Birmingham Energy Institute (BEI) is developing and applying the technological innovation, original thinking and new ways of working required to create sustainable energy solutions and support the regional, national and global transition to a zero carbon energy system.
A research focussed institute, we are driving change in the way we deliver, consume and think about energy. Bringing together interdisciplinary research from across the University of Birmingham and working with government, industry and international partners our research is solving societal issues and addressing challenges relating to energy poverty, the circular economy, transport systems, cooling, hydrogen, energy storage and the decarbonisation of heat.
The global community is consuming more energy than ever. As we run out of time to contain climate change the BEI is upscaling their innovative technology solutions for applications here in Birmingham and across the globe.
Creating Sustainable Energy Solutions
The decarbonisation of heat is the major energy challenge that the UK faces over the coming decades and for the West Midlands region, this presents a major opportunity. Britain has committed to achieving net-zero by 2050, but the climate crisis has a habit of imposing ever-tighter deadlines. It may turn out that we need to convert all of Britain’s housing to low-carbon heating and high-spec insulation in 20 years or fewer. In any event, it is an enormous challenge.
The University of Birmingham and CBI Policy Commission report ‘Net Zero: The Road to Low-Carbon Heat’ recommends the establishment of an independent, time-limited, impartial body that will work with government on creating, coordinating and delivering an overarching National Delivery Body (NDB). Crucially, the NDB will be expected to be locally formulated and locally delivered by local authorities who will synergise their own local and energy plan with the national programme.
Our proposed National Centre for the Decarbonisation of Heat could prove pivotal in the local delivery of the NDB’s work by enabling the rapid scaling up of manufacturing, skills and deployment of heat solutions, all necessary to meet carbon reduction targets.
Delivering the Covid-19 Vaccine
Before March 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that, as a result of broken cold-chain, there are more than 1.5 million deaths globally from vaccine-preventable diseases every year – 30% of which are among children under five. WHO estimates that more than 25% of some vaccines may be wasted globally every year because of temperature control and logistics failure.
The successful delivery of Covid-19 vaccines to all those that need it is dependent of established cold-chains around the globe. Researchers from the Centre for Sustainable Cooling have been working on solving the cold-chain conundrum for many years, establishing ways to deliver to deliver Cooling for All.
Energy from Waste and the Circular Economy
Tackling climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. To follow the path for limiting global warming below 2ᵒC, set out in the 2015 Paris agreement, requires significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The UK has committed to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 requiring action at a local, regional and national level to transition to a zero carbon economy.
To decarbonise and decentralise the UK’s energy system we must implement technologies that provide energy supply solutions across the UK.
In the Midlands, many industrial sites are unable to access supply of affordable, clean and reliable energy to meet their demands.
Energy from Waste (EfW) could offer a solution to the Midlands based industrial sites. EfW sites provide affordable, secure energy supply solutions that form part of a developing circular economy. EfW reduces our reliance on landfills and obtains the maximum value from our waste streams. There are a number of merging technologies that could potentially play an important role which treats waste as a resource, properly integrated into an energy and transport system and fully respects the potential of linking in the circular economy.
Securing Strategic Elements and Critical Materials for Britain
In recent years, the world’s supply of rare earth, platinum group metals, that are key to the clean energy sector have come under increasing pressure as global demand continues to rise. But while demand may be increasing, these materials are deemed ‘critical’, because the supply is restricted by a range of geological, economic, technological and political factors. For example, there has been significant attention in recent months on the potential for critical materials to be used as leverage in trade disputes.
The Birmingham Centre for Strategic Elements and Critical Materials is working with academia and industry to develop a UK strategy for these materials.
Sustainable Solutions for Future Cities
The Birmingham Centre for Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Research
is driving both the technology and thinking required to solve some of the challenges facing the UK as it seeks to develop sustainable solutions to the designing of future cities, energy and transportation. It is the ability to combine the practical with the radical which has placed Birmingham at the forefront of this endeavour.
The BEI Institute draws on the broad capabilities and expertise at the University of Birmingham and its strong relationship with collaborators from academia and industry, to produce studies and policy documents addressing the challenges facing today’s energy system. Nationally, the BEI is influencing and shaping policy on critical issues such as waste management, materials supply and decarbonisation of heat to shape the energy solutions of tomorrow.
The policy commission reports present the needs for development, highlight the opportunities and introduce possible solutions to inform the decisions of policymakers.
