Energy Academy
An international centre of excellence and a gateway to Heriot-Watt's energy research and training activities

Energy Systems. Challenges and Solutions.

On February 20th, 2018, a cohort of Heriot-Watt researchers working on energy systems factors met to share ideas, build networks and challenge the way we look at and use energy. 

The areas that were discussed included:

  • how we deliver safe and reliable electricity to consumers at an affordable cost and mitigate against the impact of energy use on the environment;
  • how do we influence the use of clean electricity sources by consumers;
  • How do we provide clean energy for the electrification of heat and transport and how will consumers react as the drive towards the electrification of transport moves ahead;

.At Heriot-Watt, our expertise is in: network engineering and embedding resilience into energy networks; in energy storage; in understanding the requirement for electric vehicle (EV) charging in towns and cities and in the mitigation of the impact of climate change caused by CO2. Outside of engineering, we work on demand side management; on modelling and forecasting demand and use and how Human Factors interventions can yield big impacts on energy reduction, resilience, and sustainability.

These are all areas that are relevant to the development of 21st Century energy systems planning. Links to the presentations that linked the discussion and to the presenters themselves, are given in this article.

Networks Management and Resilience

Meeting Future Challenges with Human Factors. Dr Guy Walker. Guy is a social scientist with an interest in designing products, systems, or processes to take proper account of the interaction between them and the people who use them (Human Factors and Ergonomics). Guy has applied this expertise to intelligent transport systems, the energy sector, mitigation against climate change and the built environment include ‘safety management', ‘automation', ‘usability', ‘behaviour change' and ‘decision support', all of which tacitly refer to the role of humans in systems and his work addresses questions about “who’s at risk and how do we communicate” as well as questioning about the human behaviours which underlie the performance of the grid (both in terms of the human interventions which help control and maintain it, but also those which are responsible for demand). Contact: Download Guy's presentation here

Networks constraints, early warnings.  Maizura Mokhtar’s research interests are the development and implementation of computational intelligence and bio-inspired controls to engineering systems and the development of intelligent systems including smart grids. Maizura works with Dr Valentin Robu on the potential of using smart meter data to answer questions such as how can higher resolution of data such as voltage and power be useful to manage distribution networks; could such data be used to model and provide early warnings of abnormal network behaviour (such as voltage or power out of band fluctuations; and how can this data be used to provide feedback for smart grid interventions, such as sizing local storage or demand-side management programmes. Contact: and Download her presentation here

Smart Transformers and Reliability. Over the last twenty years Jonathan Swingler has developed an extensive expertise in the reliability of electrical systems. His works on understanding how integration of low carbon technologies (LCT) is creating a strain on LV networks and how as a result LV networks need to be planned and operated in order to deliver value for money for the consumer in a low carbon energy system. With SPEN, Jonathan is working on the project LV Engine that is designed to demonstrate the first grid trial of Solid State Transformers within the UK electricity network. Contact See Jonathan's presentation here

 Energy Systems Modelling and Distributed Storage

The role of buildings in energy systems. Dr David Jenkins is an Associate Professor within the Urban Energy Research Group (UERG) at Heriot-Watt’s Centre for Excellence in Sustainable Building Design. He has a background in building physics and energy modelling, building simulation and energy efficiency. He has been an active researcher at Heriot-Watt since 2005 with over 70 publications in the field of energy in buildings and has also carried out work for the Scottish and UK Governments in this area. He is a leading participant in the £20M Centre for Energy Systems Integration (CESI) where he researches on energy demand. Contact: Download David's presentation here

Residential demand response, Distributed storage control development' Energy System Modelling and Community Energy. Dr Andrew Peacock is a contributor to many multi-disciplinary research teams that have and continue to carry out R&D in the field of renewable energy. He was a lead researcher on the FP7 Origin project with specific responsibility for devising end user interface architecture, demand response methodologies and data analysis. He is a director of Auraventi, an early stage spin out company from the ORIGIN project that will commercialise forecasting and occupancy detection algorithms. Contact: See a synopsis of David's work here

Electrification of transport, Transport Logistics and Distributed Storage

Using Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics to Tackle Challenges in the EV Rollout.  Dr Valentin Robu's research interests include using distributed Artificial Intelligence, multi-agent systems and machine learning techniques to solve challenges arising in smart electricity grids. More specifically, his recent research addressed a variety of problems in this area, ranging the from decentralised scheduling of multiple electric vehicles, such that network operational limits are not exceeded, to using data analytics for asset monitoring and optimization of power distribution networks, or designing efficient algorithms for real-time, distributed demand-side response. Contact: Download Valentin's presentation here

Sustainable Road Freight. Dr Phil Greening is an Associate Professor and Logistics Research Manager and Commercial Director in the University Centre for Sustainable Road Freight. The Centre for Sustainable road Freight integrates the vehicle design/testing capabilities of Cambridge University with the logistics and supply chain expertise of Heriot Watt's Logistics Research Centre. The mission of the centre is to develop technology and logistics/supply chain operations to facilitate the attainment of the Governments carbon reduction commitment for road freight. Contact: Read about the 'Centre's' work on reducing CO2 emissions through logistics management here

