Next Wave of Energy Systems

Why is next wave research important for smart local energy systems?

We aim to provide policy evidence on how a “next wave” of Smart Local Energy Systems (SLES) would benefit the energy system. We started by classifying SLES nationally, by strengthening empirical evidence on geography, types, and local conditions of SLES projects. We have developed three models. The Energy HUB and Whole Electricity System Investment Model (WeSIM) detail technologies, infrastructures, and markets. The Bounded Rationality Agents Investments (BRAIN-Energy) is an agent-based model of electricity generation and investment. Together these models give us a comprehensive whole-system view of the opportunities and challenges that SLES can offer.

What are the EnergyREV team doing in this area?

Currently, we are using the Energy HUB to model the investments required by campus energy systems to achieve Net-zero commitments and to investigate the changes to the techno-economic-emissions behaviour of one site with new Net-zero compliant energy system configurations.

We have expanded the BRAIN-Energy model to represent the investment behaviours of national and local investors (e.g. limited foresight of future system status and diverse technology preferences). We use the new model to investigate the influences of local investor participation and policy instruments on the increase of SLES and long-term decarbonisation . We are also exploring how new business strategies from local investors can accelerate the transition.

We have extended the WeSIM model to consider three main SLES archetypes as investable items to evaluate their whole-system benefits. Preliminary system studies have been run and are currently being refined for inclusion in a briefing paper.

How is EnergyREV exploring these issues?

In the Energy HUB model we model local energy systems by mathematically describing energy flows within the local energy system and external energy networks. Combining different energy vectors and local energy storage provides an opportunity to meet local objectives such as site energy cost or carbon minimisation and simultaneously offer flexible services to the power grid.

WeSIM quantitative modelling allows us to differentiate between energy needs and flexibility characteristics for the three main SLES archetypes across different UK regions. We model all three archetypes within WeSIM and vary their cost to see when they become a net benefit for the system. Then we contrast the outcomes for the different SLES archetypes and compare the benefits of SLES for a Net-zero system with those from the previous briefing paper, noting that we are now assuming a more realistic counterfactual case than before.

We are conducting a scenario analysis with the BRAIN-Energy model to reveal the impacts of different system settings on the scale-up of SLES, taking into consideration the participation of local investors, carbon pricing and demand-side responses.

What are the emerging insights?

Local energy system (LES) projects are rooted in specific local contexts. Our analysis of the local conditions associated with LES projects in the UK historically points to several general approaches for national and local policymakers to support future LES projects. We identified the importance of locally available skills and knowledge resources, strategic direction, and living conditions. In the long run, LES projects could enable the levelling up of disadvantaged local areas. National policies targeting disadvantaged areas can support a more equitable distribution of LES projects by providing the appropriate financial and regulatory incentives to energy and technology businesses and enabling entrepreneurs.

Results from our models indicate a great value from low voltage connected flexibility sources such as electric vehicles heat pumps and other appliances where most SLES value appears to originate. The participation of local investors can considerably increase the share of renewable energy in the power system and scale-up of SLES. However, the market role of incumbents is still essential to ensure system stability.

Meet the team

Theme Leads: Tim Green and Neil Strachan

Co-Investigators: Charlie Wilson and Jianzhong Wu

Researchers: Alexandre Canet; Elsa Barazza; Enrique Ortega; Marko Aunedi; Meysam Qadrdan; Muditha Abeysekera; Pei-Hao Li; and Theodoros Arvanitopoulos



Report - Cooperatives as bottom-up energy system actors for increasing renewables adoption (May 2023)


Report - Benefits of flexibility of Smart Local Energy Systems in supporting national decarbonisation (May 2022)

Report - Analysis of net-zero pathways for a hospital and a university campus (March 2022)

Briefing - Incorporating Novel Renewable Energy Cooperatives to Scale up Smart Local Energy Systems for UK’s Net Zero Future (February 2022)

Briefing - Characterising the operation and flexibility of campus energy systems (January 2022)


Journal Paper - Conceptual framework for balancing society and nature in net-zero transitions (September 2021)

Briefing - Local conditions associated with local energy system projects (May 2021)

Journal Paper - Optimal Operation of a Hydrogen Storage and Fuel Cell Coupled Integrated Energy System (March 2021)

Journal Paper - Drivers of convergence: The role of first- and second-nature geography (February 2021)


Briefing - Early insights into the non-optimal investment outcomes in the scale-up of smart local energy systems (October 2020)

Journal Paper - Modelling of national and local interactions between heat and electricity networks in low-carbon energy systems (October 2020)

Journal Paper - The long-term effect of renewable electricity on employment in the United Kingdom (September 2020)

Journal Paper - Potential Climate Benefits of Digital Consumer Innovations (July 2020)

Journal Paper - The co-evolution of climate policy and investments in electricity markets: Simulating agent dynamics in UK, German and Italian electricity sectors (July 2020)

Briefing - Common types of local energy system projects in the UK (June 2020)

Report and Briefing - Early Insights into System Impacts of Smart Local Energy Systems (May 2020)

Journal Paper - Granular technologies to accelerate decarbonization (April 2020)

Journal Paper - Energy modellers should explore extremes more systematically in scenarios (February 2020)

Journal Paper - The impact of heterogeneous market players with bounded-rationality on the electricity sector low-carbon transition (January 2020)

Journal Paper - Energy Transition Pathways to a low-carbon Europe in 2050: the degree of cooperation and the level of decentralization (January 2020)

Book – The Future of Gas Networks (January 2020)