energy consumption.

This hub will provide a focus for the UK research community. It works in close partnership with businesses, governments, and administrations to tackle research challenges that underpin the hydrogen production, storage and distribution parts of the hydrogen value chain.

The HI-ACT Hub will ensure that hydrogen is appropriately integrated in a future equitable energy system, through holistic multidisciplinary research which address integration challenges.

UK-HyRES Hub

Led by Professor Tim Mays, University of Bath

Partner universities: The University of Sheffield, University College London, University of Portsmouth, St Andrews University, University of Surrey and University of Warwick.

The UK-HyRES Hub will identify, prioritise and deliver solutions to research challenges that will accelerate the take up of hydrogen and alternative liquid fuels. This hub will work provide a network and collaboration platform to tackle research challenges that underpin the production, storage distribution and end use of hydrogen and liquid fuels.

The team will coordinate a national, interdisciplinary programme of research to ensure a pipeline of projects that can deliver practical hydrogen and alternative liquid fuels technologies that are safe and environmentally, economically and socially sustainable, de-coupling fossil fuels from our energy system and delivering greener energy.

UK-HyRES aims to be recognised internationally as a global centre of excellence and impact.

Supergen Energy Networks Impact Hub 2023

Led by Professor Philip Taylor, University of Bristol

Energy networks exist primarily to exploit and facilitate temporal and spatial diversity in energy production and use and to exploit economies of scale.

The hub will carry out highly impactful interdisciplinary research such that energy networks are not just enablers of the low carbon transition but become a driving force towards a rapid, safe and just transition to net zero.

Good progress has been made in de-carbonisation in some areas, but this hub will accelerate the development, scale up the deployment and increase the impact delivered.

£5 million funding from EPSRC.

Supergen ORE Impact Hub 2023

Led by Professor Deborah Greaves, University of Plymouth

The UK is leading the development and installation of ORE technologies. With over 13 gigawatt (GW) of installed offshore wind capacity and another 3GW under construction, ORE will provide the backbone of the net zero energy system.

The revised UK targets that underpin the Energy Security Strategy seek to grow offshore wind capacity to 50GW, with up to 5GW floating offshore wind by 2030.

To achieve these levels of deployment, ORE developments need to move beyond current sites to more challenging locations in deeper water, further from shore, while the increasing pace of deployment introduces major challenges in consenting, manufacture and installation.

£7.5 million funding from EPSRC.

Supergen Bioenergy Impact Hub

Led by Professor Patricia Thornley, Aston University

The UK could have sufficient indigenous biomass and waste to provide 40% of the UK’s primary energy demand. The vision of the Supergen Bioenergy Hub is to increase sustainable biomass production in the UK to minimise greenhouse gas emissions.

Bioenergy is a significant and increasing UK renewable energy, but there are key challenges: sustainability and priority uses.

The Supergen Bioenergy Impact Hub will work with stakeholders from academia, industry, and the wider society, to develop sustainable bioenergy systems that will support the UK’s transition to an affordable, resilient, low-carbon energy future.

£5 million funding from EPSRC and BBSRC.

Energy Demand Research Centre (EDRC)

Led by Professor Mari Martiskainen, University of Sussex and Professor Sara Walker, Newcastle University

Partner universities: Cardiff University, The University of Edinburgh, Imperial College London, Lancaster University, University College London, University of Leeds, The University of Manchester, University of Reading, University of Strathclyde and University of Surrey.

Fundamental changes are needed in society to enable a deep energy demand reduction and wide use of low-carbon technologies.

Energy demand reduction will improve energy security, reduce household energy bills and address climate change. Reducing energy use could help meet half of the required emissions reductions we need to become a net zero society by 2050.

EDRC will build an evidence base for understanding the impact of energy demand reduction, from the perspectives of:

  • what low energy demand futures may be like
  • how energy demand could become more flexible
  • what place-based solutions, skills and policies are needed
  • how energy demand can be embedded in governance

Funding of £15 million has been awarded by EPSRC and ESRC.

Channel website: http://www.esrc.ac.uk

Original article link: https://www.ukri.org/news/new-hubs-will-lead-innovation-towards-a-net-zero-energy-sector/

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