The Cabinet Office has confirmed that it will pump £5m into creating the UK's first Smart Energy Demonstrator site at Keele University in Staffordshire - the only project of its kind for any UK university.
As the national lead for such ground-breaking work it is believed that the long term benefits of the project will include the creation of high tech jobs in the energy sector, will attract inward investment and be a major technological boost to the region.
The construction of a Smart Energy Network will provide Keele with a world class physical demonstrator for smart energy research and development, enabling the ‘real’ evaluation of new and evolving energy technologies and provide the opportunity to assess their efficiencies, both individually and combined, in terms of energy reduction, cost and CO2 emissions, through ‘scenario modelling’.
The primary role of the Keele Smart Energy Network will be to demonstrate the opportunities that are available and to encourage the national deployment of Smart Energy Grids, supported by a location specific mix of energy technologies and solutions.
No other site in the UK is able to emulate the mixed community required. Keele offers a location with a private network, on-site research expertise and the mix of energy sources and demands create the required variations in demand and supply needed to evaluate the viability of individual and energy combinations. Understanding how differing mixes of energy technologies can be combined to maximise efficiency is an essential part of ensuring Energy Security and Competitive Pricing and Future Cost Certainty; all attributes identified as essential for business in delivering commercial growth and sustainability.
The £27 million project, part of the Stoke & Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership City Deal initiative, aims to deliver a nationally significant, world class Smart Energy Network on the Keele campus in Staffordshire.
Phil Butters, Director of Estates and Development at Keele, said: "While it is a National and International Research and Demonstrator facility, the project demonstrates the benefits of collaboration, being led by the Keele Estates Team working with world leading research teams at the University in the areas of clean energy and sustainability."
Professor Nick Foskett, the Vice-Chancellor of Keele University, said: "This will not only secure Keele's place at the forefront of teaching and research in sustainability and green technology but will enable us to make a major impact through practical application not only locally but also in the wider community."
Teams at Keele, will be able to provide expert advice and support to a range of users - estate managers, innovators, manufacturers, installers, planners, developers, and energy suppliers. The project is expected to provide 170 jobs over the implementation period alone.
The SEN, using a mixed energy supply and demand environment, will provide a facility for the evaluation of new and evolving energy technologies and provide the opportunity to assess their efficiencies, both individually and combined, in terms of energy reduction, cost, and CO2 emissions, through “Scenario Modelling”.
The facility will be open to a wide range of users, including:
• Higher Education: For research collaborations and also to support energy plans, to circa 150 HE Institutions.
• NHS: Providing valuable support in improving energy efficiency in acute hospitals, which are high users of energy and as highlighted in the broader LEP Energy Proposals, are prime candidates for benefiting from local energy generation and distribution - around 300
• Developers/Government: Consultation with Construction Organisation and Planners have indicated an interest in the SEN and support for the proposed services at Keele to help plan infrastructure layouts for business parks, housing developments, and more global infrastructure schemes.