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Landscapes for Energy Category: Electric power conversion
Electric Power Conversion Landscape
 Author  David Gahan
Gahantech Consulting Ltd
 Last Updated  09 January 2013
 Status  Peer reviewed document
 Download Landscape  PDF 368 KB

 Section 1  Overview  Section 6  Research Facilities and Other Assets
 Section 2  Capabilities Assessment  Section 7  Networks
 Section 3  Basic and applied strategic research  Section 8  UK Participation in EU Activities
 Section 4  Applied Research and Development  Section 9  International Initiatives
 Section 5  Demonstration Funding    
Section :

Characterisation of the field

The scope of the transmission and distribution research topic is broad. It covers the following areas:

  • Science and engineering activity focused on the development of new components as well more efficient and environmentally friendly power transmission and distribution plant.
  • System planning and operation activity
  • System control and protection
  • Information and communication technologies

For basic and applied strategic research, the range of disciplinary inputs is wide. It includes materials science, chemistry, mechanical and electrical as well as civil engineering.

Research Challenges

The assets of the UK power system experienced a period of significant and rapid expansion during the late 1950s and 1960s. They are now approaching the end of their useful life and need to be replaced. Developments in distributed generation and other technologies open important questions as to whether the traditional approaches to development and operation of power systems are still adequate and whether the anticipated major re-investment in transmission and distribution networks could be avoided by adopting new technologies. The electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure is strategically important to the UK and its economy. In a bid to improve economic efficiency, the UK electricity supply industry as whole was liberalised in 1990 introducing competition in the generation and supply segments of the industry. The transmission and distribution segments remained as regulated monopolies. The principal research challenges include the following:

  • Aging infrastructure replacement strategies before failure =› models and tools for condition monitoring =› risk management of existing T&D infrastructure
  • Impact of liberalisation of electricity market
  • Energy security & system security
  • Environmental sustainability reducing the impact of electricity production, transportation and use on the environment (strive to reduce green house gases responsible for climate change) =› need to incorporate climate change driven constraints into system planning and operation (EU renewables targets; 80 2050 C02 targets; Meeting UK carbon budgets will require large scale decarbonisation of the electricity sector by 2030 (CCC) )
  • Integration of distributed generation including intermittent energy technologies & micro generation =› what type of network architecture =› reliability and power quality=› communication and control aspects of networks =› incorporation of demand response and demand side participation=› role of energy storage
  • Transmission and distribution network planning under uncertainty of intermittent renewable resources such as wind and the uncertainty of  markets and regulatory policy
  • Interaction between electricity and Gas networks =› combined optimisation
  • Assessing the potential of heat networks
  • Understand the effects of large uptake of electric vehicles (impacts on generation/transmission and distribution)
  • Incorporation of smart meters (impact on demand and networks)
  • Implementation of smart grids (technical and impact assessment)
  • Integration of environmental aims into regulation of system planningand operation

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Section :

Table 2.1: UK Capabilities

The UK as a well developed G8 economy with a leading position in international research inidices and university rankings should be well positioned to occupy a leading place in Energy Conversion research as in other areas. However, other factors are less favourable. These relate to public policy and funding structures, institutional tramework, and relative industrial landscape / strength.

Public Policy vis a vis energy research in the UK has been in a state of flux for many years and research has suffered from periods of strong neglect. The break up of the CEGB and the privatisation and “atomisation” of the generation capacity had a profoundly negative effect on directed energy research in the UK (source: interviews). The smaller absolute scale of individual providers (even National Power and Powergen, now the UK arms of RWE and E.ON) made the less able to support generalised research activities. The 1992 closure of CEGB research laboratory at Leatherheadwas such an example. The successor companies to CEGB were also left with relatively more diverse generation assets - ie each inheritor company had a “basket” of assets from different OEMs making their engineering teams more thinly spread. This had the consequence of requiring relatively more resource for sustaining engineering and less for innovative R&D.

Economic changes and regulation have also played a role. Increased regulation on acid emissions and a generallyfalling price of gas in the 1990’s led to the “dash for gas” (now possibly entering a second phase due to CO2 emissions caps and uncertainty over nuclear). This had the tendency of pushing more of the R&D burden on the OEM suppliers of new “low NOx” gas turbines and support for their introduction and management. Consumer price regulation in the 1990’s also provided downward cost pressure on engineering and R&D organisation which fell disproportionally on the “futures” side.

