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 303 - 31/10/14

UKERC Twitter feed

Interesting developments


Jobs and opportunities


Events and Conferences

NERN blog

UKERC Twitter feed

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Interesting developments

Painted turbines

Published At: Fri 31 October 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Sat 31 October 2015 11:26 GMT - (5 Reads)

‘Vast, ugly, inefficient, bird-mashing’, is the phrase former Conservative minister Anne Widdecome used to describe wind farms this week. But wind turbine owners are fighting back – with a paintbrush.

Writing in RenewEconomy, reporter Sophie Vorrath, says that Australia’s Hepburn Wind Farm plans to paint a second wind turbine with an attractive mural.

Last year the farm invited Melbourne artists Ghostpatrol (David Booth) and Bonsai to decorate their first turbine. The artists created a stylised image of a woman floating above a forest.

One commenter on the article suggested installing Christmas lights on the turbine blades, reflecting the Australian passion for garish outdoor Christmas decorations. ‘You can buy hundreds of metres of Xmas lights for not much at all,’ he wrote.

Cooling towers have also made good canvasses for art, proving that aesthetics doesn't take a position on the merits or otherwise of renewable, nuclear or fossil-fueled energy.



Singapore tie-up

Published At: Fri 31 October 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Sat 31 October 2015 11:22 GMT - (1 Reads)

The UK’s Carbon Trust and the Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore are set to cooperate on a project to enhance the implementation of energy efficient practices among small and medium sized enterprises in Singapore.


Chinese opportunities

Published At: Fri 31 October 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Sat 31 October 2015 11:08 GMT - (1 Reads)

China is set to invest £43.5 billion in the UK’s energy infrastructure over the next decade, according to a report released this week by international law firm Pinsent Masons and the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

‘The UK’s diverse energy sector is likely to see a wave of investment across renewables, conventional power, nuclear and hydrocarbons.  Chinese surplus is huge and it sees the lucrative UK energy market as an ideal investment destination – however the key challenge will be around who pays for it – unfortunately, there is no such thing as free electricity. In order to keep the lights on the nation will need to invest into long-term sustainable sources of energy,’ the report says.

The authors cite past investments by China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange, Sinochem, China National Petroleum Corporation, and Sinopec in (respectively) BP, Emerald Energy, INEOS Britain, and Talisman Energy.

The reason China is making these investments is because it wants to gain innovation and know-how it can use in its own economy, the authors say.

The report is based on conversations with around forty individuals from UK government, construction firms, and investment houses, as well as Pincent Masons’ in-house pundits.

Meanwhile, China and Russia have been exchanging warm words on scientific cooperation at the Pujiang Innovation Forum in Shanghai.

Science ministers from both countries called for ‘open innovation’ in keynote speeches but few details emerged on what this would mean in practice.


Low Carbon Future Showcase, Midlands Energy Consortium, 12 November 2014

Published At: Fri 31 October 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Wed 12 November 2014 23:59 GMT - (1 Reads)

The objectives of this high-profile, free event are to:

Create greater visibility of the Energy Technology Institute's programmes and projects and their outputs within the academic community.

Encourage the academic community as a whole to consider ways that they might add value to these outputs, using them as a resource for further research, analysis and interpretation.

Highlight the collaborations that our projects have created between academia, industry and other stakeholders as a model for providing effective support for innovation in the energy sector.

This event is designed to provide maximum opportunities for networking and discussion. There will be an open exhibition and modelling zone running from 10.00 until 16.00.

Attendees are welcome to visit the exhibition at any time during the day.

Jim Skea, the RCUK Energy Strategy Fellow and Professor of Sustainable Energy Centre for Environmental Policy will provide the Keynote Lecture

There will be stands from:

Academic groups working on Energy Technology Institute (ETI) projects, they will all showcase work funded by the ETI

RCUK will exhibit providing an opportunity to speak with research funders

There will be a modelling zone with live demonstrations of at least 6 models developed using ETI funding

The Midlands Energy Consortium will have a presence highlighting their research

The main audience for this event will be the UK academic community.

