National Energy Research Network


NERN Newsletter

Welcome to the National Energy Research Network newsletter, which is published weekly and aims to provide relevant information to energy researchers. Extra content is always welcome - if you would like something added please contact the editor, Dr Mike Weston. You can view previous NERN newsletters in the archive.

Newsletter 302 - 24/10/14

UKERC Twitter feed

Interesting developments


Jobs and opportunities


Events and Conferences

NERN blog

UKERC Twitter feed

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Interesting developments

Wild weather

Published At: Fri 24 October 2014 09:00 BST - Expires At: Sat 24 October 2015 13:20 BST - (3 Reads)

September was the warmest month globally since records began in 1880, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Wednesday

Meanwhile, National Grid indicated UK wind generation exceeded nuclear output on Tuesday due to strong winds and intermittent supply from nuclear plants.

‘For a 24-hour period…spinning blades produced more energy than splitting atoms,’ the BBC reported.


Stone the goats

Published At: Fri 24 October 2014 09:00 BST - Expires At: Sat 24 October 2015 13:12 BST - (2 Reads)

Cannabis - Marijuana, legal or otherwise, requires a lot of power to produce. And in America's Pacific Northwest, utilities are now facing the complicated task of efficiently meeting that demand while navigating a set of opposing laws, writes Robert Walton in UtlityDive.

Just how much power the marijuana industry uses is tough to judge, and estimating future demand is even trickier. The recreational market is just getting started in Washington, where legal sales began this summer. Since July 8, the state is reporting just shy of $24 million in sales—and the pace seems to be accelerating. Sales in July averaged about $146,450 per day and so far in October have reached almost $400,000 each day.

A report by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council (NPCC) estimated marijuana operations could grow the state's electricity demand between 60 MW and 160 MW over the next 20 years. Regional demand—from producers in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington—could reach almost 250 MW by 2035, the report found.

Legal pot production was identified as one of three major categories of load growth in the region, alongside data centers and electric vehicles.

All that raises the question of efficiency. With demand reduction and emissions goals taking on such importance, one would think utilities would focus on serving a new demand sector as efficiently as possible. But it's not that simple.

The uneasy legal status of pot means utilities are wary of offering efficiency programs that could help curb demand.

Wild mountain goats in the Italian Alps have become significantly smaller over the past few decades in response to a warming climate, Brian Clark Howard writes in National Geographic.

Although global warming is known to be driving changes in body size in a number of animals, this result was more dramatic than researchers expected and suggests that a changing climate may have significant impacts on natural systems in the near term, in ways that are only beginning to be understood.

Young Alpine chamois mountain goats (Rupicapra rupicapra) now weigh about 25 percent less than animals of the same age did 30 years ago, scientists at Durham University in the U.K. reported in the journal Frontiers in Zoology.

At the same time, temperatures where the goats live have risen by 3° to 4° Celsius.

The scientists think that the goats are avoiding overheating in a warmer world by spending more time resting and less time foraging. That has reduced their body weight—which may be further reinforcing their ability to withstand the heat. In a given species, smaller animals shed heat faster than larger ones because they have more surface area relative to their body mass.

A factor unrelated to climate change may also be contributing to the size decline, however. The goats' population density has been rising, possibly due to greater restrictions on hunting. That may have increased competition for prime grazing spots, which may have helped keep their weights down.


Solar out

Published At: Fri 24 October 2014 09:00 BST - Expires At: Sat 24 October 2015 13:11 BST - (3 Reads)

Solar panels on farmland will no longer be eligible for Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced this week.

“Solar panels are best placed on the 250,000 hectares of south facing commercial rooftops where they will not compromise the success of our agricultural industry,” Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said in a press release.

Defra said they want more agricultural land dedicated to growing crops and food and indicated the measure ‘will also save up to £2 million of taxpayers’ money each year that won’t be available for these subsidies.’

