ENSIGN digital twin project to model future UK energy system

ENSIGN digital twin project to model future UK energy system
Image: SP Energy Networks

The Energy System Digital Twin (ENSIGN) project will create a digital twin of future multi-vector energy networks to inform the drive towards 2050 net zero emissions.

The project, which has received industry and government funding of almost £10 million (US$12.4 million), is aimed to deliver new knowledge to the complexities and challenges of integrating the variety of renewable resources, decarbonised loads and non-electrical energy vectors that will feature in the future to meet net zero objectives in a system that is both reliable and resilient as well as affordable.

These include wind, solar – at both utility and local scales – tidal, geothermal and hydrogen, plus electrified transport and heating.

With the digital twin, researchers expect to be able to model, test and analyse scenarios before applying them in the real world and also to make decisions in real time based on the observed and anticipated behaviours informed by the twin.

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As such, the insights from this project should be important for shaping the future of the energy systems in particular in the UK but also elsewhere.

“The pace of change in the energy industry is like nothing we’ve ever seen so it’s vital we can stress-test tech and services before they launch publicly. This new digital twin will allow us to simulate innovations and understand the potential benefits of new services,” explains Scott Mathieson, Network Planning and Regulation director at SP Energy Networks, which is leading the project along with the University of Strathclyde.

James Yu, Head of Innovation at SP Energy Networks and the industry lead in the project partnership, says that teamwork plays a vital role.

“It is a privilege to have access to the academic expertise of the team, and the opportunity to collaborate and represent the industry. Together, we can work towards realising our ambitious goals.”

Alongside SP Energy Networks and the University of Strathclyde, other partners include the University of Glasgow, University of St Andrews and Heriot-Watt University, UK Power Networks, D’Arcy Thompson Simulator Centre, National Grid Electricity Transmission and the National HVDC Centre.

More than 20 new academic research jobs and PhD positions are anticipated to emerge in the project, which will integrate real-time modelling, artificial intelligence and machine learning to the digital twin.

It is also envisaged to progress the application of digital twins closer to ‘business as usual’.

The ENSIGN project is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s Prosperity Partnership Fund, which brings together businesses and academia, with matched funding from SP Energy Networks and contributions from other partners.

The findings will be made available to distribution network operators and their supply chains across the UK and further afield.

SP Energy Networks is the network operator in southern Scotland, north Wales and northwest England.