The organisers are inviting senior academics from across the countries who work in the energy sector to attend and there will also be a significant number of ETI staff and member organisations present.

For more information please go here.


Start-up struggles

Published At: Fri 31 October 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Sat 31 October 2015 11:00 GMT - (2 Reads)

With European cleantech start-ups featuring in a high-profile Climate KIC competition, across the pond, MIT Technology Review reports on an American solar firm with a smart idea.

The Review's Kevin Bullis writes that an American start-up, Semprius, ‘claims that the next generation of this power unit will make solar power the cheapest option for utilities installing new power plants. With fields of over 1,000 of these devices, utilities would produce electricity at less than 5 cents per kilowatt-hour. That is even cheaper than today’s least expensive option: a new natural gas plant.’

The company uses a proprietary ‘stamp’ that allows it to manufacture more efficient solar cells. ‘The idea is that you can increase the amount of energy any solar cell gathers by putting lenses over the cell to focus light into it. Existing versions of this technology might use a lens with an area of about 400 square centimeters and focus it on a one-centimeter solar cell, for a concentration ratio of 400.’

Despite an apparently promising offer, the problem for the firm is raising follow-on capital.

 ‘The plan had been for Siemens and Semprius to work together, with Semprius producing its concentrated photovoltaic devices and Siemens drawing on its expertise in building solar power plants. But 15 months after Siemens invested in Semprius, everything fell apart.’

Semprius CEO Joseph Carr is quoted saying “Given all the stuff that’s happened in the solar industry over the last two to three years, including implosions of other small start-ups, our investors have every reason to head for the hills.”

Since 2005, investors in the sector have lost ‘more than $1 billion’, according to the article. ‘The resulting backlash has made it difficult for any solar companies, regardless of their merits, to get the investments they need to prove their technology.’

But according to the Review, the firm remains optimistic, saying at least one potential investor in China is interested.

Climate-KIC has launched another competition for start-ups with two 25,000 Euro innovation vouchers up for grabs. They are looking for firms who can offer ‘industrial symbiosis’ (turning, heat, power, waste including food and carbon dioxide into a resource), or who have products relevant to the circular economy or environmental technology.



Researcher of the year

Published At: Fri 31 October 2014 00:00 GMT - Expires At: Sat 31 January 2015 23:59 GMT - (1 Reads)

Heriot-Watt University and Scottish Energy News have launched a Researcher of the Year Award. Applicants should have worked in the energy sector for less than 10 years. The deadline for entries is 31 January 2015.


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This week's reports

Published At: Fri 31 October 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Sat 31 October 2015 11:47 GMT - (1 Reads)

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Jobs and opportunities

Research Fellows x 2, University of Sussex

Published At: Fri 31 October 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Wed 26 November 2014 23:59 GMT - (3 Reads)

We are seeking two Research Fellows to work with Professor Paul Nightingale as part of the International Centre for Infrastructure Futures (ICIF) consortia. The project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and is led by Prof Brian Collins at the University College London (UCL), and runs from 2013 to 2016. The project is exploring how infrastructure is funded, regulated, managed and developed in order to develop novel ways of learning across sectors and from international experience. The project informs the analysis, planning and design of national infrastructure in the energy, transport, water and waste and telecommunications sectors.

The successful candidates will undertake research on the business models of UK and international infrastructure firms in several infrastructure sectors. They will explore how firms can strategically develop the capability to create and capture value, particularly by exploiting interdependencies between different infrastructure systems. The ideal candidate will have (or be about to obtain) a relevant PhD or have equivalent research or industrial experience. You must also have relevant research skills and knowledge of one or more of the infrastructure sectors the project is focusing on.

For more information please go here. The closing date is 26 November 2014.



Senior Engineer – European Bioenergy Research Institute pilot plant, Aston University

Published At: Fri 31 October 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Sun 23 November 2014 23:59 GMT - (1 Reads)

The European Bioenergy Research Institute (EBRI) requires a Senior Engineer to support the operation and development of the pilot plant.

