Supergen programme announces net zero conference exploring the role of energy research ahead of COP26


Net Zero Conference, 1-3 September 2021, online

The role of energy research in the pathway to net zero

During the 21st United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP21) hosted in Paris during 2015, world leaders committed to keeping global temperature level rise well below 2C above pre-industrial levels, whilst pursuing strategies to limit warming to 1.5C. This year COP26 is being hosted by the UK, in partnership with Italy, providing the UK with an opportunity to deliver climate leadership on the global stage, following on from writing targets for net zero emissions into law in 2019.

The Supergen programme commands a large share of the UK Research and Innovation energy programme funding, covering different sectors such as solar, bioenergy, offshore renewables, hydrogen, energy networks and energy storage, and is well positioned to interact with stakeholders to provide comprehensive scientific information to support policymaking in the run up to COP26.

Ahead of COP26, the Supergen Hubs will be convening online at the Supergen Net Zero Conference during 1-3 September, exploring the role of energy research in the pathway to net zero. Over the course of the three days we will hear from the Supergen Hubs who will be showcasing their research, as well as holding cross-cutting panel discussions exploring topics such as equality, diversity and inclusion in energy research, international perspectives on Supergen work, our early career researcher activities, and outlining the policy implications of Supergen research for COP26.

Join us on 1-3 September to explore how our research is delivering net zero and hear our vision for the future of sustainable power.

Registration is free via Eventbrite.

If you have any queries or would like to get involved, please contact Dan Taylor, Supergen COP26 Engagement Manager via


The EPSRC Supergen Programme

The Supergen programme was set up in 2001 to deliver sustained and coordinated research on Sustainable PowER GENeration and supply, focusing on several key research areas, including bioenergy; energy networks; energy storage; fuel cells; hydrogen and other vectors; marine, wave and tidal; solar technology; and wind power.

Supergen ORE Hub

The Supergen ORE Hub is a £9 Million Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded project. Led by Prof. Deborah Greaves OBE, Head of School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics at the University of Plymouth, the Hub is a consortium of Universities researching Offshore Renewable Energy which also includes University of Aberdeen, University of Edinburgh, University of Exeter, University of Hull, University of Manchester, University of Oxford, University of Southampton, University of Strathclyde and University of Warwick.

The Supergen ORE Hub brings together and builds on the work of the former Wind and Marine Supergen Hubs following consultation with the research community. The new hub looks for synergies between wind, wave and tidal technologies as well as building on current research in each area.

Supergen Bioenergy Hub

The Supergen Bioenergy Hub works with academia, industry, government and societal stakeholders to develop sustainable bioenergy systems that support the UK’s transition to an affordable, resilient, low-carbon energy future. The Hub is funded jointly by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and is part of the wider Supergen Programme.

Supergen Energy Networks Hub

The Supergen Energy Networks Hub brings together the vibrant and diverse energy networks community to gain a deeper understanding of the interactions and inter-dependencies of energy networks. Led by Hub Director, Professor Phil Taylor from Bristol University, the Hub integrates a wide range of industrial and academic partners with other energy network stakeholders. The Hub’s research is carried out by a consortium of Universities: Newcastle, Bristol, Manchester, Cardiff, Bath and Leeds. The research addresses the challenges of technology, policy, data, markets and risk for energy networks.

Supergen Energy Storage Network+

The Supergen Energy Storage Network+ is an integrated, forward-looking platform that supports, nurtures the expertise of the energy storage community, disseminating it through academia, industry, and policy, at a particularly important time when decisions on future funding and research strategy are still being resolved. The Supergen Network+ has secured £1M in funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and has a core partnership of 19 investigators from 12 UK institutions, all focused on the wider advancement, exchange and dissemination of energy storage expertise. A further 100 organisations from the UK and abroad have pledged their support for the network. The Supergen Storage Network+ is led by Professor Yulong Ding (University of Birmingham). Dr Antzela Fivga manages the Supergen Network+, leading on project management and day-to-day operations.

Supergen SuperSolar Hub

The Supergen SuperSolar Hub started in May 2012 and has since successfully formed an inclusive solar community that links research carried out by universities and industry. Led by Loughborough University’s Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technology (CREST) the Hub comprises the Universities of Bath, Cambridge, Imperial College, Liverpool, Oxford, Sheffield and Southampton and the Solar Fuels Network. SuperSolar is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) RCUK energy programme. In 2018, the universities of Swansea and Warwick joined the core members.

