Through our research, we aim to address the main overarching challenges facing energy systems on a national and international scale.
There are three key issues that energy systems face:
- availability and security
- affordability and public acceptance
- environmental impact.
At a global level the demand for energy has been affected by several issues including:
- increasing economic and population growth in countries such as Brazil, India and China leading to greater energy demands
- climate change and concerns, and the depletion of traditional fossil fuels, which are driving research and investment into alternative energy production methods.
Nationally the issues are complicated by additional factors such as:
- an ageing energy infrastructure unsuitable for integration with newer, alternative energy sources
- public concern over safety and environmental considerations of energy generation, like nuclear energy
- business models that need to benefit the government and yet are attractive for investment by private industry.
In order to respond to these challenges significant innovation in 'energy systems' is required. Yet any given piece of innovation cannot simply take place in isolation of other aspects of the energy system. For example, if we increase the amount of electrical power that we generate from renewable sources which might be located some distance from where the power is eventually used, we must find ways to strengthen the energy supply infrastructure and ensure it is capable of transporting the power to where it is needed.
If we look to diversify the ways in which we generate power and move away from our reliance on expensive fossil fuel imports, we need to find ways to obtain power from alternative sources in a way which is less damaging to the environment and which is acceptable for communities and countries.
Simultaneously a 'whole systems approach' must examine demand for and use of energy, as well as its generation and supply. Sustainable design in the built environment and better ways to monitor and manage energy consumption within buildings are key components of our future energy system.
It is also vital to understand the ways in and reasons for which people and communities use energy; engagement of consumers is key to a transition to a low carbon and affordable energy system. All of these fields of work require the collection and management of vast quantities of data, and our Research Institute brings expertise in big data management and modelling.
Through our research we will address these challenges through original and inventive thinking. New technologies need to be created; existing ones refined and developed.