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 305 - 21/11/14

UKERC Twitter feed

Interesting developments


Jobs and opportunities


Events and Conferences

NERN blog

UKERC Twitter feed

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Interesting developments

Film festival

Published At: Fri 21 November 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Sat 13 December 2014 23:59 GMT - (17 Reads)

Next month marks the Think Forward Film Festival. One aim of the festival, which runs from 12-13 December in Venice, is to study, discuss, and disseminate issues related to energy efficiency and renewable energy through both short and feature films.

The programme is yet to be announced, but the festival will feature films and documentaries as well as a selection of the best short films from a special competition. There will be side events such as meetings and discussions with directors and actors. Some activities will be aimed to inform both students and teachers on issues related to climate change and renewable energy sources in order to both increase awareness as well as to encourage discussions on these topics among young people.

The Think Forward Film Festival is backed by the Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei, an institution named after Enrico Mattei and the Italian state-owned energy firm, Eni, which Mattei led through the boom years after WWII. October marked the anniversary of Mattei’s 1962 death in an air crash – itself the subject of a feature film by director Francesco Rosi.


Free biomass

Published At: Fri 21 November 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Sat 21 November 2015 10:38 GMT - (17 Reads)

A UK firm is promising to install free biomass heating plant in schools.

AA Energy Solutions Limited specialise in providing clients with renewable heating solutions by installing biomass boiler heating systems. The firm claims these systems generate low carbon heat and save clients between 30-50% on current oil or LPG heating costs.

The company's business model is based on making money back over time from government incentive payments.

'Our supplier will receive payments under the Renewable Heat Incentive and we use these payments to cover the cost of installing the boiler (typically around £150,000) and the on-going servicing and maintenance,' the firm's website says.


Nexus webcast

Published At: Fri 21 November 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Sat 21 November 2015 10:36 GMT - (20 Reads)

The first Nexus Network Conference, which is being held next week on Thursday 27 November in London, will be webcast to accommodate unprecedented interest.

The conference, which will focus on the topic ‘What works at the nexus? New connections in food, energy, water and environment‘, will feature talks from Ian Boyd, the Defra Chief Scientific Adviser, and Jacqueline McGlade, Chief Scientist, United Nations Environment Programme.

Funded by the ESRC, the Nexus Network brings together researchers, policy makers, business leaders and civil society to develop collaborative projects and improve decision making on food, energy, water and the environment.


Nuclear opportunities

Published At: Fri 21 November 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Sat 21 November 2015 10:35 GMT - (18 Reads)

​Grounds work on a new Materials Research Facility (MRF) at Culham has started, which will equip the UK with an important new nuclear materials capability, the government announced.

The MRF is part of the National Nuclear User Facility – a £15 million Government-funded partnership to improve Britain’s experimental equipment for nuclear research.

Scientists from universities and industry will use state of the art equipment to examine tiny fragments of material (less than the thickness of a hair) used in fusion and fission machines. The data could be used to make nuclear power stations safer and help extend their operational life, as well as informing the design of the future generations of UK fission reactors. Materials analysis will also be a key activity for the design of prototype fusion power plants.


Blackpool illuminations

Published At: Fri 21 November 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Sat 21 November 2015 10:33 GMT - (17 Reads)

Blackpool and The Fylde College will serve as the UK hub for the National College for Onshore Oil and Gas.

The National College is being set up by representative body UK Onshore Operators Group (UKOOG) to meet the industry’s future skills needs and help the UK to become an international centre of excellence for onshore operations.

The news was announced by the Rt Hon Matthew Hancock MP, Minister of State for Business and Enterprise and Minister of State for Energy as he visited the college. The Minister also laid a foundation stone at the College’s Advanced Technology Centre, which will deliver core advanced engineering skills required for progression paths into the energy sector.

As the hub for the National College for Onshore Oil and Gas, the College will deliver a comprehensive range of advanced qualifications, up to and including honours degree programmes, and produce the highly skilled engineers and technicians of the future.

The College has been supported in its bid by a number of industry-leading organisations including Centrica Energy and Cuadrilla Resources.


Emergency app

Published At: Fri 21 November 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Sat 21 November 2015 10:32 GMT - (20 Reads)

The US Department of Energy launched a mobile app called Lantern Live that helps consumers quickly find and share critical information about nearby petrol stations and power outages during energy emergencies.

“The Energy Department is committed to the continued advancement of innovative technologies that will help our communities become more resilient and recover more quickly from emergencies,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

“Lantern Live has the potential to be a convenient tool for people during and after severe weather events.”


