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Imperial to lead UK arm of global grid project


EPICS project will develop the tools needed for a 100 percent emissions-free power grid

Imperial College London is leading the UK arm of a global effort to create 100 percent renewable energy power grids worldwide.

The new Electric Power Innovation for a Carbon-free Society (EPICS) centre, based at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) in the US, brings together international partners in the UK, US, and Australia to decarbonise the global energy sector.

Imperial is leading the UK’s involvement in the centre, which is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and will be working alongside academics at University of Edinburgh, Newcastle University and University of Strathclyde.

The £6.67 million project will provide answers about the innovations and changes needed in today’s power grid management and institutions to meet the demand of a grid with 100 per cent renewable energy that is sustainable, affordable, reliable and resilient.

Mark O’Malley, UK lead of EPICS and Leverhulme professor of power systems at Imperial’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, said: “A global transition towards net-zero electricity grids is vital to tackle the climate crisis, but there are challenges we need to address to make this happen. For example, most renewable energy sources are connected to the grid with power electronics and not synchronous machines, and we do not know how to reliably plan and manage power electronic dominated grids. "

The US efforts, led by JHU, are being funded by the US National Science Foundation (NSF), while the University of Melbourne is leading the Australia contingent, funded by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia.

Ben Hobbs, US EPICS lead at JHU, said: “These countries can collaborate and lead the world in dealing with common challenges, such as integrating grid-scale long-duration energy storage and offshore wind power resources, as well as addressing climate-induced hazards.”

EPICS will develop computing, economic, engineering, and policy methods and tools to enable a 100 per cent emissions-free power grid. To do this, the researchers will establish a global innovation ecosystem, engaging US, UK and Australian academics and global industry and policy stakeholders.

Jess Britton, who leads the University of Edinburgh’s EPICS input, said: “Transforming energy grids to support 100 per cent renewable energy is a global challenge that will require technical, policy and governance innovations. Demand-side flexibility can play an important role in enabling a decarbonised and resilient energy system and this international collaboration will support acceleration of customer flexibility in an equitable and fair way.”

Keith Bell, who leads the University of Strathclyde’s EPICS input, said: “The physics of electricity and the technologies available to us are the same everywhere, but each country’s power system is unique. This means that challenges and opportunities will emerge in some places before others. A global collaboration like this allows us to share and learn from those experiences, ensuring a smoother and most cost-effective path to a zero carbon energy system.”

EPICS’s research interests are divided into four themes:

1) Harness the latest advances in computer technology to enable decision-making tools to handle the unpredictable nature of renewable energy resources like wind and solar.

2) Find ways to accommodate wind, solar and storage resources into the grid, which requires learning how to operate large numbers of inverters that connect these resources and the grid.

3) Develop economic analysis principles tailored for making decisions about how to design and then reliably operate 100 per cent renewable power grids.

4) Use insights from the above efforts to develop strategies for achieving net-zero power grids globally, and use them to reduce and eventually eliminate carbon emissions from other economic sectors, including transportation and buildings.

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