You will play a key role in operating and maintaining the 100 kg/h pyrolysis unit, the 400 kg/h gasifier and 350 kWe CHP engine, all located in the EBRI pilot plant.  This will include ordering raw materials; commissioning the plants; operating the pilot plants including monitoring the process control system; arranging for the disposal of waste materials; undertaking a review of the plants’ performance including identification and fulfilment of maintenance and repair needs; and implementation of relevant health and safety procedures.  At such times as maintenance or operation is not required you will be expected to assist with equipment set-up and operation in the other EBRI laboratories.

You will assist in the identification of opportunities for collaboration with companies and other universities and prepare or contribute to the preparation of proposals that utilise the facilities.  You will also host visits round the facilities and provide a suitable narrative about these facilities.

You will be part of the pilot plant operations team reporting to the Director of EBRI.

You should hold a good first degree in chemical or mechanical engineering or a related discipline with substantial experience of working on process plants, mechanical handling and bioenergy plants such as pyrolysis and/or gasifier units and CHP systems.  You should also have substantial experience of carrying out mass and energy balances on process plant, especially pilot plants and demonstration plants based on chemical engineering principles. Good spoken and written English is necessary as well as highly developed interpersonal skills. A high level of computer literacy with a proficiency in standard Office packages and expertise, including working with spreadsheets and databases are also essential.

For more information please go here. The closing date is 23 November 2014.


Research Associate – Laser Processing of Photovoltaics, Loughborough University

Published At: Fri 31 October 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Thu 20 November 2014 23:59 GMT - (1 Reads)

The Centre for Sustainable Manufacturing and Recycling Technologies is currently looking for a postdoctoral Research Associate to work on the development of a new manufacturing technology which has the potential to have significant commercial and environmental benefit for the PV manufacturing industry. The project is part of a collaboration with the Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technologies and the Optical Engineering Research Group, both also at Loughborough.

The Research Associate will work within a world-class, multi-disciplinary research team to develop a novel laser process for the annealing of thin film photovoltaics and establish real-time process monitoring via optical spectrometry. Consideration of the energy efficiency of the developed process and scalability for manufacturing applications will be carried out.

A post-graduate qualification to Doctorate level in a relevant engineering field (or equivalent experience) with practical experience of using or developing laser devices of design and in the execution of experimental procedures is essential as are excellent communication skills and an ability to write technical reports. Applicants should have practical experience of experimental design and knowledge of sustainable manufacturing and process energy modelling would also be advantageous.

For more information please go here. The closing date is 20 November 2014.


Assistant Manager – Feed-in Tariff Scheme Compliance, Office of Gas and Electricity Markets

Published At: Fri 31 October 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Mon 10 November 2014 23:59 GMT - (2 Reads)

Ofgem is committed to making a positive difference for energy consumers through effective regulation of the market and close working with suppliers to ensure sustainable energy for consumers and businesses in the UK.

Ofgem’s Feed-in Tariff (FIT) scheme promotes the use of small-scale renewable and low-carbon electricity generation technologies, enabling households, businesses or other organisations to produce their own energy and receive a tariff for this generation and any excess energy that they export back to the grid. This is a varied role that will work on a number of key tasks of the FIT scheme – so you can expect to be involved in policy work, engaging with stakeholders and in ensuring effective and accurate delivery of the scheme. It’s a fast moving environment, working on a high profile initiative that is still relatively new to the energy marketplace. You’ll ensure that data received from suppliers is accurate and that payments under the scheme are made in a timely and equally accurate manner. You’ll investigate instances of supplier non-compliance from licence conditions and ensure that the scheme continues to evolve to reflect the current market e.g. calculating annual Retail Price Index changes to FIT tariffs.

We expect that you’ll be degree qualified or that you have equivalent professional qualifications and that you can offer strong data analysis skills, making full use of databases and spreadsheets. This will be backed up by high levels of numeracy and excellent attention to detail. Strong written and oral communication skills are important, as is the ability to understand legislation that applies to the energy market and implement policy accordingly. It’s important that you can establish strong working relationships with a range of stakeholders and that you can plan and organise your own workload effectively. Any particular experience or knowledge of regulation in the electricity market would be an advantage, but isn’t considered essential.