Malacca pirates

Published At: Fri 21 November 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Sat 21 November 2015 10:31 GMT - (16 Reads)

Euan Graham, a senior fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, notes a recent spate of fuel-syphoning attacks on tankers in the Straits of Malacca and South China Sea.

Most syphoning attacks occur at night, Graham writes, well outside Singapore’s port limits frequently in the less-policed waters north of Indonesia’s Bintan island. Small product tankers under 5,000 tons are boarded by small groups of lightly armed pirates and taken into the South China Sea; their names sometimes re-painted and communications equipment disabled en route to a rendezvous point with a second vessel. Once alongside, the fuel can be offloaded within hours.

Shipments of Marine Gas Oil (MGO) are targeted for several reasons, he adds. First, MGO sold illicitly is lucrative, fetching above US$500 per tonne. Second, loaded product tankers present inviting targets, being low, slow and easily trackable. Third, many attacks betray the hallmarks of pre-planned, syndicate involvement: syphoning operations are well organised, conducted with apparent foreknowledge of the cargo fuel type and how to dispose of it.

To put this in perspective, since 2011, only 18 syphoning attacks have been reported of which 13 were successful.


Strengthening links

Published At: Fri 21 November 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Sat 21 November 2015 10:29 GMT - (18 Reads)

Join the UKERC Sparks LinkedIn Group to keep up-to-date with developments relevant to early career researchers – and while you’re at it, why not also follow the European Energy Research Alliance’s newly-launched LinkedIn channel? The alliance helps coordinate EU-wide public research efforts to develop more efficient and cheaper low carbon energy technologies.


Super-powered research

Published At: Fri 21 November 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Sat 21 November 2015 10:26 GMT - (16 Reads)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a ‘global virtual centre’ for clean energy R&D, in remarks made at the G20 summit in Australia.

 “Let us increase our collective R&D efforts and collaboration; and, ensure dissemination to all countries. For this, I would propose that we set up a global virtual centre for clean energy research and development, with adequate public funding, which will fund collaborative projects in diverse sources of clean energy, smart grids, energy efficiency, etc. India and the United States have built an excellent virtual centre on a bilateral basis, with matching public and private funding. We can select a team of outstanding experts to evaluate and judge research projects. The results should be available to all countries,” he said.

"In countries like India, there are vast opportunities for those wishing to invest in clean coal technology, since our dependence will not reduce very soon," Modi added.

It is expected that Modi will unveil India’s ‘big renewable plan’ in the run up to the Paris climate talks next year, but possibly as early as this Christmas, The Times of India claimed.

The USA and China have also renewed links on energy research through the US-China Clean Energy Research Center. The Center will focus on building efficiency, clean vehicles, and advanced coal technologies with carbon capture, use and sequestration; and the interaction of energy and water (the energy/water ‘nexus’).


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This week's reports

Published At: Fri 21 November 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Sat 21 November 2015 10:55 GMT - (18 Reads)

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Jobs and opportunities

Scientific Director, BC3 – Basque Centre for Climate Change (Spain)

Published At: Fri 21 November 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Tue 27 January 2015 23:59 GMT - (22 Reads)

The BC3 – Basque Centre for Climate Change is a Research Centre based in Bilbao which aims to contribute to long term research on the causes and consequences of climate change in order to foster the creation of knowledge in this multidisciplinary science. This center is part of the network of BERCs - Basque Excellence Research Centers supported by the Basque Government.

BC3 seeks to be a world-class climate change research center aimed at informing decision-making at the Basque, Spanish, and International level by integrating natural and social sciences to address the socio-economic implications of global climate change.

This synergy is realized through our research on low carbon transitions, natural environment and ecosystem services, health, economics and climate policy.

Following the successful completion of its launching phase, BC3 is now looking for a new Scientific Director with excellent scientific quality paired with proven human resources leadership that will lead the consolidation of the center for the future years. Applicants will have a background in either physical or the social sciences but with a strong commitment to the study of climate change.

The Scientific Director should be a person with a proven track record in the area of climate change and at least 15 years research experience after the completion of the PhD. He/ She should also have experience in managing a research institution and have international reputation in the field. The candidates may also demonstrate a record of invited presentations in well-established international conferences, granted projects, awards, prizes etc.

The position will carry competitive salary and excellent conditions of work. The envisaged starting date of the position will be summer 2015.

Only researchers with a solid research track, senior level and international research experience will be considered.

For more information please go here. The closing date is 27 January 2015.