‘The changes the government is making are expected to slow down the growth of solar farms in the countryside in England. There are currently 250 installed, with the biggest covering as much as 100 hectares. Under previous plans, the number of fields dedicated to solar farms was set to increase rapidly, with over 1,000 ground-based solar farms expected by the end of the decade across the UK. These changes should help to halt this expansion as it will now become less financially attractive for farmers to install the solar panels.’

It was unclear from the ministerial remarks if the change applies to the whole of the UK, or just England.


Green Gulf

Published At: Fri 24 October 2014 09:00 BST - Expires At: Sat 24 October 2015 13:08 BST - (6 Reads)

The Arab Gulf’s petrochemical industry is investing in clean energy with ‘stop-watch speed’, according to official Chinese news agency Xinhua in a report syndicated in China’s English language press.

Citing a sustainability analysis from the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association and consultancy firm AT Kearney, Xinhua said that ‘81 percent of petrochemical company executives in the Gulf Cooperation Council aim to reduce costs through newly implemented environmental measures, while 71 percent see it as a tool to improve the risk management.'

Xinhua quoted Dr Ahmed Al-Hazmi, general manager, environmental affairs, at Saudi Arabia's Sabic – 'the world's biggest producer of petrochemicals' – who said that 'sharing knowledge in green technology was going very well with global oil firms such as Royal Dutch Shell or Exxon Mobil.’

The Gulf’s massive extraction of oil has led to rapid development of a petrochemical industry over the last thirty years with the Gulf States contributing 11% of global petrochemical-capacity growth over the past ten years. The region is now a leading global producer and supplier to world markets of ethylene and derivatives and methanol, according to a recent report by McKinsey.

Gas flows from oil production have been diverted from flares as a low-priced feed-stock. However, McKinsey said that the region will move from gas surplus to gas shortage around 2015.’The expectation is that there will simply not be enough gas available to sustain further petrochemical expansion across the region beyond 2015.’

Another issue is a lack of chemical engineers. 'Saudi Arabia is currently expected to train at most around 3,000 chemical engineers in the next seven years, while Germany will train around 10,000. This is mismatched with Saudi Arabia’s ambition to build around 15 million tons of new capacity, while Germany expects to build 1.5 million tons over the same time period.'


Invitation to UKERC Events

Published At: Fri 24 October 2014 09:00 BST - Expires At: Wed 12 November 2014 23:59 GMT - (3 Reads)

Green Jobs, 5 November - Do green sectors actually create jobs? UKERC's report and launch event will controversially ask if policy-driven expansion of specific green sectors actually creates jobs, particularly when the policies in question require subsidies that are paid for through bills or taxes.

Gas by Design, 12 November - Gas by Design: A Strategy for Delivering Secure and Sustainable Energy. As we move into winter and higher gas demand, UKERC's second report and launch event intends to spark debate on the key threats to UK gas security.


Indigenous energy

Published At: Fri 24 October 2014 09:00 BST - Expires At: Sat 24 October 2015 12:58 BST - (6 Reads)

Maroš Šefčovič, the new Commissioner  for the EU’s Energy Union, named research and innovation among his priorities in a hearing on Monday, but returned repeatedly to the need to exploit ‘indigenous’ resources.

“The wind is ours; solar energy is ours; we can lock it into our grid and we are not dependent on foreign sources of energy where such a principal player is Russia,” he told the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy in Strasbourg.

Šefčovič name-checked the NER400 Fund that will support research on carbon capture and storage in Poland, and studies on the Aphrodite gas field, biofuels, and renewables, but gave no details.

“Further investment in research and innovation is crucial, in particular because the European Union needs to step up its efforts to bring new, high performance, low-cost, low-carbon energy technologies to the market,” he said.

Šefčovič is a 48-year old Slovak diplomat with degrees in economics, law and international relations. He will take up his post next month.