For more information please go here. The closing date is 10 November 2014.


Education Programme Manager, Climate KIC Nordic

Published At: Fri 31 October 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Mon 03 November 2014 23:59 GMT - (2 Reads)

The Education Programme Manager will play a key role in implementing Climate-KIC’s Education Programme in its Nordic centre and in raising the Nordic profile of the Climate-KIC education programme both internally and externally. The Education Programme Manager will be responsible for planning, implementing and monitoring education activities in accordance with the business plan and local university procedures, in close collaboration with the Education Lead of the Nordic centre.

Working under the supervision of and reporting directly to the Education Lead at the Nordic centre the Education Programme Manager is responsible for planning and organising his/her own work and leading local activities as well being part of the European KIC education manager team.

Core responsibilities include managing the delivery and strategic objectives of the education programme, more specifically summer schools and other educational activities, and working with relevant teams across the universities, local partners and KIC wide, in order to ensure a quality experience for the students on the programme.

For more information please go here. The closing date is 3 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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Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship

Published At: Fri 31 October 2014 08:00 GMT - Expires At: Thu 08 January 2015 23:59 GMT - (1 Reads)

This scheme is for scientists who would benefit from a period of full-time research without teaching and administrative duties.

The scheme reimburses the employing institution with the full salary cost of a teaching replacement.

The scheme covers all areas of the life and physical sciences, including engineering, but excluding clinical medicine.

The scheme is funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

The applicant must:

  • have a PhD or equivalent
  • hold a permanent post at a UK university or not-for-profit institution
  • be at a stage in their career when they would particularly benefit from a period of full-time research

Applicants should ensure that they meet all the eligibility requirements, which are explained in the scheme notes.

The award lasts between one term and one academic year. The applicant’s employing institution will be reimbursed for the full salary cost of a teaching replacement (up to the equivalent of the minimum point on the lectureship scale as paid by the host university).

Research expenses up to a maximum of £2,500 are available to each fellow to cover the costs of consumables, equipment, travel and communicating science.

For more information please go here. The closing date is 8 January 2015.


Proposed Applied Research Programmes on Transport and Energy

Published At: Fri 31 October 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Tue 25 November 2014 23:59 GMT - (4 Reads)

Subject to funds being approved, the Department for International Development (DFID) is looking to contract one or two organisations or consortia to manage and provide research leadership on two major applied research programmes.

One programme relates to Transport research and the other to Energy. Both will adopt similar approaches but have different sector and research theme areas. Both will have an initial inception phase during which the successful bidder will more fully scope research gaps and priority research questions, which will, subject to approval, direct the following three/ four years of research, capacity building and uptake under the two research projects. DFID anticipates that funds will be approved for these two programmes by the end of 2014.

They are likely to cost around £10 million to £20 million each (excluding management costs).

For more information please go here. The closing date is 25 November 2014.



OCEANERA-NET 2014 Joint Call

Published At: Fri 31 October 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Thu 18 December 2014 23:59 GMT - (3 Reads)

The aim of the First Joint Call 2014 is to promote the development and competitiveness of the ocean energy sector by supporting projects involving research, technological, development and innovation (RTDI) activities, developing, demonstrating or validating new and innovative technologies of ocean energies: Wave Energy, Tidal Energy, Tidal and Ocean Currents, Salinity Gradient and Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion.

Proposals could cover innovative projects oriented towards the development, demonstration  and validation of ocean energy technologies to improve the performance and reduce the environmental impact and the cost of ocean energy components/systems/devices

For more information please go here. The closing date is 18 December 2014.



Power Train Challenge

Published At: Fri 31 October 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Thu 18 December 2014 23:59 GMT - (1 Reads)

The overall aim of this challenge is to provide powertrain energy efficiencies for a self-powered unit. This is an opportunity for the UK design and manufacturing supply chain to showcase what innovation can deliver, given the opportunity to bring forward designs which are not constrained by existing industry paradigms.