While government policy was not in denial of global warming issues, neither was it strongly in favour of low carbon introduction to the extent of, say, continental European policies towards Wind and Solar. It is no accident that industries supporting wind and solar sprang up preferentially in Germany and Spain vs the UK, together with their supporting R&D infrastructure. The long anticipated draft UK Energy Bill published by the Coalition Governmment in November 2012 has announced an increase to £7.6bn p.a. of the “Green Levy” spending by 2020 to support “decarbonsation”. However, no carbon targets have yet been included and so choices between which green energy technologies will received support are likely to be made on pragmatic grounds rather than a “grand scheme” approach. While much remains unclear about the policy it seems likely that an incremental “business as usual” approach will be adopted to R&D, albeit with perhaps more money available as scale-up is required.

In the United States, energy policy has been more consistently driven by government policy, this time by “Energy Security” imperatives in the wake of Sept 11th 2001. Policy is agreed via a national framework and is implemented by the National Laboratories (eg Oak Ridge, Argonne) who are involved in administering the various funding mechanisms such asARPA-E and SBIR. Until recently, coal gasification was a major recipient; more recently the emphasis has shifted to shale gas recovery and “fracking”.

In the UK, bottom-up efforts (lacking any overall national framework) have been funded by EPSRC and the TSB (fully funded and co-funded, respectively). Generation of ideas is normally led by universities but the role of their long term relationships and familiarity with the power industry is important here. Even given therelative decline of the UK in heavy industry (eg GEC turbine and transformer business passing to foreign ownership and the research intensiveness being consequently diluted), long standing relationships between UK universities and the operating divisions of energy companies present in the UK maintain a moderate-to-good capabilities here.

In the more novel technologies such as solid state and superconducting technologies, the UK maintains excellent basic research capabilities but lacksto some degree the large electrotechnical industrial companies with UK-based research intensity (vs US, Germany, Japan).

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Table 2.1: UK Capabilities

               
 UK Capability  Area  Market potential
High Generator / Transformer research Worldwide: 5+ years for materials dependent
High Novel solid-state energy conversion devices Worldwide: 5+ years
High Novel combinations (eg including PV) Worldwide: 5+ years
Medium Thermal generation balance of plant Some plant specificity, so restricted: Now
Medium Thermal generation boiler / thermodynamics (not covered in other landscapes) Worldwide but via OEM: 5+ years
Medium Superconducting generator research Worldwide: 10+ years
Low Combined Heat / Power (not covered in other landscapes) Continental EU has higher capability: Now
Low Thermal / Air pollution Cont. EU and US higher capability: Now

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Section :

Table 3.1: Research Funding | Table 3.2: Key Research Providers

p>In view of the reliance of industry on “ideas flow” from universities (very little comes from SME’s in view of the timescales incompatible with risk-capital return), the standard method of funding is the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

It is possible that private venture “Energy Conversion” projects have been successful in attracting funding but these are harder to identify,

The UKERC database contains details of EPSRCfunded projects going back several years. Nine programmes were identified in the database covering the period 2005 to present; some programs have been completed but are included in the analysis to ensure that research groups with direct relevance were identified.

Projects included in the analysis are associated with the following subject areas (see Section 1).

Conventional generation:

  • Balance of Plant : 1 project

Generator and transformer research:

  • High efficiency power converters: 1 project
  • Superconductivity: 1 project

Novel generation:

  • Solid state generation 5 projects (Giant electrocalorific effect, silicon nanowires, nano-crystalline water splitting photodiodes etc)

Other:

  • 1 project (Novel thermo-molecular effects at nanoscale interfaces)

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Table 3.1: Research Funding

       
 Programme  Funding Agency  Description  Committed Funds  Period  Representative Annual Spend
Responsive Mode