Deputy Director-General & Director, Country Support and Partnerships Division, International Renewable Energy Agency (United Arab Emirates)

Published At: Fri 21 November 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Fri 26 December 2014 23:59 GMT - (21 Reads)

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is an inter-governmental organisation mandated with the widespread and increased adoption and sustainable use of all forms of renewable energy.

The Agency implements its mandate with the view to sustainable development, increased energy security and low-carbon economic growth and prosperity.

IRENA invites applications for two positions:

1. Deputy Director-General

Under the supervision of the Director-General, the Deputy Director-General (DDG) will be responsible for the following:

  1. Lead and oversee IRENA’s programmatic work carried out by substantive divisions, ensuring its timely delivery in accordance with the strategic direction set out by the Director-General and in coordination with other entities as appropriate.
  2. Contribute to the formulation of IRENA’s overall strategies and policies, prepare documents on policy issues, and act, as required, in an advisory capacity to the Director-General.
  3. Ensure that the outputs produced by IRENA maintain high-quality standards; that reports are clear, objective and based on comprehensive data, meet required standards, and comply with the relevant mandates.
  4. Ensure close linkages amongst planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the IRENA’s programmatic activities.
  5. Take the lead in strengthening the collaboration and integration with stakeholders, including the private sector, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, regional entities, institutes and academia to enhance collaboration, cooperation and alliances on programme implementation, and sustained partnerships to promote accelerated uptake of renewables.
  6. Oversee the internal management of IRENA within the delegated authority and ensure effective functioning of coherent internal communications structures and systems.
  7. Provide substantive leadership on administrative and operational matters, including on the coordination and collaboration between programmatic divisions and service areas.

2. Director Country Support and Partnerships Division (CSP)

Under the supervision of the Director-General and within delegated authority, the Director of CSP undertakes a range of activities aimed at providing technical support, sound advice and a broader knowledge base to support countries in the development and implementation of national and regional renewable energy strategies. The Director of CSP leads and manages the divisional units, including capacity building, regions and technical cooperation

For more information please go here. The closing date for both positions is 26 December 2014.


Energy Systems Research Associate, Durham University

Published At: Fri 21 November 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Sun 07 December 2014 23:59 GMT - (27 Reads)

The School of Engineering and Computing Sciences, in association with Durham Energy Institute, is appoint a PDRA to work on three EPSRC-funded projects:

Pumped Thermal Energy Storage. This work will study the integration of thermal energy storage into electricity networks, including in particular consideration of how the physical properties of the store determine its performance within the power network. The project will involve collaboration with storage technologists at Imperial College and Cambridge.

The Autonomic Power System. This work forms part of a larger consortium project on highly decentralised control of future power systems. The Durham RA resource will collaborate with existing PhD students in their work on distributed control and network planning under uncertainty, and develop collaboration with engineers and economists at other institutions within the consortium.

Development and Evaluation of Sustainable Technologies for Flexible Operation of Conventional Power Plants. This work forms part of a Durham-led consortium studying flexible conventional generating plant technologies for systems with much increased variable generation penetrations. The RA will use simulation studies to study the operation of flexible plant within the power system, including consideration of how insights into future plant technologies arising elsewhere in the consortium will influence the performance in the system.

We are seeking an enthusiastic researcher with either a background in energy systems analysis, or in mathematical sciences with the necessary energy systems knowledge. The Durham activity is led by Dr. Chris Dent (Senior Lecturer in Energy Systems Modelling) and Dr. Behzad Kazemtabrizi (Lecturer in Electrical Engineering).

This 21 month post requires well developed research, dissemination and interpersonal skills, and we have a strong preference for someone who can start work by the end of March 2015. The emphasis is on independence and creativity in solving advanced research problems.

For more information please go here. The closing date is 7 December 2014.


Policy Manager, SSE

Published At: Fri 21 November 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Mon 01 December 2014 23:59 GMT - (27 Reads)

SSE is one of the largest and most diverse energy companies in the UK and Ireland with around 9 million customers and over 20,000 staff.  SSE's wholesale policy team engages with governments and other key stakeholders on energy policy and helps to ensure the implications of policy changes are fully understood by SSE's wholesale businesses.

An exciting opportunity has arisen for a Policy Manager in London. Reporting to the Head of Policy (Wholesale), you will work on a broad range of issues relating to the wholesale segment of SSE, including thermal generation, security of supply, and wholesale market design. You will undertake policy analysis, develop policy positions, draft policy responses to government consultations, and monitor political, governmental and key influencer activities.

