Spotlight on....Thomas Morstyn

Spotlight on....Thomas Morstyn

Dr Thomas Morstyn, Lecturer in Power Electronics and Smart Grids, School of Engineering, The University of Edinburgh

29 November 2021

What is your current role at your Institution?

I am a Lecturer in Power Electronics and Smart Grids with the School of Engineering at the University of Edinburgh. Within the School’s Institute for Energy Systems, I lead a research group focused on energy systems architecture and coordination. My group’s research brings together advances from control systems, machine learning and market design to integrate new sources of renewable generation and flexibility into how energy systems are designed and operated. I am also the course organiser for the dissertation component of Edinburgh’s MSc in Electrical Power Engineering, and I contribute to an MSc-level course on Distributed Energy Resources and Smart Grids.

How does this role build on previous work?

My PhD focused on the challenge of controlling new distributed sources of energy storage, such as electric vehicles and home batteries, within microgrids. I developed the use of multi-agent control for active state of charge balancing between microgrid storage systems, which provides a scalable and robust strategy for ensuring their full combined energy and power capacities can be used to maintain microgrid stability.

Towards the end of my PhD, I became interested in the unresolved challenge of how to manage distributed energy resources which are owned by individuals. In this case, coordination needs to be incentivised, accounting for individual preferences and behaviours, rather than relying on direct control. This motivated me to pursue a postdoc with Professor Malcolm McCulloch at the University of Oxford, to investigate peer-to-peer energy trading as a new scalable concept for local energy market design. My group’s current work builds on this initial foundation to consider the wider picture of how distributed energy resources and local energy markets can be successfully scaled out, to create value for individuals and the energy system as a whole.

What is the most exciting thing about the research that you have done to date?

Through EnergyREV we’ve had the opportunity to support smart local energy system demonstrators and the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. A particularly exciting collaboration is with the “Local Energy Oxfordshire (LEO)” project, led by Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks, which is developing a county-wide flexibility market and data platform. To help support LEO, we are investigating new procurement mechanisms which would allow small- and medium-scale assets with uncertain flexibility to participate in these markets. This could offer a win-win by helping network operators manage thermal and voltage constraints at lower cost while creating a new revenue stream for owners of electric vehicles, heat pumps and other sources of clean flexible power.

What skills and perspectives are you bringing to EnergyREV?

Professor Cameron Hepburn and I, co-lead the EnergyREV plus project on “Market Design for Scaling Up Local Clean Energy Systems”. My role is to bring a perspective from power systems engineering and control, which is important since energy markets not only determine transactions and economic flows, but also act as the coordination mechanism for ensuring power flows remain balanced and within operating constraints throughout the system across locations and timescales. Our aim is to provide insights and quantitative evidence for how local and system-level market design can enable the successful scale out of smart local energy systems.