http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/Pages/default.aspx
EPSRC EPSRC “Research Base Funding” researchers can apply any time, in any area of EPSRC’s remit and for any amount and length of funding Variable Ongoing Average (annual) programme award is £140K for analysed projects giving a representative spend of £600k for around four active projects at any one time
Encouraging Physical Sciences Research to meet Energy Needs See also: RCUK Energy Programme EPSRC Specific 2012 call for speculative research ideas to be submitted as a standard research grant applications in areas that offer promise to tackle some of the issues identified by the RCUK Energy Programme. Technologies highlighted for invitation include Materials for Energy Applications , Catalysis , Chemical reaction dynamics and mechanisms , Computational and theoretical chemistry , Electrochemical sciences , Photonic materials and metamaterials , Superconductivity , Synthetic coordination chemistry and Synthetic supramolecular chemistry . None specified 2013 onwards N/A
http://www.innovateuk.org/ see also: http://www.innovateuk.org/content/competition-announcements/power-electronics-enabling-a-resilient-energy-syst.ashx TSB The Technology Strategy Board funding for Research, Development and Demonstration projects ranges from small proof-of-concept grants and feasibility studies through to large multi-partner collaborative R&D and demonstration projects. The projects must be business led from early stage micro businesses, to large multi-nationals. There are different models depending on the specific needs of companies, sectors and technologies. Apart from the smaller awards, funding is usually associated with themed competitions. One recently announced competition of some relevance to Energy Conversion is for Power Electronics. Variable Ongoing No individual TSB funded project which is identifiable as specifically Energy Conversion
Defence Science & Technology Laboratory https://www.dstl.gov.uk/ DSTL Direct contracts for military related energy technologies. Recent example: 6 month contract with Ilika plc for screening of thermoelectric materials Variable Unknown N/A

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Table 3.2: Key Research Providers

               
 Name  Description  Sub-topics covered  No of staff  Field
Cranfield School of Applied Science
www.cranfield.ac.uk/sas
School of Applied Sciences includes Energy and Resource Technology
  • Automotive and motorsport
  • Design
  • Energy and offshore
  • Manufacturing and materials
21 Faculty in Energy and Resource group Mechanical, Aeronautical and Manufacturing Engineering
University of Cambridge Engineering Department http://www-g.eng.cam.ac.uk/epec/people.php The Electronics, Power and Energy Conversion group within the Engineering Department focuses on power electronic devices and integrated circuits, and their uses in various applications. Other major research strands include solar cells and their integration in power systems, integrated design of electrical machines and drives, electromagnetic modelling, radio frequency and microwave power for industrial applications, and electrical power applications of superconductivity.
  • Nanoscale materials and device design for electronics and energy conversion.
  • Integrated and discrete semiconductor devices for power switching and control
  • Electrical Machines & Electromagnetic Modelling
  • Engineering Applications of Superconductivity
  • MEMS
6 faculty,
7 researchers,
21 PhD students
Electrical and Electronic Engineering
University of Cambridge Materials Science Department
http://www.msm.cam.ac.uk/research/clean-energy/clean-production.php
The Department’s work supports many other landscape fields and includes non-fossil-fuel power generation (solar cells), high-temperature materials for more efficient power generation (fossil-fuel and fusion), materials (superconductors and, potentially, CNTs) for lower-loss electricity distribution, and energy-storage technologies for transport (batteries, hydrogen and methanol fuel cells).
  • Enhancement of superconductors
  • Carbon nanotubes for reduced energy loss
N/A as subfraction Metallurgy and Materials
Electrical and Electronic Engineering
Department of Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering
Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Science, Loughborough University
http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/aae/
Department of Chemistry http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/chemistry/research/groups/energy/
Combustion and Energy Conversion Research Group in the Department of Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering.
Energy Research Group in the Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science.
  • Combustion research
  • Exhaust energy recovery
  • Free piston energy converter
  • Fuel cells
15 faculty,
48 researchers,
70 PhD students
(5 researchers in Low Carbon group)
Mechanical, Aeronautical and Manufacturing Engineering
University of Manchester Power Conversion group
http://www.eee.manchester.ac.uk/research/groups/pc/
Power Conversion group within the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Annual funding reported as EPSRC 0.9M, Industry / others 2.9M. The Group s research activities are broad, embracing power electronic converters, electrical machine design, electrical motor drives and the integration and control of power electronics in energy conversion systems. The research is both fundamental and applied, and usually has a strong practical dimension, supported by extensive well equipped laboratories including a 100 kW aircraft electrical systems demonstrator.
  • Electrical system integration
  • Power electronics
  • Electrical machine design
  • Superconducting applications
  • Condition monitoring
8 faculty,
9 researchers,
24 PhD students
Electrical and Electronic Engineering
University of Cardiff Engineering Department Institute of Energy http://www.engin.cf.ac.uk/research/resInstitute.asp?InstNo=9 The Institute of Energy within the Engineering department has expertise in energy supply, conventional and renewable generation systems, electricity transmission and distribution, as well as the demand-side and efficient utilisation of energy.
  • Thermoelectric Materials
  • Transient Overvoltages
  • Complex Fluid and Thermal Systems
  • Low Carbon Heat & Power
  • Assessment & Modelling
  • Smart Grids
  • Power Magnetics and Wolfson Centre
21 faculty,
28researchers,
PhD students
Electrical and Electronic Engineering
Imperial College Department of Electrical Engineering Control and Power group
http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/controlandpower
We do research in several areas of system and control theory, a range of control systems applications, and the analysis and design of power systems and power converters .
  • the control of induction machines power converter design
8 faculty,
9 researchers,
24 PhD students
Electrical and Electronic Engineering
Imperial College Department of Chemistry http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/chemistry/research/sections/nanostructuredmaterialsgroup
See also: http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/energyfutureslab/research
Energy Conversion technologies, including low cost photovoltaics (organic, dye sensitized and hybrid solar cells), and electrical energy storage (batteries and supercapacitors) N/A distributed Electrical and Electronic Engineering
Chemical Engineering

