in association with

Richard Knight, director for strategy and technology, the Power Network Demonstration Centre Innovation, Network Excellence, Strategy & management, Opinion

Richard Knight, director for strategy and technology at the Power Network Demonstration Centre (PNDC), part of the University of Strathclyde, unpacks the requirement to de-risk and validate new systems and technologies to facilitate whole energy systems.

The recent implementation of “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions targets by the UK and Scottish governments has significantly increased the urgency to develop, prove and deploy very low carbon solutions, and has changed the way that industry is having to think about developing solutions for the future. Innovation has a huge role to play in realising this future.

The evolving external landscape and changing innovation needs

It is clear that the decarbonisation challenge is focusing attention on sectors that to date have made limited progress along the emissions reduction pathway, most notably the heat and transport sectors. In terms of the external landscape and broader innovation needs:

  • Significant near-term innovation opportunities remain in the electrical power networks space, but opportunities associated with the decarbonisation of the heat and transport sectors are growing significantly.
  • There is growing interest in whole-system thinking, and now wide acceptance of the need for increase co-ordination and interaction between different parts of the energy system (eg electricity, heat transport, infrastructure).
  • Maintaining whole-system security and flexibility will become increasingly challenging as the energy system progresses towards a very low carbon/net zero emissions future.
  • Digitisation, and the management and processing of increasing amounts of data, will be critical to the realisation of a future low/zero carbon energy system.
  • Engagement of consumers will be critical to the successful roll-out of low carbon heating and transport solutions in particular.

Significant, and perhaps the majority of, future growth in innovation activity is likely to reside in the heat, transport and whole energy system sectors, and associated areas such as data analytics, science and learning.

The PNDC is at the forefront of delivering research and facilitating the acceleration of innovation to address future increasing demand in the whole energy systems space.

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