EnergyREV funds additional smart local energy system research

EnergyREV funds additional smart local energy system research

Richard Hoggett, Research Associate, Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University

31 January 2022

As part of EnergyREVs aim to explore the opportunities and challenges for smart local energy systems (SLES) to contribute to the UKs net-zero ambitions, a dedicated Flex Fund was launched in 2021. It was designed to enhance the flexibility of our research by: 

  • addressing new scientific insights, emerging knowledge gaps and developments from the wider Prospering from the Energy Revolution (PFER) demonstrators and design projects; or changes in background context, such as policy or technology, etc;
  • foster stronger collaboration between academic teams or with non-academic partners;
  • respond to new priority areas of activity as highlighted by the wider PFER programme.

Five projects received funding under the competitive call, which are now all underway, summarised below:

A new design paradigm to incentivise low-carbon technologies in the UK - Iacopo Savelli, Edinburgh University

This research, working with BEIS, will help to provide evidence for developing new mechanisms to support renewable energy investments. There is a critical need for making renewable energy incentives more carbon-wise, with less reliable technologies bearing additional costs, reflecting the emissions and additional system level costs they could directly or indirectly introduce. This could help level the playing field and foster greater and fairer competition among renewable energy sources at both the local and national scale, and realise the full locational value of the flexibility that SLES can offer.

Understanding tensions and synergies between scalability and positive local outcomes in SLES - Callum Rae, Herriot Watt University

The project will work collaboratively with several EnergyREV work packages, to explore the observed tensions, and possible synergies, that exist between scalability and local outcomes in SLES projects, and the role of governance in shaping it. Datasets from three different EnergyREV workstreams that cover a number of PFER and non-PFER projects will be used to ultimately better understand how ‘success’ in SLES can be conceptualised and achieved.

COPED - Catalogue of Projects on Energy Data - Alison Halford, Coventry University

COPED captures energy project data from multiple sources of the UK energy projects landscape, such as UKERC, CREDS, ESC and PFER. This will be used to develop a user-centred flexible data portal that unifies information stores and existing portals for energy projects under a single extendable umbrella that can also provide insight through visualisations. A user and moderator community will be developed to ensure that the portal is living and expands.

Initial work on CoPED to visually explore projects, organisations, and collaborations can be viewed here.

Local Authority (LA) Legacy: Facilitating the future rollout of SLES at the LA level - Rachel Bray, Strathclyde University

Ensuring widespread impact from PFER will be dependent on the creation of replicable SLES, underpinned by a legacy of learning across the stakeholders driving this system change. Local Authorities (LAs) have a critical role to play if we want to move toward more widespread area-based programmes delivering multiple societal benefits alongside carbon and financial outcomes. However, many LAs are under-resourced, lack relevant expertise around energy, and have competing priorities to attend to.

This research will explore this tension by engaging directly with the LAs involved in the PFER programme to capture and assess how the knowledge gained by them has influenced policymaking; and to disseminate learnings made to LAs outside of the programme.

Smart Local Energy Finance: crowdfunding smart local energy systems? - Tim Braunholtz-Speight, Manchester University

This project seeks to assess the extent, if any, citizen finance (e.g. ‘crowdfunding’) is a suitable means to fund the deployment of SLES, and increase local ownership. Using innovative financing approaches to fund innovative energy projects has a prima facie logic, but raises many questions around scale, risk, and relationship to envisaged socio-economic benefits of SLES. This research is intended to explore these issues; provide evidence to inform policy-making and practice related to place-based development, ‘levelling up’, and energy justice; and help fill a gap in the literature concerning how financing mechanisms might affect who prospers from the energy revolution.