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This week's reports

Published At: Fri 24 October 2014 09:00 BST - Expires At: Sat 24 October 2015 13:56 BST - (4 Reads)

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Jobs and opportunities

Academic Research Fellow in Earth and Environmental Science or Environmental Social Science, University of Leeds

Published At: Fri 24 October 2014 09:00 BST - Expires At: Fri 19 December 2014 23:59 GMT - (3 Reads)

The School of Earth and Environment seeks to appoint an Academic Research Fellow to strengthen its world-leading research profile across the Earth and Environmental Sciences. An Academic Research Fellowship provides the opportunity for a researcher with outstanding potential to establish an independent academic career and will include a core student education role throughout the Fellowship. These posts are available for a period of five years with the expectation of progressing to an established academic post subject to meeting probationary targets.

You will have an excellent research track record in any area of Earth and Environmental Science or Environmental Social Science together with the vision and drive to develop a prestigious research portfolio. Working collaboratively across a number of disciplines, you will make a significant impact on the performance, stature and profile of research at Leeds. We will support the fellow in fostering new interdisciplinary collaborations within the school and across the university, for example through major university initiatives on water, food security and energy research.

For more information please go here. The closing date is 19 December 2014.


Endowed Professorship in Industrial Energy Systems, Vienna University of Technology

Published At: Fri 24 October 2014 09:00 BST - Expires At: Mon 17 November 2014 23:59 GMT - (2 Reads)

Applicants are expected to have recognised scientific expertise and several years’ postdoc experience in the field of applied thermodynamics and energy process engineering as well as the simulation, optimisation and control of industrial energy processes.

Candidates should have (obvious or proven) management skills as well as sound expertise and experience in the following fields:

  • Simulation of complex industrial energy and production systems
  • Operational and control optimisation of industrial energy systems and processes
  • Development of simulation algorithms and optimisation strategiesCo-simulation

The Vienna University of Technology is seeking to increase the proportion of female staff, especially in management and research positions, and therefore specifically invites applications from qualified women. If a female applicant is equally qualified as the best qualified male applicant she will receive preferential consideration unless other reasons in favour of the male applicant prevail.

The University offers a 5-year employment contract starting on 1 December 2015.

For more information please go here. The closing date is 17 November 2014.



Energy Development Manager, University of Birmingham

Published At: Fri 24 October 2014 09:00 BST - Expires At: Thu 13 November 2014 23:59 GMT - (5 Reads)

This position is to support the research and policy activities of the recently established Birmingham Energy Institute (BEI).

The BEI is ambitious to grow both the scale of its current research activities and to develop new areas of research aligned with national energy challenges.

The Energy Development Manager will provide proactive managerial and administrative support for the development of energy related research, collaboration, publicity and marketing associated with the Birmingham Energy Institute. The post holder will be responsible for helping identify new research application opportunities, proactively develop and maintain links to business and industry, internal and external networking, management of the publicity of BEI and assist in develop policy activities associated with the institute.

The position is for an initial 1 year appointment, with possible longer term extension.

For more information please go here. The closing date is 13 November 2014.


Technical Development Associate in Energy Harvesting (KTP Associate), University of Hertfordshire

Published At: Fri 24 October 2014 09:00 BST - Expires At: Sun 09 November 2014 23:59 GMT - (4 Reads)

This 30 month fixed-term Partnership between the University of Hertfordshire and Altro Limited offers a unique opportunity for a doctoral level candidate to develop a new capability and expertise in smart flooring.

You will hold a PhD or equivalent qualification in a related Engineering discipline with relevant work/research experience in energy harvesting technologies and Finite Element Analysis (FEA)/Mathematical modelling. You will be required to have knowledge of Piezoelectric Sensors, mechanical systems development and the manufacturing processes industry. Use of analysis software such as ANSYS and CATIA would be a distinct advantage.

As a KTP Associate you will be employed by the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield but will be based at the company premises located in Letchworth Garden City.

For more information please go here. The closing date is 9 November 2014.



Visit the jobs webpage for more opportunities and as ever if you know of any jobs, please let me know.

