Flexibility and Resilience

“As more electricity is provided from renewable sources, there is a need for flexibility to balance supply and demand. Building energy systems are a source of flexibility but new technologies are needed to unlock this potential. Using modelling ,full-scale experiments and field trials, we are developing model predictive control schemes, capable of implementation on IOT devices, to enable buildings to collectively provide flexibility and sustained demand reductions. The work, funded through my EPSRC Innovation Fellowship and the LoLo CDT, has been presented at the IBPSA Building Simulation Conference, US National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and at the Energy Systems Catapult. If successful, savings of up to £40 billion to the electricity grid could be realised over the next 30 years.”

Power generation from renewable sources is essential if the UK is to decarbonise. However, the variability of solar and wind resources and the energy demanded by our buildings, places strain on the energy system. Energy storage and local generation, together with innovative and smart controls, enables real-time management of the interaction between supply and demand. Our research has examined ways of assuring the smooth delivery of affordable heat and power to our cities and communities.

  • An ability to predict the likely electricity loads of dwellings is central to the design of local supply, storage and generation systems. Advanced data analysis and a new primary data set has shown that previous models have underestimated in the between-month variations in electricity demand, load factor and peak load. The improved predictive ability will enhance the accuracy of our energy system models.
  • Local electricity demands can be smoothed by demand side management, for example, turning off the energy-hungry machines that heat and cool large buildings. But can occupant comfort be retained if heating or cooling is curtailed, and for how long? Complex modelling, verified by field measurement, is quantifying the inherent energy flexibility offered by buildings of different type. Aggregating the flexibility of many buildings  could avoid the need for expensive battery storage.
  • Heat pumps operating with green electricity are seen as one route to decarbonating home heating. However, the widespread deployment of heat pumps could place an massive and unmanageable additional load on the UK electricity supply system.  Research, using the largest available data set of monitored heat pump performance,  has shown that previous estimates overestimated the additional national electricity load. The supply-side costs of large-scale heat pump deployment may therefore be less than previously thought.

To explore a future in which the supply and demand for heat and power interact, we currently rely on measured energy demands, the performance characteristics of storage technologies and models. As new low-energy communities emerge our research will be strengthened by empirical data on the actual performance of these new energy systems.