Your responsibilities will extend to briefing internal and external audiences on relevant policy developments, establishing and managing relationships with key policy influencers to support the process of policy development, and attending stakeholder events as an SSE representative.

To be successful in this role, you will have, through relevant work experience, a proven track record of managing and influencing in a policy development environment and a detailed understanding of the wholesale energy sector.

You will have excellent oral and written communication skills, which will assist you in communicating complex policy ideas and concepts. A background in economics would be an asset.  You should hold a minimum 2:1 degree, and a M.Sc qualification or equivalent in a relevant field is preferred.

For more information please go here. The closing date is 1 December 2014.


Dean, Electrical Engineering and Renewable Energy, Beijing Jiaotong University (China)

Published At: Fri 21 November 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Sun 30 November 2014 23:59 GMT - (21 Reads)

An outstanding leader from abroad is sought for the position of a Dean for a new School to be established, at Beijing Jiaotong University (BJTU) the School of New and Renewable Energy (SNRE).

Beijing Jiaotong University (BJTU, formerly known as Northern Jiaotong University) is a national key university under the direct administration of the Chinese Ministry of Education and currently is jointly supported by the Ministry of Education, the China Railway Corporation (formerly known as the Ministry of Railways) and Beijing Municipal Government.

Candidates are supposed to have graduated from a renowned overseas university, have acquired a Doctoral Degree in Electrical Engineering (EE) related majors and have been granted the title of a Professor in a prestigious university abroad. Candidates are required to be academically eminent in the field of EE with track record of contributions to advancing academic knowledge and outstanding research output, and deemed to be able to lead in this domain internationally and nationally.

Candidates are supposed to have the experience of establishing a new school or have been in charge of the management of a pre-eminent school. It is necessary to have good interpersonal skills in an EE area and can attract and hire the overseas talents’ team of 5-10 people for the new SNRE.

Applicants should be very familiar with the higher education system at large and be acquainted with teaching and research work. With the competence to undertake the position of the Dean of SNRE: the leadership ability, communicative and collaborative skills, and the capability of dealing with both internal and external affairs. Be abundantly experienced in higher education management, ideally having held similar positions in a similar college or university for some time.

For more information please go here. The closing date is 30 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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European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures

Published At: Fri 21 November 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Sun 01 February 2015 23:59 GMT - (22 Reads)

The European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) is updating its Roadmap of Research Infrastructures and has launched a call for projects to be considered for inclusion on the updated roadmap, due to be published in January 2016.

NERC supports participation in ESFRI projects as a key part of our national capability. As indicated in the RCUK guidance, it is important that any candidate projects have been considered by the relevant research council before they are submitted for consideration in the new roadmap. In the first instance, candidate projects that potentially align to the NERC strategy are therefore strongly advised to contact the NERC ESFRI lead, Bill Eason, at the earliest opportunity.

For more information please go here. The closing date is 1 February 2015.


Managing energy on marine vessels

Published At: Fri 21 November 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Wed 11 March 2015 23:59 GMT - (25 Reads)

Innovate UK and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (dstl) are to invest up to £7.5m in collaborative R&D projects to improve the ways in which energy is managed on ships and other marine and maritime vessels.

The focus of this competition is on the underlying technological challenges that will enable greater efficiencies in the production, management and use of energy.

We are not only seeking proposals from companies within the marine and maritime sector, but also those operating outside it. Companies should have expertise in aspects of electrical systems, energy management or performance monitoring.

Proposals must be collaborative and business-led, and we would like to see micro and small businesses involved. We expect to fund mainly industrial research projects in which a business partner will generally attract up to 50% public funding for their project costs (60% for SMEs).

We expect projects to range in size from total costs of £500k to £1.5m, although we may consider projects outside this range.

For more information please go here. The closing date is 11 March 2015.


Cleaner, more efficient conventional fuels - Feasibility studies

Published At: Fri 21 November 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Wed 15 April 2015 23:59 BST - (27 Reads)

Innovate UK is to invest up to £5m in collaborative R&D and feasibility studies to stimulate innovation in the extraction and use of conventional fossil fuels.

The aim is to improve efficiency, reduce cost and minimise the environmental impact of coal, natural gas and oil.  Projects must be business-led and all must involve an SME.

Unconventional fossil fuels such as shale gas, shale oil and tar sands are outside the scope of this competition.

We are allocating up to £4m of the total funding for business-led, collaborative R&D projects (industrial research), with a business partner attracting 50% public funding for their project costs (60% for SMEs). We expect collaborative R&D projects to range in size from £250k to £1.5m, although we may consider projects outside this range.