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Section :

Table 4.1: Research Funding | Table 4.2: Key Research Providers

EPSRC again provides the best data for projects in the “Applied” category. It is likely that all of these originate from the classic “Response Mode” funding route; however, EPSRC is now moving to a more thematic basis and has recently put out a call for projects on “Power Electronics”. No separate budget has been ring-fenced but the topic will have its own prioritisation / merit ranking vs the standard response mode input.

Ten EPSRC funded projects were identified from the database over the period of study (2005 present), many already completed but included here to ensure that relevant university research groups with particular focus on Energy Conversion are included in the analysis. Average annual award was £200k and thus representative annual spend around £700-800K.

Projects included in the analysis are associated with the following subject areas (see Section 1).

Conventional generation:

  • Balance of Plant: 2 projects
  • Boiler R&D, not covered elsewhere: 3 projects
  • Atmospheric Pollution: 1 project

Generator and transformer research:

  • High efficiency power converters: 2 project
  • Superconductivity: 1 project
Others: 1 project “Enhancement of Electrochemical Energy Efficiency via Process Intensification”

The Technology StrategyBoard is the most important funding body for commercially directed applied research in the UK. It is the “inheritor” body for the R&D portfolio previously managed by the Department for Trade and Industry and, in the transformation of one body to another, its funding strategy has gone through consdiderable evolution. One large scale project originally funded by DTI is included in the Research Atlas for the period 2005-present. This was “Innovative High-Power DirectDrive Superconducting Generator for offshore wind” which ran from December 2005 to November 2008. The project lead was Alstom: other partners included the University of Cambridge Engineering Department which has received funding for other superconducting related projects (included in the analysis of Basic Research programmes above - energy loss study for AC excited superconducting tape coils). Hence the project included in this analysis is clearly an example of an energy conversion project including (or led by) industry with Applied research as intent. The total award size was £3.5M over 35 months hence about £1.2M per year. While little inference can be drawn from a single programme the overall size of the award indicates a larger effort appropriate for experiments involving more sophisticated test beds and multiple organisations.

The funding policy of TSB in its first few years of operation has been more, but not exclusively, towards smaller projects with “commercialisation” in 3-5 years and somewhat away from large consortia in Energy (perhaps leaving this field to EPSRC and the Energy Technology Institute). TSB funding implicitly requires private venture part funding and hence a business case which militates against long payback projects. A full list of over 2000 TSB funded projects has been analysed in over 30 topics related to energy conversion, nominally covering 150 projects. While many ofthese fit well into other landscapes none at all appear to fit into the “early stage” or “large plant” nature of this present landscape. More recent directed calls (eg for Power Electronics) may produce projects better related to electric power conversion.

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Table 4.1: Research Funding

       
 Programme  Funding Agency  Description  Committed Funds  Period  Representative Annual Spend
Responsive Mode

