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World-class energy research to drive a net zero future


As a step towards achieving the UK’s net-zero target, funding announced today will enable engineers, social scientists and natural scientists to conduct vital research on global energy challenges and their implications for the UK.

The fourth phase of the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) will see £22 million allocated to UK institutions to undertake research on the decarbonisation of key sectors such as industry, transport and heat, and explore the role of local, national and global changes in energy systems.

The centre has also today announced that Dr Robert Gross, from Imperial College London, has been appointed as its new director. Dr Gross, who is one of UKERC’s co-directors, succeeds Professor Jim Watson, who has been UKERC director since 2015.

Led by University College London (UCL), UKERC encompasses 17 universities, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Chatham House and the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies and is funded through the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Energy Programme by UKRI’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Natural Environment Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council.

UKRI is providing £18 million support for the fourth phase of UKERC, with partners contributing £4 million.

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said: “Moving the UK to a sustainable, resilient energy system that delivers on our net zero ambitions requires collaboration, better data and expertise across the research and innovation ecosystem.

“UKERC plays an important role in supporting this transition, delivering world-class research, facilitating national and international collaboration and generating evidence that informs real-world decisions.”

UKERC’s research programme will build evidence to inform decisions that shape the UK's transition towards a net zero energy system and economy. It will explore the potential economic, political, social and environmental costs and benefits of energy system change, and consider how these impacts can be distributed equitably. UKERC will also host and curate energy data, map and monitor public engagement, carry out systematic evidence reviews and improve the transparency and understanding of energy models.

UK Energy Research Centre Director, Dr Robert Gross, said: “The UK’s net zero emissions target for 2050 requires urgent and ambitious action now, particularly by government.

“UKERC already has a strong international reputation for ground breaking interdisciplinary research on the transformation of energy systems. This new phase of funding will enable us to implement an exciting new agenda of research and engagement, and to inform the decisions that need to be made over the next five years.”

Dr Tara Hooper, Environmental Economist at Plymouth Marine Laboratory and UKERC scientist, commented: “PML is delighted to be once again leading an Energy and Environment Theme for UKERC. Taking forward any transition to net zero carbon emissions requires a detailed understanding of how to optimise land use and minimise local environmental impacts so that we can ensure food security and environmental sustainability at the same time as decarbonising our energy supply. The Energy, Environment and Landscapes theme continues UKERCs work to bridge this gap between energy and environmental disciplines through wide-ranging, integrated research covering solar, bioenergy, and on- and offshore wind, using advanced modelling techniques and considering local to global scales.”

UKERC will also continue to support the wider energy research community by facilitating engagement with other stakeholders, supporting career development and capacity building, and enhancing international collaboration.

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