Pathways for Local Heat Delivery
The Pathways for Local Heat Delivery Policy Commission report
examines all the components that are required to deliver a local heat solution and the barriers that need removing. Chaired by Sir John Armitt and delivered by the University of Birmingham in partnership with Energy Research Accelerator, the Commission have used the City of Birmingham as a case study and examined: planning; finance; consumer engagement and the role for mandation and zoning; local authority expertise and capacity; and challenges presented by the local infrastructure (e.g., gas and electricity grid).
Securing Technology-Critical Metals for Britain
The UK must act now to ensure a stable supply of technology-critical metals (TCMs) essential for its transition to clean energy and the delivery of its ten point plan for a green industrial revolution.
Technology-critical metals such as rare earths, lithium and cobalt are essential for emerging clean-energy technologies including electric vehicle batteries, and permanent magnets used in efficient motors and generators. Demand for these materials is expected to grow exponentially over the next 20 years as a result of the global race towards next generation clean-energy technologies.
Securing Technology-Critical Metals for Britain outlines what the UK must do to address critical supply issue surrounding the technology-critical metals needed to achieve our Net Zero targets.
The Road to Low-Carbon Heat
Heat accounts for over a third of UK carbon emissions and is the most difficult challenge we face en-route to net-zero by 2050. This Policy Commission report established by the University of Birmingham and the CBI outlines the colossal challenge of decarbonising heat in the UK, what the challenge means for businesses, consumers and communities.
The Heat Commission’s report call for the establishment of an independent, time-limited, impartial National Delivery Body (NDB) that will work with government on creating, coordinating and delivering an overarching NDB. The proposed National Centre for the Decarbonisation of Heat (NCDH) could prove pivotal in the local delivery of the NDB’s work.
The Road to Low-Carbon Heat Policy Commission - July 2020 (pdf -3mb)
Powering West Midlands Growth: A Regional Approach to Clean Energy Innovation
Energy Capital together with the University of Birmingham and the Energy Systems Catapult have unveiled a policy commission report making the case for the creation of Energy Innovation Zones (EIZs) in the West Midlands. The report states the main focus of the EIZs will be to integrate low carbon technologies, to develop the business models and infrastructure needed to support new approaches to clean energy as well as overcome the regulatory barriers necessary for them to flourish. They will be designed to stimulate local clean energy innovation and drive productivity within the region, exports and growth.
Powering West Midlands Growth: A Regional Approach to Clean Energy Innovation, March 2018 (pdf - 21MB)
Cold is vitally important to modern day life. It underpins the supply of food and medicine, enables the growth of data networks and makes buildings and transportation more comfortable. The lack of cold has massive social and environmental impacts.
The report explores the challenges and opportunities for the UK.
Doing Cold Smarter report, October 2015 (pdf - 8mb)
Through its partnership with Tyseley Energy Park (TEP), the BEI is overcoming challenges relating to energy poverty and decarbonising domestic heating, electricity grid constraints, poor air quality and low and zero carbon transport, fuels and logistics, and establishing the area as a test site for piloting and scaling up energy system solutions.
In 2021, the BEI’s Birmingham Energy Innovation Centre will be established at TEP to stimulate collaborative research and development projects that will demonstrate new and emerging technologies. TEP and the BEI are also developing the Birmingham Energy Incubation Hub, providing office and workshop space to support the growth of low-carbon energy businesses. Through BEI SME support programme, ATETA, businesses are also able to access the world-leading research facilities of the University of Birmingham.
The BEI has partnered with TEP to deliver the Birmingham Energy Engineering Skills Programme. Striving to shape the future of the Energy Revolution, the project provides funding for outreach activities that will raise awareness of new energy technologies, TEP and its role in the region's transition to a zero-carbon economy in East Birmingham.
In the Midlands
The BEI is a part of the ERA consortium which draws on the expertise and world-class facilities of the Midlands Innovation group of universities. Together the consortium work with UK government, industry and the higher education sector to undertake innovative research and demonstrate low carbon technologies that help shape the future of the UK’s energy landscape.
The BEI is part of a learning community across the Midlands. Working with students from the University of Birmingham to create opportunities to engage with academics, industry and policymakers. The BEI is also creating opportunities for students to work with researchers from the Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) to increase the supply of highly-trained, skilled postgraduates across the spectrum of energy research.
The BEI are also working with the Birmingham Energy Society and other student groups on developing an energy outreach programme and industrial, civic, policy engagement and networking activities and placement opportunities.