For more information please go here. The closing date is 18 December 2014.


ESRC Pilot Urgency Grants Mechanism

Published At: Fri 31 October 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Sat 31 October 2015 12:13 GMT - (1 Reads)

The Urgency Grants Mechanism is a pilot launched by ESRC, on behalf of RCUK, to enable a fast response to urgent or unforeseen events (or the consequences from such an event) and a unique, one time opportunity to undertake research of high scientific importance in response to the event. Proposed research will focus solely on urgent data collection and essential initial analysis. In terms of the event, the emphasis is on the unexpected and unusual nature of the occurrence.

Submission of an urgent research grant proposal is only permitted if relying on other funding opportunities would clearly result in a missed opportunity to undertake economic or social research of high scientific importance or work of economic and societal impact that meet ESRC priorities. It is not anticipated that applications will be submitted concurrently to the Urgency Grants Mechanism and to other available ESRC funding schemes.

No studentships or equipment can be funded under this mechanism.

For more information please go here. There is a rolling application process.


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

Investor Briefing: Renewable Energy Storage Today

Published At: Fri 31 October 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Tue 18 November 2014 23:59 GMT - (2 Reads)

18 November 2014, London



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

Published At: Fri 31 October 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Tue 25 November 2014 23:59 GMT - (1 Reads)

25 November 2014, Edinburgh



Workshop: Medium Temperature PEM FC - materials, stacks and systems

Published At: Fri 31 October 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Wed 03 December 2014 23:59 GMT - (1 Reads)

2-3 December 2014, Freiburg (Germany)



The European Technical School on Hydrogen and Fuel Cells (TS2015)

Published At: Fri 31 October 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Fri 26 June 2015 23:59 BST - (1 Reads)

22-26 June 2015, Crete (Greece)



Summer School: Risk and uncertainty in natural hazards 2015

Published At: Fri 31 October 2014 09:00 GMT - Expires At: Fri 24 July 2015 23:59 BST - (1 Reads)

20-24 July 2015, Bristol



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

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Last week’s sudden death of Total boss Christophe de Margerie in an aeroplane accident adds to the churn at the top of France’s energy elite.

GDF Suez has just promoted Chief Financial Officer Isabelle Kocher to deputy chief executive, while the French government picked Jean-Bernard Levy, who currently heads Thales, to replace Henri Proglio at the head of EDF.

Meanwhile, Luc Oursel of nuclear contractor Areva quit for health reasons, to be replaced by Philippe Knoche.

Total acted fast after de Margerie’s death to appoint Thierry Desmarest as chairman, with Patrick Pouyanné as chief executive.

What impact will these five players now at the head of French energy – four men and one woman –have?

I glanced at the French press to see what commentators across the Channel have been saying. In short, everyone appeared unanimous that it was terribly important but few were prepared to make solid predictions.

RFI called it a ‘new era’, Le Parisien called it a ‘shake-up’.

Le Parisien thought these changes particularly significant as they come at a time when France aims to reduce its nuclear dependency as part of the Horizon 2050 plan.

Slate FR called it ‘the other energy transition’. ‘The situation is unprecedented.'

Right-leaning daily Le Figaro said this was a case of the ‘engineers retaking power’.

Graduates of the Corps de mines – ‘corpsards’ now hold all the key positions in French energy, the paper reported. Figaro also drew attention to corpsards at the head of other firms, notably Solvay, Pernod-Ricard, and BNP Paribas.

The fact is that all these individuals are insiders. Kocher, for example, served as industry adviser in Lionel Jospin’s socialist government 1999-2002. Opera-loving Levy is said to have first met French President Michel Hollande at a rugby match, and the pair are reported to have hit it off.

Are these new leaders going to be a safe pair of hands, or can we expect more radical moves? That answer will have to wait. But what is sure is that France, with its large nuclear output, and major stake in UK electricity, holds one of the keys to the future of Europe’s energy.

William Burns

Contact: william.burns at ukerc.ac.uk


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