Energy Superhub launched in Oxford

A new £41 million Energy Superhub which will provide a model for cities around the world to cut carbon and improve air quality will be built in Oxford.

Energy Superhub launched in Oxford

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will contribute c.£10 million to support the Energy Superhub Oxford (ESO) project, which will showcase electric vehicle charging, energy storage systems, and low carbon heating, plus smart energy management technologies to support Oxford City Council’s journey to zero carbon. ESO aims to deliver 20,000 tonnes of CO2 per year saving by 2021, rising to 44,000 tonnes per year by 2032.

The Smart Local Energy Systems Demonstrator grant will accelerate the delivery timescales of the Energy Superhub. As part of the project:

  • Pivot Power and redT will install a hybrid energy storage system (50MW) to balance more intermittent renewable energy on the grid.
  • A transmission network connection will unlock low cost energy for EV charging networks (including the potential for 100 rapid EV chargers) will enable electrification of transport in the area, including the Oxford City Council fleet. 
  • 300 homes will half their carbon footprint from heating and reduce operating costs by 25% using innovative Kensa “loop” heat pumps that can be controlled from smart phones.

The project is funded by UK Research and Innovation through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. Project Local Energy Oxfordshire (LEO) led by Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has also received funding of £13.8m. LEO will explore how the growth in local renewables, electric vehicles (EVs), battery storage, and demand side response can be supported by a local, flexible, and responsive electricity grid unlocking new opportunities for consumers and market providers.

Energy and Clean Growth Minister, Claire Perry said: “Oxford is set for a smart energy overhaul, with these projects aiming to meet the city’s energy needs through greener, low carbon technologies. Backed by government funding, this has the potential to completely change the way people go about their daily lives – from going to work on an electric bus to using the heat rising from the earth to heat your home without gas.

“These projects are an example of our modern Industrial Strategy in action, helping companies and consumers seize the opportunity of the global shift to a cleaner, greener, more flexible energy system.” 

By 2020 the Energy Superhub Oxford consortium will launch a hybrid lithium ion / vanadium redox flow machine energy storage system (50MW) and a network of ultra-rapid and fast charging stations connected directly to the extra-high voltage transmission system. Money-saving ground source heat pumps will subsequently be installed in c.300 buildings and homes. The project proposes to locate the battery near Cowley substation, subject to planning permission from South Oxfordshire District Council.

The City of Oxford will pioneer a model of rapid transport and heat electrification that can be rolled out to other cities to reduce air pollution and support government plans to decarbonise the UK economy. The University of Oxford, together with a UK university-led energy revolution research consortium dubbed EnergyREV and the Energy Systems Catapult “Energy Revolution Integration Service” (ERIS) will study the project to produce reports and recommendations that will support the rollout of similar initiatives elsewhere in the UK, and around the world.

The project aims to reduce emissions and improve public health by accelerating a switch to electric vehicles and decarbonising heating for homes and buildings. Smart software will manage the energy storage, electric vehicle charging and heat pumps, to reduce strain on the grid and allow it to accommodate more renewables. ESO will demonstrate an ecosystem of practical decarbonisation approaches by applying machine learning and grid scale energy storage infrastructure to bypass network constraints.

Pivot Power’s private-wire network across south Oxford will have enough power to charge hundreds of vehicles at the same time. Approximately 100 ultra-rapid and fast chargers will be installed initially at a public charging station on the A34 and at the council’s main vehicle depots. The network will also run past the city’s two main bus depots, providing the opportunity for their fleets to go electric.

Earlier this year the City Council declared a climate emergency in Oxford and committed to continue working with partners across the city and region to deliver widespread carbon reductions. The council will use some of the URKI grant to convert part of its vehicle fleet to electric, with aims to procure new electric vehicles including refuse collection trucks, sweepers, tippers and vans.

Habitat Energy will develop the optimisation platform for the project which will control the energy storage, importing and exporting power to help balance the grid second by second, giving it the flexibility to bring more wind and solar onto the system. The optimisation platform will also manage electric vehicles and heat pumps, maximising their use of cheap energy and using them to provide additional flexibility to the electricity network.

From 2020 to 2021 Kensa Contracting will design and install ground source heat pump systems in 300 homes using an innovative shared ground loop system that sees each household with an individual Kensa Heat Pump connected to a larger ambient temperature district heating network.  Running costs for this type of system compare well to mains gas boilers, with half the carbon footprint. The optimisation platform is expected to cut heating bills and carbon emissions by a further 25%, developing a tailored plan for each home based on its heat profile and taking advantage of time-of-use tariffs to shift heating demand away from expensive, high carbon times and maximise the use of low carbon, cheap, off-peak power.

The project will see Pivot Power install a large commercial hybrid energy storage system (50 MW).  It will combine the high-power capabilities of a lithium-ion battery with 2 MW / 5 MWh of the heavy cycling, non-degrading characteristics of vanadium redox flow machines, supplied by UK energy storage experts, redT energy. Utilising both lithium-ion batteries and vanadium redox flow machines together in one hybrid system, combines the strengths of the two technologies to meet the complex demands of multiple applications while extending the lifespan of the lithium-ion battery.

The use of redT’s flow machine technology, Habitat’s pioneering real-time energy optimisation and trading capacity incorporating degradation management for the lithium-ion element, and the Kensa shared loop ground source heat pump technologies will make the Energy Superhub Oxford project one of the largest examples of real-world Smart Local Energy Systems across energy vectors.

Rob Saunders, deputy challenge director, Prospering from the Energy Revolution, UK Research and Innovation said: “We all need energy systems that are cheaper, cleaner and consumer-friendly. We have a great opportunity with the Energy Superhub to show just how innovation can deliver this energy ambition for the future. Supported by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, this project can drive investment, create high-quality jobs and grow companies with export potential.”

Pivot Power’s COO, Matthew Boulton, added: “We are providing the mass charging network needed to kick-start an electric vehicle revolution in Oxford and support the city’s ambitious plans to clean up its air and cut its carbon emissions. We’re thrilled that our network will enable the city council to start transitioning its entire vehicle fleet across to electric. We are hoping to encourage all sorts of other Oxford groups – residents, commuters, bus companies, logistics operators – to take advantage of the power we are bringing to the south of the city and switch to electric vehicles. Together we can make rapid improvements to Oxford’s air quality and turn it into a global showcase of a clean electric city. “

SSEN’s head of future networks Stewart Reid, commented: “We are delighted that the UK Government has provided the final piece of funding for Project LEO, this will provide crucial research and learnings, accelerating the transition to new local energy systems and the move to a smart, flexible, low carbon future. The electrical network and communities of Oxfordshire create the perfect environment for all the project partners to understand the value of new markets, technologies and solutions. Importantly for SSEN it will allow us to understand how we will need to change to facilitate these new markets and solutions while still delivering energy in an economic, reliable, fair and sustainable manner.”


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