Up to £1m of the total funding will be available for smaller-scale feasibility studies (or pre-industrial research). These can be collaborative but must be led by an SME (working with large businesses, other SMEs or research organisations) or developed by a single SME. Feasibility studies also attract public funding. For information on funding rules, please refer to the Guidance for applicants. We expect feasibility projects to range in size from £100k to £150k.

For more information please go here. The closing date is 15 April 2015.


EDF Pulse Awards

Published At: Fri 21 November 2014 09:09 GMT - Expires At: Sun 30 November 2014 23:59 GMT - (24 Reads)

As the world's leading electricity producer, EDF innovates within its various areas of business to reduce CO2 emissions and encourage more restrained and efficient use of energy.

With the EDF Pulse awards, the Group is preparing the future by supporting international innovations that exploit the incredible potential of electricity, and those which will sustainably transform our ways of living.

For more information please go here. The closing date is 30 November 2014.


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

Professor Jim Skea on Innovation in the energy sector: paradigm busting or paradigm reinforcing?

Published At: Fri 21 November 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Tue 25 November 2014 23:59 GMT - (23 Reads)

25 November 2014, Edinburgh



Consumer politics and energy use in British council housing, 1920-1970 & Practices as a unit of design: a home heating example

Published At: Fri 21 November 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Wed 26 November 2014 23:59 GMT - (24 Reads)

26 November 2014, Manchester



A Recipe for Disasters: Ensemble Prediction Systems, Uncertainties and the Politics of Adaptation in the European Union

Published At: Fri 21 November 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Wed 10 December 2014 23:59 GMT - (20 Reads)

10 December 2014, Leeds



Partnering with Asia for global innovation

Published At: Fri 21 November 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Thu 11 December 2014 23:59 GMT - (22 Reads)

11 December 2014, London



Professor Michael Pollitt on Energy Prices: Is a Price Freeze a Sensible Way to Restore Trust in the Market?

Published At: Fri 21 November 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Thu 29 January 2015 23:59 GMT - (22 Reads)

29 January 2014, London



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

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Following a spate of news stories about rising use of electric cars - including upbeat comments from transport minister Baroness Kramer - we asked Oxford University's Christian Brand to separate hype from reality.

Are Electric Vehicles (EVs) a reality? It’s certainly true that there are many positive signs but, given that the number EVs sold in the UK in 2013 represented just 0.3% of all vehicles, we perhaps need to be a bit cautious about such dramatic statements. Rather, it would be more realistic to say that we are currently at the tipping point for the adoption of EVs, but still with their widespread adoption at some risk.

Baroness Kramer recently stated that “we are on the cusp of a technological revolution”. She pointed to a rapid increase in sales and government support in the form of a £500m investment programme, including further support for the plug-in grant, and a plan to install rapid chargers across the trunk road network.

For EVs to become mainstream we require a coordinated public/private industry effort. Simply leaving it to the market would be unlikely to work because of the need for consistent, clear messages and easy to use and inter-operable supporting infrastructure – not just in the UK but also when taking EVs abroad. In this respect we are not quite there; with differing charging technologies and networks (slow, 6-8 hours to rapid DC, ½ hour chargers) and a confusing array of types of electric vehicles (battery only, plug-in hybrid, extended range, etc.) available. Nevertheless there is progress. The industry is now working together to create an inter-operable network of charging stations throughout the UK. In October 2014 there were 7,185 UK charging points of which 649 were rapid chargers.

A question which consumers are concerned about is whether EVs are just a passing fad – a technology which will be soon outdated. However, the situation is becoming much clearer and we can now be reasonably confident that EVs are here to stay, at least for the next 40 years or so. This is because while electric power has some drawbacks, as a technology it wins out in the long-term. It is true that the full benefit of electric vehicles will only be realised when electricity generation is substantially decarbonised, but even in advance of this, it has clear benefits in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and immediate benefits in terms of air quality. The key drawback of battery-based technology is the low energy density, which translates into batteries being big, costly, slow to re-charge, and providing less range. In practice, the issue of range is primarily a fear of the unfamiliar and something which can be overcome, as recent field trial have shown.

Globally, it seems likely that electricity will become the dominant source of power for cars and light vehicles at some point in the future, with China leading the charge (no pun intended). The question is really one of how quickly this will happen and whether the UK manages to be a leader or late adopter of the technology. This comes on the back of a growing appreciation that, while by no means perfect, EVs are the best available technology for the foreseeable future.​

Christian Brand, Senior Research Fellow in Transport, Energy and the Environment, Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University.

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