The Centre was established following a recommendation made by the Chief Scientific Advisor’s Energy Research Review Group’s 2002 report.
Broadly, the report recommended setting up a new Energy Research Centre to:
- Bring together Government, industry and academia
- Be a networking centre to co-ordinate UK research, facilitate industry collaboration and promote UK participation in international projects
- Be a centre of excellence in its own right
- Help maximise returns from research investment and leverage private sector funds
Funding for the Centre was allocated in the 2002 Spending Review.
In 2003/2004, under the Towards a Sustainable Economy (TSEC) programme, the UK Research Councils invited bids to run the Centre. Submissions were received from three consortia of academic institutions lead by Imperial College London, the Kelvin Consortium (comprising several institutions including Manchester University), the Science and Technology Facilities Council (at the time known as CCLRC), the New and Renewable Energy Centre and the University of Oxford.
On the advice of its Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC), the Research Councils decided to bring the strengths of each of the bids together and asked Professor Jim Skea to work with members of the three consortia, and other participants, to forge a research programme to fulfil the vision for the Centre.
The Research Councils accepted the new proposal and activities started in October 2004. Professor Jim Skea assumed the role of Research Director in July 2004; John Loughhead was appointed as Executive Director in November 2004.
In early 2009, UKERC was invited by the Research Council's Energy Programme to submit a proposal for a further five years work. The proposal was accepted and UKERC Phase II began on 30 April 2009.
The UKERC Research Programme changed significantly in terms of partners and objectives and also a new Research Fund has been established.
Popular UKERC activities such as the Research Atlas, the Meeting Place and the National Energy Research Network all continue in UKERC Phase II.
UKERC Phase III commenced in 2014 and runs until 2019.
What has UKERC research taught us?
Since 2004, UKERC researchers have been building the evidence base and sharing knowledge, helping us to better understand and meet the myriad energy challenges that face us and
So what has UKERC research taught us about:
We need to decarbonise our electricity system by at least 80% by 2030 to meet our greenhouse gas emission reduction target for 2050 cost effectively
Contact Professor Paul Ekins
The size of the global shale gas resource
The global technically recoverable resource of shale gas may be in the region of 200 trillion cubic metres (Tcm), with an additional 70 Tcm from tight gas and coal bed methane. For comparison, the global technically recoverable resource of conventional gas is estimated at 425 Tcm of which around 190 Tcm are currently classified as proved reserves.
Gas as a bridge fuel to a low carbon future
Gas has potential to act as a bridging fuel to a low carbon economy, but its potential varies in different world regions. However, this is dependent on gas use beginning to fall in the late 2020s and early 2030s, with any major use beyond 2035 requiring the widespread use of CCS.
UK shale potential
UKERC researchers have developed a set of ten conditions under which it might be possible to develop an environmentally friendly UK shale industry
Unburnable fossil fuels
Globally, a third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and over 80 per cent of current coal reserves should remain unused from 2010 to 2050 in order to meet the target of 2 °C.
A fifth of the world’s energy could be provided by biomass, without damaging food production.
Contact Rob Gross
Consumption based emissions
UKERC research has contributed to a growing body of evidence that supports the use of consumption-based emissions accounting. UKERC researchers have developed EE-MRIO model, which has become the norm in consumption-based GHG accounting, and provide a means for taking into account emissions associated with international trade.
Consumption-based accounting using EE-MRIO analysis has already influenced UK policy, including Defra's choice of product roadmaps included within its Sustainable Consumption and Production policy (Wiedmann and Barrett, 2013) and Defra's publication of annual consumption-based emissions accounts, generated by UKERC researchers at the University of Leeds.
Contact John Barrett
Well established programmes such as minimum energy efficiency standards for buildings, incentives to encourage consumers to buy more energy efficient appliances, and investment and refurbishment programmes can deliver savings in the region of 10% of total household energy use.
Offshore wind costs
In 2010, UKERC researchers used sensitivity analysis to develop a range of plausible developments in key cost factors for offshore wind in the period to 2025. They predicted that a gradual fall in the cost of offshore wind was a reasonable possibility over the period to 2025, with a ‘best guess’ figure for the mid 2020s of a fall of around 20% to just over £115/MWh, with continued falls thereafter.
The impact of offshore windfarms on marine life
UKERC research has contributed greatly to the evidence base around the impact of offshore wind farms on marine life.
Thanks to UKERC reserch, we now know much more about the impact of renewable energy structures on marine species. For example, UKERC-funded academics conducted a systematic review of empirical studies on the effects of offshore wind farms on the abundance of marine fauna and the catches and incomes of fishing activities. They found that crustaceans such as shrimp and brown crab and reef-associated fish species showed the largest increases in abundance, whereas species such as flat fish tended to decrease in number or remain the same.
Public attitudes to energy system transformation
UKERC research revealed for the first time the underlying values that influence public attitudes to energy system change.
These include principles in relation to efficiency and the avoidance of waste, the protection of the environment and nature, ensuring social justice and fairness, and being open and transparent.
The research also revealed that:
- 79% of people believe the UK should reduce its use of fossil fuels
- 74% of people are very or fairly concerned about climate change
- 73% of people think Britain should reduce the amount of energy it uses
- 81% of people want to reduce their energy use
- 42% of people are willing to use electric heating systems. This would rise to 61% if they were able to match the performance of current systems, and 85% if they were cheaper
- 53% of people would use an electric vehicle. 75% if the performance was the same as a conventional car
- 22% of people are unwilling to share their smart meter data with their electricity supplier. Bu8t 71% are
- 54% of people would oppose a new nuclear power station in their area, compared to 21% who would oppose a new wind farm
- 42% of people have never heard of CCS
- 66% of people are willing to accept some nuclear power as long as we also focus on increasing renewable energy sources
- 32% of people think existing nuclear power stations should not be replaced
- 26% favour replacing nuclear power stations rather than expanding them
Contact Nick PidgeonFor a full and searchable list of all UKERC publications, please visit our Publications page.