H2FC Supergen

The Hydrogen and Fuel Cells (H2FC) Supergen Hub is funded by the Research Councils UK Energy Programme, as part of the government’s Sustainable Power Generation and Supply initiative. It was set up in 2012 to address the key challenges facing the hydrogen and fuel cell sector as it strives to provide cost competitive, low carbon technologies in a more secure UK energy landscape.

Existing and future technologies for retrofitting the UK housing stock – CREDS

This report was prepared by Philip Steadman at the UCL Energy Institute, as part of a project to advise Islington Council on getting their social housing stock to net zero by 2030. For this reason, there is some focus on London. The paper gives an account of existing carbon reduction and energy efficiency technologies, options to retrofit the existing housing stock, and the anticipated technologies expected to come to market over the next 10 years. It does not make specific recommendations, but discusses the pros and cons of available technologies in general terms.

1. Achieving net zero emissions from dwellings

‘Carbon net zero’ means that the total emissions of carbon added to the atmosphere are no greater than those removed. For the housing stock this will be achieved by the combination of two processes of change, the first in the energy supply system, the second in dwellings themselves. Energy supplies need to be decarbonised, by phasing out the direct burning of coal, oil and natural gas; phasing out electricity production from these fuels; and moving to the generation of electricity from wind, solar, nuclear and other low-carbon sources.

This task of decarbonisation energy supplies is moving fast. Wind power has grown from providing 2% of the UK’s electricity supply to 18% over the last ten years. On Easter Monday 2021 – in unusual circumstances – 60% of electricity used in the country was generated from wind and solar, and a further 16% from nuclear. The process is being propelled not just by climate change policy but by rapid continuing falls in the costs of wind turbines, photovoltaic panels and batteries. Meanwhile the gas supply network to buildings will be either phased out, or possibly converted to carrying hydrogen or other ‘green gases’ whose combustion releases no carbon. On present trends however, there is little prospect of the national UK energy supply system being fully decarbonised by 2030.

The future of national energy supplies will create the context for local decisions, for example by local authorities, and will affect the costs and benefits of different options for housing retrofits. Once a major shift is made towards electricity for delivering heat, alongside a transition to electric cars, there may be national or regional problems with the capacity of the electricity grid.

The second part of the route to carbon net zero in houses and flats is to ‘decarbonise heat’, either by converting heating systems to electricity or by moving from natural gas to ‘green gases’. Space heating and water heating are the largest end-uses of energy in housing, and at present these mostly burn gas.  Figure 1 shows greenhouse gas emissions in London by sector in 2017 (London Energy and Greenhouse Gas Inventory 2021). Over a third of total emissions (36%) come from the residential sector; and within dwellings, two-thirds of emissions come from natural gas. Then there are lighting, domestic appliances and other equipment using electricity.

Figure 1: Greenhouse gas emissions in London by sector. Data from LEGGI 2017, diagram redrawn from Carbon Trust 2020.

The decarbonisation of heat can be complemented and supported by reducing the overall energy demand of houses, in three ways. The first is to upgrade the fabric of dwellings by the insulation of roofs and walls, and by moving from single glazing to double or triple glazing, so reducing heat losses. The second is to use more efficient appliances, and control energy use better. The third is to generate energy from renewable sources locally at the dwelling or estate scale, for which the most promising technology in cities is photovoltaic (PV) installations on roofs. These measures in combination can lower the heat demand, and lower the demand for electricity for lighting and equipment.

Read the full article here.

How far off are we from viable long-duration energy storage?

Experts, technology providers and energy system stakeholders discuss how the need for long-duration energy storage can be met, in this panel discussion from the Energy Storage Summit USA hosted earlier this year by Solar Media.

Today, there are many applications that batteries and other energy storage technologies can provide that may require as little as a few minutes of high-power discharge to balance the grid and between one and four hours to help mitigate the peaks in electricity demand that put reliable energy supply under the most strain. As we go to higher shares of renewable energy on the world’s electricity grids, the need to store energy for longer periods of time will also grow.

Read the full article here.

New centre shows UKRI’s commitment to industrial decarbonisation

View of the smoking chimneys of a coal-fired power plant against the backdrop of a dramatic sky with clouds

UKRI is demonstrating its commitment to tackling carbon emissions from industrial clusters with the launch of a £20 million centre for research and innovation.