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Energy Catalyst Round 2

Published At: Fri 24 October 2014 09:00 BST - Expires At: Wed 22 April 2015 23:59 BST - (2 Reads)

The second Round of the Energy Catalyst opens on 6 November 2014.

Up to £14m is available to support innovative technologies that can address all elements of the ‘energy trilemma’:

  • Reducing cost
  • Reducing emissions
  • Enhancing security of energy supply

To register for the briefing webinar on 10 November 2014, please go here.



Heat Networks Demonstrator Small Business Research Initiative Competition

Published At: Fri 24 October 2014 09:00 BST - Expires At: Fri 28 November 2014 23:59 GMT - (2 Reads)

The Heat Networks Demonstration Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition aims to stimulate innovation that will help address cost and performance efficiency challenges related to heat networks.

Key objectives of this scheme are to:

  • Support the deployment of low carbon heat networks out to 2050.
  • Demonstrate the successful integration of innovative technologies and techniques on heat networks.
  • Provide real world evidence on reducing costs and improving energy efficiencies.
  • Improve the customer experience of heat networks.
  • Increase DECC's understanding of heat network innovators and the heat network technology supply chain.

For more information please go here. The closing date is the 28 November 2014.



Masters bursary awards for research into the causes and impacts of fuel poverty

Published At: Fri 24 October 2014 09:00 BST - Expires At: Mon 02 February 2015 23:59 GMT - (1 Reads)

Eaga Charitable Trust supports research into the causes and impacts of fuel poverty, and solutions to the problem.

The Trustees of Eaga Charitable Trust encourage Masters students to write dissertations relating to fuel poverty issues. This is in response to recognition that the pool of academic researchers with an interest in fuel poverty is shrinking as a result of retirement and the fact that younger researchers do not seem to be attracted to the area.

Bursaries are available to UK and EU MSc/MA students who are proposing to write a dissertation on a topic linked to fuel poverty within the UK or other EU countries.

The choice of topic within this broad area is left to the student. However, preference may be given to topics that link to the Trust’s current areas of focus. These can be found at http://www.eagacharitabletrust.org/grants-offered.(external link)

Trustees will award a maximum of 5 bursaries of £1,000 each in any given academic year. Institutions are invited to propose one or more potential recipients of these bursaries via application to the Trust Manager.

For more information please go here. The closing date is 2 February 2015.


Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship

Published At: Fri 24 October 2014 09:00 BST - Expires At: Mon 12 January 2015 23:59 GMT - (3 Reads)

This scheme is for outstanding scientists in the UK at an early stage of their research career who require a flexible working pattern due to personal circumstances such as parenting or caring responsibilities or health issues.  Female candidates are particularly invited to apply.

This scheme offers holders the opportunity to:

  • Hold appointments on a part-time basis or convert from full-time to part-time and back again to help match work and other commitments, such as parental or caring responsibilities etc.
  • Claim back time spent deferring the fellowship and/or working part-time at the end of the fellowship.
  • Caim some funds for family support where these can be justified on scientific grounds, e.g. the cost of child care during a conference or collaborative visit abroad (those funds can be applied for during the Fellowship).

For more information please go here. The closing date is 12 January 2015.



Transformative Research Call

Published At: Fri 24 October 2014 09:00 BST - Expires At: Thu 19 February 2015 23:59 GMT - (3 Reads)

We are pleased to announce the call for the third round of the ESRC Transformative Research Call. The aim of this call is to provide a stimulus for genuinely transformative research ideas at the frontiers of the social sciences, enabling research which challenges current thinking to be supported and developed.

We regard transformative research as that which involves, for example, pioneering theoretical and methodological innovation. The expectation is that the transformative research call will encourage novel developments of social science enquiry, and support research activity that entails an element of risk.

Successful applicants will receive a grant of up to £250,000 (at 100 per cent full economic cost (fEC)). ESRC will meet 80 per cent of the full economic costs on proposals submitted.