http://www.epsrc.ac.uk
EPSRC EPSRC “Research Base Funding” researchers can apply any time, in any area of EPSRC s remit and for any amount and length of funding Variable Ongoing Average (annual) programme award is £140K for analysed projects giving a representative spend of £600k for around four active projects at any one time
Encouraging Physical Sciences Research to meet Energy Needs
See also: RCUK Energy Programme
EPSRC Specific 2012 call for speculative research ideas to be submitted as a standard research grant applications in areas that offer promise to tackle some of the issues identified by the RCUK Energy Programme. Technologies highlighted for invitation include Materials for Energy Applications , Catalysis , Chemical reaction dynamics and mechanisms , Computational and theoretical chemistry , Electrochemical sciences , Photonic materials and metamaterials , Superconductivity , Synthetic coordination chemistry  and Synthetic supramolecular chemistry . None specified 2013 onwards N/A
SUPERGEN2 Conventional Power Plant Lifetime Extension Consortium EPSRC SUPERGEN2 is EPSRC’s follow on to SUPERGEN, the flagship initiative in Sustainable Power Generation and Supply. SUPERGEN2, is managed and led by EPSRC in partnership with BBSRC, EPSRC, NERC and the Carbon Trust. The initiative aims to help the UK meet its environmental emissions targets through a radical improvement in the sustainability of power generation and supply. The programme is supporting the development of new and improved products for efficient and sustainable power generation and supply. Of the focus areas the ones relevant to this Landscape are:
  • advanced steam systems
  • advanced cycles (including biomass co-firing, oxy-firing)
£4.2m 2008 to Dec 2012 All major areas are well covered by other landscapes not possible to identify specific spending on Energy Conversion aspects
http://www.innovateuk.org/
see also: http://www.innovateuk.org/content/competition-announcements/power-electronics-enabling-a-resilient-energy-syst.ashx
TSB The Technology Strategy Board funding for Research, Development and Demonstration projects ranges from small proof -of-concept grants and feasibility studies through to large multi-partner collaborative R&D and demonstration projects. The projects must be business led from early stage micro businesses, to large multi-nationals. There are different models depending on the specific needs of companies, sectors and technologies. Apart from the smaller awards, funding is usually associated with themed competitions. One recently announced competition of some relevance to Energy Conversion is for Power Electronics. Variable Ongoing Only a single applied research programme was identified during the period of £1.2m per annum over 3 years.

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Table 4.2: Key Research Providers

         
 Name  Description  Sub-topics covered  No of Staff  Sector
University of Edinburgh Institute for Energy Studies
http://www.see.ed.ac.uk/research/IES/
http://www.see.ed.ac.uk/research/IES/research/machines.html
The Institute for Energy Systems (IES) is one of five multi-disciplinary research institutes within the School of Engineering at the University of Edinburgh
  • Novel Generator Designs for Renewable Power Generation
  • Thermal and Mechanical Analysis for Electrical Machines
  • Power Conversion and Control for Renewable Energy Converters
IES total
14 faculty,
26 researchers,
50 PhD The current research grant portfolio is around £10 million
R&D science and engineering
Cranfield School of Applied Sceince
www.cranfield.ac.uk/sas
School of Applied Sciences includes Energy and Resource Technology
  • Automotive and motorsport
  • Design
  • Energy and offshore
  • Manufacturing and materials
21 Faculty in Energy and Resource group Transport
Electricity and gas
Manufacturing
University of Warwick School of Engineering
http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/eng/research/power/pcsr/
The Power and Control Systems Research Laboratory is led by Professor Jihong Wang and the research areas cover: energy efficiency, power system modelling, simulation, control and monitoring, nonlinear control system theory and its industrial applications
  • supercritical coal fired power plant dynamic Responses
  • thermal power plant modelling and simulation
IES total
6 faculty,
5 researchers
R&D science and engineering
University of Southampton School of Engineering Science
http://www.southampton.ac.uk/engineering/research/groups/energy_technology.page
The Energy Technology Research (ETR) Group is the focal point for energy research in Engineering and the Environment. We are engaged in cutting-edge fundamental and applied research underpinning sustainable energy technologies
  • thermal energy
  • electrochemical engineering
  • solar energy
  • maritime energy
  • electromechanical energy
  • materials for energy
  • energy management and control
25 faculty,
8 researchers,
7 PhD
R&D science and engineering
University of Newcastle School of Mechanical and Systems Engineering
http://www.ncl.ac.uk/mech/research/mfts/
The Multiphase Flow and Thermal Systems group is engaged in a wide range of research work. This covers analytical, computational and experimental investigations of both fundamental and industrial problems of heat, mass and momentum transport.
  • Free-piston engine technologies
  • Thermodynamic cycle analysis of power and process plants
10 faculty,
1 researchers,
10 PhD
R&D science and engineering

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Section :
No specific demonstration is currently dedicated to Energy Conversion projects. Such projects tend to be subsumed into the larger themes in the later stages (eg Coal / Gas / Wind generation)

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No specific demonstration is currently dedicated to Energy Conversion projects. Such projects tend to be subsumed into the larger themes in the later stages (eg Coal / Gas / Wind generation)

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The sector is too disparate to identify any Networks which are not better covered in other landscapes.

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The sector is too disparate to identify any EU Framework Programmes which are not better covered in other landscapes.

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The sector is too disparate to identify any international initiatives which are not better covered in other landscapes.

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