The Industrial Decarbonisation Research and Innovation Centre (IDRIC) is run by Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer of Heriot-Watt University, and supported by funding through UKRI’s industrial decarbonisation challenge.

The centre will work in line with the government’s plans for a green industrial revolution, and will be tasked with identifying and researching opportunities to reduce:

  • costs
  • risks
  • timescales
  • emissions.

It will do so across clusters of energy-intensive industries that currently make a significant contribution to UK emissions.

Connect and empower

IDRIC will connect and empower the UK industrial decarbonisation community with over 140 partners, including:

  • industry and business
  • government and regulatory agencies
  • world-leading academics.

They will work together to deliver an impactful innovation hub for industrial decarbonisation.

The centre will build and provide evidence from the activities of the industrial clusters to:

  • help address their challenges
  • shape more informed decisions on future decarbonisation options
  • support wider policy on the UK’s industrial decarbonisation mission as a whole.

It will also analyse any impact or need for broader institutional reforms for the sector that could help decarbonisation plans work more effectively to meet net-zero and economic targets.

Read the full article here.

COP26 Engagement – Supergen Energy Storage Network+

In the lead up to COP26, we will be hosting and being involved in a range of engagement and communication activities on the role of Energy Storage technologies in achieving a net-zero energy system.

Energy Storage towards a Net-Zero Future , 24 June 2021

An interactive workshop organised by ECRs for ECRs to share their research and identify storage related key messages for COP26. Webinar topics focus on the role of energy storage research and innovation in achieving a net-zero future.

Supergen Director Prof. Yulong Ding and the Climate change: science and solutions briefings series of the Royal Society

Ahead of the UN Climate Summit COP26 in Glasgow this year, the Royal Society sought wide-ranging input from the global scientific community to produce the Climate change: science and solutions briefings. These briefings highlight the significant potential that research, development and deployment in 12 critical areas hold for climate action. Prof. Yulong Ding was leading briefing 3 “Lowcarbon heating and cooling: what science and technology can do to tackle the world’s largest source of carbon emissions”. 

Supergen Energy Storage Network+ presence at the Climate Exp0, 17-21 May 2021

Climate Exp0 –the first conference organised by the COP26 Universities Network and the Italian University Network for Sustainable Development (RUS), working together to raise ambition for tangible outcomes from the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26). Our co-investigator Peter Bruce is charing the seccion on “Climate risk” on the 17th May at 9.30-10.30am. This session will explore climate risk in more detail including tipping points and systemic risk.

Glad to see our researcher Binjian Nie taking part in the ClimateExp0 conference, exploring solutions for a green recovery. “Experimental performance of a phase change material-based road/rail container for cold chain transportation“.

COP26 Universities Network: A growing group of over 55 UK-based universities and research centres working together to raise ambition for tangible outcomes from the UN COP26 Climate Change Conference [Glasgow, Nov 2021]. The Network will create lasting partnerships and legacies that reach beyond this single event.

Hydrogen Storage in Caverns, 12 April 2021

There is broad consensus that hydrogen will have a major role to play in the collective move towards Net Zero. One major element of that role is very likely to be the provision of flexibility over very long timescales – possibly in the order of a month or upwards. Achieving high penetrations of renewables will demand the re-introduction of flexibility that was previously provided at almost zero cost from fossil-fuelled generation. Some loads already use hydrogen directly. Others such as heavy goods transportation and steel production may possibly become major hydrogen consumers in the future. High capacity storage enables the supply to feed-in and loads to draw-out at greatly different times. Hydrogen storage may also enable the backup generation of electricity at times when renewable resources are low.

Carnot Batteries – “Academia meets Industry”, 28 & 29 January 2021

The 2050 net-zero carbon economy requires a much higher penetration of renewable sources (RES) into our energy system. This poses a significant challenge in shifting the provision of base-load energy generation to intermittent energy generation and thus energy network stability. This calls for highly flexible, low-cost and energy-and-resource-efficient energy storage technologies to balance the energy supply and demand mismatch. Among the storage technology options, the emerging Carnot Battery technology provides a potentially low-cost and site-independent solution for electricity storage at medium to large scale.