As in previous rounds, the number of proposals a Research Organisation can submit will be limited. Only two applications can be accepted from each eligible Research Organisation. Proposals should be pre-selected by the Research Organisation and will need to be submitted to the ESRC on 19 February 2015.

For more information please go here. The closing date is 19 February 2015.



Visit the funding webpage for more opportunities and if you hear of any funding opportunities, please let me know.

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Events and Conferences

Sharing, Reusing, Recycling: the Web in the Circular Economy

Published At: Fri 24 October 2014 23:00 BST - Expires At: Mon 27 October 2014 23:59 GMT - (1 Reads)

27 October 2014, London



Renewable Energy Activism - From grassroots movements to green politics and corporate environmentalism

Published At: Fri 24 October 2014 09:00 BST - Expires At: Tue 04 November 2014 23:59 GMT - (1 Reads)

4 November 2014, Essex Sustainability Institute



RenewableUK Annual Conference and Exhibition

Published At: Fri 24 October 2014 09:00 BST - Expires At: Thu 13 November 2014 23:59 GMT - (2 Reads)

11-13 November 2014, Manchester



Professor Michael Grubb on Planetary Economics: macroeconomics and international implications

Published At: Fri 24 October 2014 09:00 BST - Expires At: Fri 06 November 2015 23:00 GMT - (1 Reads)

6 November 2014, London



Professor Stephen Chu on Our Energy and Climate Change Challenges and solutions

Published At: Fri 24 October 2014 09:00 BST - Expires At: Wed 11 November 2015 23:59 GMT - (1 Reads)

11 November 2014, Oxford



Visit the events webpage for more opportunities and if you would like to advertise an event please let me know.

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When was the last time any of us got into a conversation with our next door neighbour about energy?

I for one am rather reticent about giving details of my job in energy research, and tend to talk about other topics that neighbours have in common – whether the Council have missed emptying the wheelie bins, or what ridiculous price the house down the street sold for.

But an event I attended last night got me thinking about the importance of neighbourly conversations.

Speaking at WonkComms – a forum for researchers who want to engage with policy – the BBC’s Branwen Jeffreys predicted that many of the 2015 election’s key conversations would be on the doorstep (and not, presumably, on social media or in the world of TV debates).

Put another way – as a research community interested in evidence-based arguments, we needed to get off Twitter, and think about how our interests could be relevant to the voter edging open their front door.

This is part of what the Americans call ‘ground-game’ and politicians are always keen to talk about it knowingly. Liam Byrne, who is the shadow science spokesperson, has said all anyone wants to talk about in his Birmingham constituency is whether they will be able to get a job.

I am starting to wonder what tactics the various political parties will drum into their canvassers for the 2015 election. The fact is that when a political canvasser rings the bell, I usually close the door on them pretty quickly, although now I might give them longer.

But what about a deeper excavation of the energy issues?

A ‘home energy door canvasser’ who sells solar panels, insulation, and other items backed by government grants is of course a recognised job. I’m guessing such a person would be best advised to take the cutting energy bills tack rather than the green tack.

Fuel poverty seems a good place to start in a lot of ways, at least in my neighbourhood. But even here, the issues get complex.

An interesting study published last year by Stefan Bouzarovski, Saska Petrova, Matthew Kitching and Josh Baldwick looked at how students living in squalid rented property thought about their energy use.

Objective analysis implied that the students were living in fuel poverty. Yet the students themselves didn’t think of their predicament in those terms, assuming, I guess, that they were aspirant members of the middle class, rather than individuals trapped in cold, damp, and often unheated houses due to lack of cash.

Which returns me to the question: how can we start a conversation about energy on the doorstep?

Drop me a line about your successes and failures. We ought to be sharing best practice around this very particular kind of public engagement.

If we, as energy researchers, don’t talk about energy seriously in our everyday conversations, who is going to?

William Burns, UKERC Academic Engagement Manager, william.burns at ukerc.ac.uk


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