The way we supply and use energy is simply not sustainable. Unless we harness new methods to satisfy our increasing reliance on power sources, the impact on the environment will escalate to potentially catastrophic levels.
The challenge is global. Understanding the issues and finding solutions is at the heart of our research and education here at the University.
We have more than 140 academics from four Colleges and 17 Schools actively engaged in energy and energy-related research and development. Our focus spans energy storage, integrated energy systems, powertrain systems and novel energy carriers, as well nuclear power plant materials, systems and decommissioning.
Supported by the Birmingham Energy and Policy Research Institute (BEPRI), our academics are tackling the questions that face society now and will do so in the future:
- How will the UK integrate and control its emerging low carbon energy system at grid and community scale?
- What business models are needed to develop and implement the energy technologies for a low carbon future while providing the foundation for national growth and social wellbeing?
- Does the transport of goods and people need to change in a low carbon future and do we need a new generation of materials, fuels and powertrain systems for automotive, rail and aero engines?
- How can the UK create the right conditions for translating frontier science and engineering into innovation in the energy sector?
Finding answers to these complex questions requires interdisciplinary collaboration, which is why our mission is driven by the need to work across universities and business in the UK and overseas.
Our energy-related research and education work is as diverse as it is pioneering. The ‘highlights’ include:
- Over the last 50 years, the Birmingham Centre for Nuclear Education and Research has been fundamental to the UK’s retention of its nuclear capacity. Thanks to industry co-creating education programmes and defining its research requirements, we have led the education of nuclear engineers and scientists. Not surprisingly, the University recently led an evidence-based policy commission to consider the future of nuclear energy in the UK.
- Through collaborations with the Universities of Nottingham and Loughborough, we established the Midlands Energy Consortium (MEC), which hosts the UK Energy Technologies Institute. The wealth of complementary expertise within the MEC has resulted in it leading three energy-related national centres for doctoral training, as well as hosting the Higher Education Funding Council for England-funded Midlands Energy Graduate School. This aims to broaden the wider energy knowledge of our research-led and taught postgraduates to help meet the growing demand in the UK for more highly-trained low carbon technologies researchers.
- Together with Nottingham, we have established an active and growing research and education presence in Brazil, creating collaborations to develop energy-related technologies such as next-generation quantum sensors for oil discovery and well-management and material performance characterisation for deep oil extraction pipelines.
- The Centre for Low Carbon Futures (CLCF) is a joint project with the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield, Hull and York. This reflects our focus on challenges related to energy storage, storing wrong-time energy from renewable generation and balancing the grid when required. We have provided leadership in understanding the pathways for energy storage in the UK and are supporting the creation of a CLCF-China Centre for energy storage technology development and integration.
- As a civic university, we also look to have an impact closer to home: Collaborating with the University of Leeds and funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, we have carried out a mini-Stern review of Birmingham and the wider region to support the City in its vision to reduce its carbon footprint by 60 per cent by 2027.