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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/J005649/1
Title: Transforming Utilities' Conversion Points
Principal Investigator: Varga, Professor LE
Other Investigators:
Camci, Dr F Boxall, Professor J Taylor, Professor CA
Blythe, Professor P
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Network Rail Rail Safety & Standards Board
Department: Sch of Management
Organisation: Cranfield University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 12 September 2011 Ends: 11 September 2013 Value (£): 304,093
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Urban & Land Management
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Construction Environment
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
This project looks across utilities at interdependencies and efficiencies of infrastructure at points of energy conversion. The hypothesis is that changes to these conversion points are critical to systemic sustainability and adaptability. But very few attempts have been made to consider how integrating or rebalancing (using less or more of) particular conversion points could make significant improvements to sustainability and adaptability of the system overall. This needs to be researched in the context of the user and the environment. The outcome of the current single utility approach is that power, water, transport etc are integrated at the point of use to create services demanded by end users. Services that help to shape sustainable behaviour are critical to the development of the infrastructure itself. The project will make use of existing research, such as that for energy use in the home, in order to ground our understanding of utility services needs. A fundamentally important aspect of national infrastructure is its technological context. Older infrastructure was built with a mechanical focus during a Taylorist machine paradigm. The global information (and network) age is upon us, with diverse opportunities in nanotechnology, hydrogen, battery storage, etc. In particular the ability to transmit information about utility operation and demand using telecommunications has been applied successfully to improve individual utility efficiency. The project will identify the latest relevant technologies and upcoming inventions and trends so that it frames proposals for change to the national utilities infrastructure in the current/future technological paradigm.

Our methodology to deliver this research this is to

1. Create a map of current conversion points and so identify the critical parts of the national infrastructure, volumes, network structures, institution types, regulators, and so on.

2. Create a base-line agent based model to demonstrate the sustainability and adaptability of the current national utilities infrastructure, focusing on efficiency losses and resilience issues at conversion points. A system as large as the national infrastructure cannot be readily experimented upon and so modeling is one of few appropriate methods which have a successful track record adding insights not discernable by other methods since they are better at reflecting real world systems. The model will incorporate environmental factors, such as diminishing fossil fuels, services focus and adoption of appropriate technology, and so combine existing research. All aspects of the model will be guided by the expert knowledge of the team.

3. Run a workshop bringing together representatives from all utilities, including regulators, policy makers, major and minor firms, scientists and technologists, allowing expert opinions to be debated. The key outcome is a prioritized list of future scenarios which are service focused and in the context of technological possibilities.

4. The base-line model will be developed to include the future scenarios. The most favourable scenario (or two) which generates the greatest improvement in efficiency and resilience of the system, will be further developed to create a convincing quantified case for transforming utility conversion points. There will be an analysis over time of the changes to efficiencies as a result of the transformations, which will enable a business case to be developed and incorporate changes needed to existing legislation, regulation and policy.

5. A second workshop will review the results of futures model, allowing stakeholders to verify and challenge the results, and to plan for changes using the demonstrable recommendations for improvement to sustainability and adaptability.

This project is complementary to other projects awarded funding in the Assets Sandpit, aligning with a services, integrated, technological and simplified view of national infrastructure.

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Organisation Website: http://www.cranfield.ac.uk