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Engineers partner with China to investigate low-carbon urban futures

20 March 2020

The lights of Cardiff at night

The School of Engineering has been awarded funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for three projects to address the challenge of decarbonising the urban electricity networks in the UK and China in collaboration with the National Science Foundation of China.

Although these two countries differ in terms of size of their population, they are facing similar concerns as to how to rapidly decarbonise the electricity networks of densely populated urban areas. Fully exploiting the potential transfer capacity and resilience of the urban electricity networks with a minimum of capital investment is vital to citizens and governments as 60% of the Chinese population and 83% of UK population live in urban areas.

Urban areas offer both challenges and opportunities. The demand for electricity is immense because, urban areas are the significant locations of critical loads such as, hospitals, airports, public transport networks and data centres. This creates the challenge of supplying this demand without interruption when renewables are part of the generation mix. Yet, the interconnectedness of urban energy networks is an opportunity for novel methods such as, the Internet of Things (IoT), Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) and control systems to name but a few.

We are collaborating with academics and industry in the UK and China to focus on these novel methods for sustainable power supply for urban areas. Professor Jianzhong Wu from the School of Engineering is leading one of those projects which is titled Multi-energy Control of Cyber-Physical Urban Energy Systems (MC2). In the next three years, Professor Wu and an international team of scholars from Newcastle University, University of Manchester, Tianjin University, Tsinghua University and Northeast Electric Power University will be working on modelling of new architectures and investigating the role of new technologies such as Soft Open Points, Medium Voltage Direct Current, and Digital Twins.

Professor Jun Liang, also from the School of Engineering, will lead on the second project titled Sustainable urban power supply through intelligent control and enhanced restoration of AC/DC networks (SUPER). With experts on electric vehicles (EV), from Newcastle University, China Electric Power Research Institute, China Agricultural University and Southeast University, Prof. Liang will investigate the ability of IoT based data-driven modelling methods to enable response services by coordinating dispersed resources in an urban power network.

Professor Manu Haddad and Dr Steve Robson are co-investigators in the third project titled Technology Transformation to Support Flexible and Resilient Local Energy Systems. This project is led by Professor Tim Green from Imperial College London and brings together experts in power electronics, optimisation, control and fault-management from the UK and China.

All of these projects will provide strategic insight for the future of sustainable urban power supply in the 2030-2050 timeframe and deliver methodologies and technologies of alternative network control to facilitate a cost-effective evolution to a resilient, affordable, low carbon and even net-zero future.

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