Supergen Decarbonising Maritime Workshop, 25 January 2021

On 25 January we came together with the Supergen Bioenergy and Offshore Renewable Energy Hubs to hold a Maritime Decarbonising Workshop, to explore the challenges and opportunities of ‘decarbonising’ maritime, ahead of the upcoming Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition. We were joined by the Department for Transport (DfT) and Maritime UK, as we worked together on how academia can support the maritime sector to achieve its decarbonisation targets.

About COP26

The UK will be hosting the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on 1 – 12 November 2021. The summit aims to bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The UK is committed to working with all countries and joining forces with civil society, companies and people on the frontline of climate change to inspire climate action ahead of COP26. More about COP26 here.

The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions by IEA

Minerals are essential components in many of today’s rapidly growing clean energy technologies – from wind turbines and electricity networks to electric vehicles. Demand for these minerals will grow quickly as clean energy transitions gather pace. This new World Energy Outlook Special Report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of the complex links between these minerals and the prospects for a secure, rapid transformation of the energy sector.

Alongside a wealth of detail on mineral demand prospects under different technology and policy assumptions, it examines whether today’s mineral investments can meet the needs of a swiftly changing energy sector. It considers the task ahead to promote responsible and sustainable development of mineral resources, and offers vital insights for policy makers, including six key IEA recommendations for a new, comprehensive approach to mineral security.

You can download the full report here.

Electric vehicles on world’s roads expected to increase to 145m by 2030 – Guardian

Under existing climate policies, electric vehicles could wipe out use of 2m barrels a day of diesel and petrol

An electric car is charged by a mobile charging station on a street in Prague, Czech Republic.
An electric car is charged at a mobile station in Prague, Czech Republic. Photograph: David W Černý/Reuters

The number of electric cars, vans, trucks and buses on the world’s roads is on course to increase from 11m vehicles to 145m by the end of the decade, which could wipe out demand for millions of barrels of oil every day.

A report by the International Energy Agency has found that there could be 230m electric vehicles worldwide by 2030 if governments agreed to encourage the production of enough low-carbon vehicles to stay within global climate targets.

The IEA’s first global report on electric vehicles has found that sales in the first quarter of 2021 were more than 2.5 times higher than in the same months last year, when the Covid-19 pandemic triggered a string of recessions across global economies.

Despite the economic slowdown, which caused the global car industry to shrink by 16% last year, a record 3m new electric cars were registered around the world last year, to bring the total to 10m electric cars. There are also approximately 1m electric vans, heavy trucks and buses.

Read the full article here.

The role of ‘longer-duration storage’ in the future of energy

Highview Power’s liquid air energy storage (LAES) is being deployed at a 50MW / 250MWh site, with a portion of the costs supported by the UK government. Image: Highview Power.

What are the best ways to match up long-duration energy storage technologies to applications and revenues? And what is ‘longer-duration’ storage and when will we need it? Florian Mayr and Dr Fabio Oldenburg at Apricum – The Cleantech Advisory offer some perspectives. This is a short extract of an article which originally appeared in Vol.26 of PV Tech Power, our quarterly journal and can be found in the Storage & Smart Power section contributed to each edition by the team at 

Between five and more than 1,000 hours of energy discharge – that’s what the term “long-duration energy storage” encompasses in the industry today. It’s a very broad definition that covers a wide array of storage technologies and use cases.

An increasing number of projects within this diverse space has been announced over the last few months. UK transmission system operator National Grid ordered a 50MW overground liquid air energy storage (LAES) system with a five-hour discharge duration from Highview Power that will be connected to the grid in 2022.

Read the full article here.

Global Energy Review 2021 by IEA

The Global Energy Review 2021 will provide insights on the evolution of energy demand by fuel and region, and their related CO2 emissions, in 2021. Building on IEA analysis of the impacts of the Covid-19 on global energy demand in 2020, the report analyses the potential pathway for energy demand over the course of 2021 and its implications for CO2 emissions. Drawing on the latest statistical data and economic forecasts for 2021, the Global Energy Review 2021 will explore the factors affecting demand for electricity, oil, natural gas, coal, renewables and nuclear power.

You can download the report here.

Podcast: The rise of long-duration energy storage and lessons on floating solar from Asia

Solar Media’s Liam Stoker, Andy Colthorpe and Jules Scully profile the continued rise of long-duration energy storage in this episode of the Solar Media Podcast, sponsored by Honeywell, with a definitive look at the technology, policy and use-cases driving interest in long-duration energy storage. More information is available here.

The podcast can be streamed below: