The University of Southampton

ECS at hub of UK power network research and teaching

Published: 2 January 2011

The Tony Davies High Voltage Laboratory at the University of Southampton will be playing a key role in the new £4.7M HubNet project which begins this week.

HubNet, which is funded by the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council), aims to develop the research agenda that will overcome the problems of improving efficiency and maintaining the reliability of the UK energy supply. In addition to funding from this important programme, the Tony Davies HV Lab has also secured funding from the National HE Stem Programme to develop resources for graduate skills development within the energy industry.

Professor Paul Lewin and Professor Steve Swingler will be leading the activity of the new Hub at Southampton, which also relates to ongoing research in the Tony Davies Lab, part of the School of Electronics and Computer Science. "We will be considering how new materials - such as nano-composite insulation and ceramic composites - can be used to design power equipment that is more efficient and compact," says Professor Lewin. "In addition, the management of transition assets will be considered: while a significant amount of new network equipment will need to be installed in the coming decades, this new construction is dwarfed by the existing asset base. It is thus essential to study how the life of existing equipment can be extended under what is likely to be far more extreme conditions."

The new research is taking place against the issues posed by the decarbonisation of the UK economy while at the same time maintaining the security and reliability of the energy supply. "This will require a profound transformation of the networks used to transport energy into and within the country," says Professor Lewin. "While the need is clear, the final shape of these networks is not, and getting there requires a considerable amount of research."

The creation of the “Hub” will catalyse and focus the research on energy networks in the UK. In particular, this Hub will provide research leadership through the publication of in-depth position papers written by leaders in the field and the organisation of workshops and other mechanisms for the exchange of ideas between researchers, industry and the public sector. It will also spur the development of innovative solutions by sponsoring speculative research in new areas.

Academics at Imperial College London and the Universities of Bristol, Cardiff, Manchester, Nottingham, Southampton, Strathclyde and Warwick are the contributing partners to HubNet. Other areas for consideration within the project include: The design of smart grids, in particular the application of communication technologies to the operation of electricity systems and the harnessing of the demand-side for the control and optimisation of the power system; the development of a mega-grid that will link the UK’s energy network to renewable energy sources situated off shore, across Europe and beyond; the development of new techniques to study the interaction between multiple energy vectors, and optimally coordinate the planning and operation of energy networks under uncertainty.

“The Tony Davies High Voltage Laboratory has an established international reputation for its research in the areas of new insulating materials and condition monitoring of high voltage plant”, says Professor Lewin. “It is very exciting that we will be making a significant contribution to the future directions of UK research in these areas, through our involvement with HubNet."

It is not just development of the new network and its effective operation that needs to be considered, but also the development of the next generation of Power Engineers who will design, implement, manage and maintain future networks. The HV Lab has a strong record and reputation for research-led teaching and this has been recognised in an award of £150K from the National HE STEM programme for graduate skills development of the energy industry.

This funding will provide electronic resources as work packages to graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) to develop the skill sets they require for a career in the energy industry. These work packages will also be made available through the Energy and Utilities Sector Skills Council National Skills Academy for Power to the current workforce as a means to up-skill recent graduates from a non-electrical engineering or non-STEM degree background.

“Working with members of the Tony Davis High Voltage Laboratory at the University of Southampton, we are planning a complete range of innovative electronic study resources using the latest technology to train the next generation of Power Engineers,” says Professor Averil Macdonald, Regional Director of the HE STEM Programme at the University of Southampton. “Through the HE STEM Programme we will make these resources freely available to all UK HEIs as well as to power industry professionals”.


If you are interested in doing a PhD in the Tony Davies High Voltage Laboratory, you will find more information on the ECS Postgraduate Opportunity pages.

For more information about this story contact Joyce Lewis; tel.+44(0)23 8059 5453.

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