The UK's electrical power system was originally built to take advantage of large steam turbine-generators, situated near population centres and powered by locally mined coal. In the 1970's and 80's, Britain's transmission network was electrically stable, relatively lightly loaded and the electrical energy was effectively transported over short distances to the regional distribution networks who delivered the energy to the consumers. In the early 90's, the "dash for gas" began, coal began to lose dominance, new Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) stations were built, and today the electricity energy mix is circa 42% gas, 39% coal, 13% nuclear and 6% renewables.
The UK Government is committed to reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to a level consistent with no more than a 2°C rise in global temperature. Heat represents the major component of energy demand, as shown in Figure 1, and in order to satisfy the peak heat demand, de-carbonisation of heat, using nuclear and renewable generated electricity is needed. This requires smart solutions in the design and operation of future Power Network to avoid unaffordable investment in "copper in the ground".
Half-hourly Heat and Electricity Demand in 2010
Source: DECC courtesy of Imperial College.
The Centre's research is targeted at developing the Power Network solutions necessary to enable our transition to a low carbon energy future. To achieve this, Power Networks needs to evolve in terms of the sources and types of power generation, the business models, regulatory regimes and the ways in which users interact with the network to consume energy.