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PIONEERING A LOW CARBON FUTURE Research Councils UK Energy Programme


current portfolio of investment* – December 2011 Renewable energy generation £146m


Energy efficiency £81m


Nuclear fusion* £73m


Hydrogen, fuel cells and energy storage

The Research Councils UK (RCUK) Energy Programme, led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), is investing more than £625 million in research and skills to pioneer a low carbon future. This builds on an investment of £839 million over the past eight years. Key drivers

Whole energy systems £44m



Sustainable energy distribution networks £60m


Nuclear fission £50m



Carbon capture and storage

Social, economic and policy

The key short-term challenge is to accelerate rapidly the deployment of green energy technologies that decarbonise our energy supply and increase energy efficiency in buildings, industry and transport sectors. There is also the opportunity to develop existing networks and infrastructure to support the changing energy landscape, through initiatives such as the use of carbon capture and storage and the large-scale deployment of renewables.


Research for our future



Conventional energy generation £30m


Transport £29m



Note: * excludes the £100m UK contribution to the international JET facility. Numbers rounded.

“We have a dire need to get onto the page as a sustainable country.” LORD DIGBY JONES, SEPTEMBER 2011

Barack Obama, US President, March 2009

Research is the key to achieving an affordable low carbon energy system while preserving our natural resources, the environment and our quality of life.

To combat climate change, the world needs to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 50 per cent by 2050. The UK has a target to reduce emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, an enormous task requiring systemic changes to every sector of energy generation and use. These reductions need to be delivered while creating a secure energy system for the UK, providing affordable energy, enabling continued economic growth and limiting impact on scarce natural resources and the environment.


“New clean energy technologies developed through research and development funding will power our long-term prosperity.”

Only fundamental research focused on the next generation of energy systems can transform our energy future beyond 2050. The EPSRC-led Research Councils UK Energy Programme is uniquely positioned to inform policymakers about the development of potential energy scenarios and their impact on citizens,

the economy and the environment. This requires understanding of behaviour change, environmental systems analysis and technological innovation. Highlights from the programme include: • T  he UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC), which leads whole systems energy research and acts as a focal point of the RCUK Energy Programme, providing cohesion within UK energy research. • T  he Sustainable Power Generation (SUPERGEN) programme of worldleading research in areas such as wind and marine, photovoltaic, hydrogen, fuel cells and bioenergy. The programme is structured in hubs, coordinating large consortia of UK academics, industry and other key stakeholders, and challenge calls for innovative research.

Impact on the economy Investment in energy research offers major economic opportunities. Global energy markets are worth over a trillion dollars and will grow. Investment by the RCUK Energy Programme is already creating new industries, new jobs, and greater commercial opportunities for the UK. Creating new industry and jobs – Ceres Power, formed to commercialise EPSRCfunded fuel cell research, has partnered with British Gas to install and maintain its revolutionary CHP boilers in UK homes. The boiler reduces household energy costs by up to 25 per cent as well as CO2 emissions. The group has created over 170 ‘green collar’ jobs, and in 2011 opened a new dedicated facility in Sussex.

“The RCUK Energy Programme’s close links with industry not only help individual companies, they provide a significant contribution to the body of research which will enable the UK to tackle evolving energy challenges.” Dr Ronan Doherty, Chief Technical Officer, Aquamarine Power

Impact on policy The RCUK Energy Programme is helping the UK government make evidencebased decisions and policy. • R  esearch funded through the programme has informed the UK Renewable Energy Roadmap (2011), Low Carbon Industrial Strategy (2009), the Energy White Paper (2007), and the Stern Review (2006).

Investing in a low carbon future


partners in energy research

900 current PhD students

The RCUK Energy programme is investing over £625m in skills research, and knowledge transfer. This includes £543m for research grants and £82m for doctoral training.

• E  lectricity policy research is helping to develop market instruments and regulatory mechanisms. • M  ajor international links have been forged to address global energy challenges, for example with China on renewable energy systems and cleaner use of fossil fuels.

Impact on UK skills The RCUK Energy Programme is generating the skilled researchers and business leaders required to drive the transition to a low carbon future. • W  e support more than 900 PhD students working on energy research. • H  alf of our PhD graduates enter either business or the public sector within a year of graduating.

• 1  3 specialist centres are providing doctoral and industrial training in energy systems, low carbon technology, nuclear, renewables and demand reduction.

Working in partnership The RCUK Energy Programme works closely with more than 500 public and private sector organisations and presently has 1,100 active collaborative projects. Major partnerships include: • £  14m total joint funding with E.ON, to develop low carbon energy solutions, and with EDF, to reduce energy demand in buildings. • W  orking with the MoD, EDF, AWE and the National Nuclear Laboratory to sustain critical nuclear research and training capability. • E  PSRC is the largest public funder of the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) – a public-private partnership involving BP, Caterpillar, EDF, E.ON, Shell and Rolls-Royce, providing up to £1bn to accelerate the deployment of new energy technologies. • W  orking with the Living With Environmental Change Programme to ensure a whole systems response to climate change.


SECURING ENERGY SUPPLY Fund world-class, speculative research to define future energy supply options, including nuclear fusion, hydrogen and renewables.


LOW CARBON INNOVATION Work with ETI, the Technology Strategy Board and the Department for Energy and Climate Change, through the Low Carbon Innovation Group, to ensure deployment of alternative energy technologies is informed by physical, economic, social and natural sciences research.


ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING Enhance understanding of the social, environmental and economic implications of future energy options, such as the sustainability of carbon capture and storage (CCS).


REDUCE ENERGY CONSUMPTION Help to reduce energy consumption and demand through the development of behavioural, governance, market and technological advances informed by a whole system understanding.





Build capacity of skilled people to deliver new energy futures through training and development of new researchers, policymakers and business leaders. Continue to build and sustain international links with key countries.

CASE STUDIES AWARD-WINNING ENERGY STORAGE An innovative energy storage project co-developed by Energy Programmesupported researchers at the University of Leeds won the Grand Prix award at The Engineer magazine’s 2011 Technology and Innovation Awards. Working with project partner, Highview Power Storage, the Leeds team co-designed a novel cryogenic energy storage system that stores off-peak energy, using liquefied air as the storage medium. During peak demand, the system heats the cryogen using environmental heat, which is free. A pilot facility near Slough has been providing electricity to the National Grid since April 2010. A complementary international research project has worked on domestic applications for the technology, such as heating, power, refrigeration and air-conditioning.

SOLAR PANEL BREAKTHROUGH Energy Programme-sponsored scientists from the Universities of Sheffield and Cambridge have made an advance in renewable energy which promises a revolution in the ease and cost of using solar cells. The study shows efficient solar cell structures can be made from the simplest of materials, such as plastic. Flexible layers of a polymer are deposited over a large surface – like varnishing a tabletop – in a way that maximises the efficiency of the resulting solar cell. These films could be used to make cost-effective, light and easily transportable plastic solar cell devices such as solar panels.

“Climate change is the greatest threat to our common future... A lot of progress has been made, but we must now go further, faster and turn targets into real change.” Chris Huhne, UK secretary of state for energy & climate change, may 2010

£6.5 MILLION RENEWABLE ENERGY TRAINING CENTRE The RCUK Energy Programme and the Energy Technologies Institute are investing £6.5 million in a renewable energy training programme that sees universities and industry provide training for the best engineering students as part of a new Industrial Doctorate Centre in Offshore Renewable Energy. Working at the heart of industry, with global leaders like EDF Energy, Shell and Rolls-Royce, the students will be trained in the most innovative future technologies – from designing costefficient wind turbine blades to testing the latest wave energy technology. The engineering students will also receive training in business and entrepreneurship alongside their research and technical skills. Training will be delivered through Edinburgh, Strathclyde and Exeter universities, together with the Scottish Association for Marine Science and the consultancy firm, HR Wallingford.

CARBON CALCULATOR WINS MAJOR AWARD A carbon calculator software tool developed by Energy Programmesponsored chemical engineers at the University of Manchester has won major awards from the chemical industry, including the Outstanding Achievement in Chemical and Process Engineering prize at the IChemE 2010 awards. The project was also deemed the best entry across all categories at the Chemical Industries Association awards. The CCaLC carbon calculator helps companies measure and reduce their carbon footprint at minimum cost and has been developed in collaboration with a range of industry partners.

“We have got to deal with increased demand for energy, food and water, and we’ve got to do that while mitigating and adapting to climate change. And we have but 21 years to do it.” PROFESSOR JOHN BEDDINGTON, UK CHIEF SCIENTIST, MARCH 2009



Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council







Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

engineering and Physical Sciences research council

PIONEERING A DIGITAL FUTURE Research Councils UK Digital Economy Programme


tion s August 2010

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council



Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

mAnUfACTUring ThE fUTUrE Economic growth made in Britain

DELIVERING WITH BUSINESS Harnessing world-class knowledge for growth and prosperity

The Research Councils UK Energy Programme is led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). It brings together the work of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

Issue 2

Pionerring a Low Carbon Future - Research Councils UK Energy Programme 2012  

The Research Councils UK (RCUK) Energy Programme, led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), is investing more t...

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