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Smarter grid research centre powers ahead


A world class research centre that will accelerate the adoption of new, 'smart' technologies, from advanced power grids to electric cars and household appliances, is to be opened in Scotland.

The £12.5 million Power Network Demonstration Centre - the first of its kind in Europe - is being created by the University of Strathclyde and leading energy companies including ScottishPower and Scottish and Southern Energy, with support from Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Funding Council.

The Centre will play a key role in increasing the UK electricity grid's efficiency and reliability, as well as testing the next generation of smart electrical technologies. This will support the integration of new renewable energy sources, electric vehicles and smart household appliances with the grid, such that emissions and cost can be minimised.

First Minister Alex Salmond said: “The Power Network Demonstration Centre brings together the skills and expertise of academics and industry leaders to drive forward innovation and efficiencies in energy and smart grid technologies

“The creation of this world class research centre reinforces Scotland’s reputation as a leader in energy and engineering and will help to shape global energy efficiencies and carbon reductions.”

Professor Jim McDonald, Principal of the University of Strathclyde, said: "The Power Network Demonstration Centre will support the development and accelerated deployment of new electrical power distribution technologies, helping the UK's energy and engineering industries compete on the world stage.

"Scotland is ideally placed to develop the next generation of smart, electrical technologies that will reduce carbon emissions from the energy sector, improve energy efficiency and ensure we maintain a secure supply of power. But it is critical that we remove the technical - and economic - barriers to connecting these technologies to our existing infrastructure. The new Centre will do just that, and set new standards in electrical distribution."  

The news comes after the energy industry and Government outlined their support for upgrading the electricity network across the UK.

Around 25 staff will be based at the state-of-the art Centre, which will be built in Cumbernauld. It will include the most advanced, control, monitoring and communications systems, and is expected to open at the end of 2011.

Lena Wilson, Chief Executive of Scottish Enterprise said: “The Power Network Demonstration Centre will be a valuable addition to Scotland’s business infrastructure, helping bring together academia and industry to boost productivity and enhance competitiveness through innovation and the commercialisation of new electrical technologies. 

“With increasing demand worldwide to boost reliability and effectiveness of renewable energy and carbon reducing technology, the Centre will provide a much needed testing ground to facilitate faster development and adoption of technologies and maintain Scotland’s position as leader in renewable energy and innovative low carbon technologies.”

Jim Sutherland, Network Development Director at ScottishPower, said: “The Demonstration Centre is an innovative concept that will produce some of the most advanced carbon reducing technologies anywhere in the world.

“ScottishPower is committed to making our electricity network as modern and efficient as possible. By bringing together the academic world with industry, the new centre will push forward developments that will facilitate the integration of low carbon technologies such as electric vehicles and renewable generation, and help to create the electricity infrastructure suitable for the needs of the future.

“In order to meet climate change targets, collaboration and innovation will be vital to move the UK towards a low carbon economy. The Power Network Demonstration Centre represents a significant step forward for innovation in the electricity industry and, from our perspective, is an excellent example of the benefits of Ofgem’s Innovation Funding Incentive.”

Alan Broadbent, Head of Engineering at Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution, said: “The opening of this new centre represents a huge opportunity for Scotland and the UK to speed up the decarbonisation of the grid. We are committed to testing and deploying new technologies that facilitate this and the centre will provide an environment to trial these more quickly and effectively. The work at the centre will complement our portfolio of R&D projects and is further evidence of the value of the Innovation Funding Incentive provided by Ofgem.

“By better understanding the impact of both small and larger scale distributed generation on our networks we should be able to allow larger volumes to connect without further works. The centre has been designed to not only facilitate this but also allow trials of new customer side technologies that offer exciting opportunities within business and the home.”

Mark Batho, Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council added: “This is an exciting development in harnessing the energy Scotland produces and plugging it into the National Grid.

“Scotland’s universities are very well placed to work with industry in the fast-growing renewable and low carbon energy markets. We are particularly pleased that all Scottish universities with relevant engineering research expertise will be able to use the Centre.  Their combined expertise is vital to the development of products and processes that will lead to energy being captured and transmitted in an eco-friendly and sustainable way to homes and businesses across the country.  The activities of the Power Network Demonstration Centre will also be beneficial to the economy with the export of new knowledge and expertise to the global market.”

Gareth Evans, Ofgem’s Head of Profession – Engineering, said: “We are pleased to see further evidence of the impact that the Innovation Funding Incentive is having. We very much hope that the Centre’s activities will be of benefit across our electricity network companies and that its successes will be further developed by our Low Carbon Networks Fund.”