The Electrification of Transport and Urban Regeneration. Dr John McCarthy’s  research interests concern spatial planning and urban regeneration. He is interested in the spatial planning dimensions of the development of the infrastructure for the electrification of transport, for example securing planning permission and ensuring effective spatial planning across districts and regions. His experience and expertise covers aspects of planning law and procedure. He is interested in the potential for electrification of transport to contribute to broader goals for economic regeneration within communities particularly those that are suffering from relative disadvantage. His experience and expertise covers elements relating to estimation of regeneration benefits from development. Contact: Read an outline of his interests here

Stakeholder Engagement

Digital Empowerment.Dr Kathryn Waite is an Assistant Professor in Marketing at the School of Social Sciences at Heriot Watt University and her research interests include consumer information search behaviour, empowerment and the digital marketing of services and goods. Contact: Read about new approaches to understanding consumer behaviour and how to use the results to train “change agents” and design targeted communications strategy, here

Stakeholder Management in Buildings Projects. Dr Bilge Erdogan's research interests lie mainly in the Construction IT (Information technologies in construction) area. She has been working on a number of different research areas including strategic IT management and IT adoption; visualization and mobile technologies in construction; collaboration and collaboration environments; quality management; organizational change management, scenario planning and vision development. Contact To read about her work contact  

Other Contributors to the Workshop

Professor David Corne describes his work as “doing very, very useful things, whether obviously or not” and more specifically, research into optimisation, machine learning and data mining. David designs and/or configures algorithms that “quickly find solutions to difficult problems in design, logistics, telecoms, bioinformatics, and many other areas”. He also works with prediction and forecasting methods that learn from and exploit data. He is particularly interested and a specialist in multi-objective optimisation, evolutionary computation, methods that hybridise learning and optimization, and ‘super-heuristics’ – automatically discovering fast algorithms for a given space of problems. Contact:

Merlinda Andoni is a researcher working towards a PhD degree in smart grid management, game-theoretical and artificial intelligence techniques at Heriot-Watt. Her recent publications include the use of demand modelling for community energy analysis and the application of Blockchain for the control of community energy supply. Contact:
Professor Malcolm Chrisp’s research and consultancy interests are in structural materials testing and performance and in particular: the development of monitoring techniques to quantify the durability performance of cementitious materials;, the development of smart materials which provide real-time feedback on performance; and the development of design strategies to allow rural communities to self-resource infrastructure developments. Contact:

James Cruise’s research is in probability (including rare event simulation and network analysis) and its application to modelling real systems. This has focused on problems from communication networks and power systems. He has been involved in a number of projects on electricity storage at both distribution and transmission level including a number of projects with National Grid. In addition he is involved in a number of projects using probabilistic tools to model future electric vehicle charging paradigms and analysis of associated control algorithms with a range of international research groups. Contact:

Dr David Flynn is an Associate Director of the National Centre for Energy Systems Integration and the Director of the Smart Systems Group at Heriot-Watt. His research interests include prognostics and health management, energy systems, sensing technologies and microsystems and the optimisation and co-ordination of hybrid energy systems in transport. Among other projects he is carrying out with Scottish Power Energy Networks David along with colleague Dr Valentin Robu is working in the area of using Artificial Intelligence, machine learning or big data techniques to research the Data Analytical benefit of the distributed sensor network that will be created from the Smart Meter Implementation Programme (SMIP) currently underway in the UK. Contact:

Dr Gudrun Kocher-Oberlehner is a physicist with an interest in optoelectronics. Her work has included the prevention of corrosion (passivation) for high efficiency silicon solar cells grown by chemical vapour deposition and applying her expertise in photonics to concepts in renewable energy. Contact:

Dr Fionn MacKillop’s research interests are in the area of urban sustainability and resilience, water and waste management, urban technical networks, planning and climate change. Contact:

Dr Sandhya Patidar is a lecturer in Statistical Modelling at Heriot-Watt University with research interests in inter-disciplinary applications of mathematical/statistical techniques to real-world engineering problems, specifically in the areas of climate change, the built environment, energy, and human behaviour. Her specific areas of expertise are the application of mathematical/statistical modelling techniques: Hidden-Markov Modelling, stochastic processes, Uncertainty and Data Analysis, Complex Networks, Non-Linear Dynamical System, Bifurcation Analysis and Chaos. Contact:

Dr Markus Schmuck is an Assistant Professor in the School of Mathematics and Computer Sciences and a member of the Maxwell Institute for Mathematical Sciences. His research interests centre on the application of physical/variational and thermodynamic principles together with mathematical analysis for the reliable and systematic description of complex processes in real world/applications. These include optimisation of the design of fuel cells, batteries, supercapacitors, desalination devices, and solar cells as well as social and economic interactions such as opinion dynamics, growth, and energy. Contact:

Professor Ming Sun holds the Chair in Construction Management and Innovation at Heriot-Watt. His research interests include: sustainable construction and development, low-carbon house design and sustainable community development; construction innovation and collaborative working; and benefit measurement of construction IT systems. Contact:

Dr Bing Xu is an economist with interests in energy economics, applied energy, Data Envelopment Analysis and Multi-criteria Decision Making Analysis. She has worked on the design of multidimensional frameworks for performance evaluation of competing energy strategies. Currently, Bing is working on the decarbonisation of transport and specifically the integration of novel technologies for co-valorisation of CO2 and biomass where she leads on energy policy and public engagement. Contact

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