Home » Scottish digital twin project wins funding to inform future of UK energy

Scottish digital twin project wins funding to inform future of UK energy

by Liam Turner
An electricity pylon

A Scotland-based research project has received £10m in industry and government funding to create a ‘digital twin’ of future multi-vector energy networks.

The ‘Prosperity Partnership’ project, led by SP Energy Networks and the University of Strathclyde, will aim to assist the UK in hitting its net-zero objectives.

Achieving a successful net-zero-energy system involves integrating a variety of renewable energy sources, decarbonised loads, and non-electrical energy vectors – such as wind, solar, tidal – into an integrated system that is reliable, resilient, and affordable.

The project partners say digital twin technology will play a key role in designing and operating such future energy systems.

The ENSIGN: Energy System Digital Twin project is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s Prosperity Partnership Fund, with matched funding from SP Energy Networks and contributions from several other organisations.

Partners in the four-year project include the University of Glasgow, University of St Andrews and Heriot-Watt University; UK Power Networks; D’Arcy Thompson Simulator Centre; National Grid Electricity Transmission; and the National HVDC Centre.

The project is set to create more than 20 highly-skilled, academic research jobs and PhD positions.

Further, the partners say it will deliver new knowledge and understanding of future energy systems, and will integrate real-time modelling, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to help introduce and progress the application of digital twins closer to ‘business as usual’.

‘Very different’ energy system

Professor Campbell Booth, from the University of Strathclyde, said: “This partnership will create an Integrated Energy System-Digital Twin (IES-DT) to facilitate reliable, resilient, affordable, low-carbon, multi-vector energy systems of the future.

“The project will deliver understanding, knowledge, visibility, and applications that are urgently required to facilitate accurate and informed decision-making, risk management, and functions required for effective design and operation of future multi-vector energy systems.

“It will be used by future system operators to balance supply and demand in a very different future energy system context.”

As the first energy provider to receive this category of EPSRC funding, SP Energy Networks says it will focus on reducing costs, improving network resilience, and enhancing strategic planning.

The research findings from this project will be made available to distribution network operators and their supply chains across the UK and further afield.

James Yu, head of Innovation at SP Energy Networks, and the industry lead in the Partnership, said: “In our pursuit of becoming global leaders in the net-zero energy transition, teamwork plays a vital role.

“It is a privilege to have access to the academic expertise of the team, and the opportunity to collaborate and represent the industry.

“Together, we can work towards realising our ambitious goals.”

Scott Mathieson, Network Planning and Regulation director at SP Energy Networks, said: “The pace of change in the energy industry is like nothing we’ve ever seen so it’s vital we can stress-test tech and services before they launch publicly.

“This new ‘digital twin’ will allow us to simulate innovations and understand the potential benefits of new services.

“We’re partnering with some of the world’s most renowned universities to create this new model powered by AI and machine learning.

“It’s great that we can access the best research talent in our own community.

“The insights from this project will help to shape the future of the energy system in the UK and the energy grids of countries around the world.

“Having the support of the Prosperity Partnership enables us to deliver this industry-leading project to create a better future, quicker, for everyone.”

The ENSIGN: Energy System Digital Twin project is one of 19 projects that have received a total of £149m from EPSRC’s Prosperity Partnerships scheme.

Image credit: Lisa-S/Shutterstock

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