Highlights from the IDLES Programme

White Paper: Net-zero GB electricity: cost-optimal generation and storage mix: We address four key questions on the volume of offshore wind capacity, the volume of energy storage, the role of other zero-carbon generation beyond offshore wind, and the variation in the cost of electricity. Offshore wind is set to become the backbone of the UK energy system but there will be key roles for energy storage and other supporting technologies in producing a cost-effective system. 

Technology database: A comprehensive database of performance and costs of various energy technologies and components, published to an open-source data repository. Based on manufacturer datasheets and price lists, it includes commercially available heat pumps, gas and electric boilers, water-storage cylinders, solar-thermal collector and PV panels, compressors and heat exchangers. 

Briefing Paper: Impact of Covid-19 on the energy system: This paper investigates how electricity demand changed at both household and national levels during lockdown and details the measures that were taken to keep the lights on across Britain, highlighting lessons that can be applied longer term for managing a zero-carbon electricity grid. 

The era of subsidy-free offshore wind: An international collaboration to analyse offshore wind auctions from five countries and show that offshore wind power generation can be considered commercially competitive in mature markets. 

Core methodological work: Soft-linking complementary energy system planning models. Our integration approach and application of the framework to study the use of hydrogen and electricity to decarbonise heat in the UK by 2050 is discussed.

Blog: Future electricity networks: How smart EV charging can help hedge against long-term uncertainty: This work demonstrates how strategic investments in smart charging options (G2V, V2G, and V2B) can help long-term electricity network expansion planning and facilitate the shift to a net-zero electricity sector. 

Agent- and activity-based modelling of energy demand: to capitalise on demand-side response strategies we need to accurately understand and harness flexibility in demand. We describe an approach to link the detailed modelling and simulation of individuals, their activities, and other variables (e.g. weather) with energy consumption of their household. 

Blog: Delivering net-zero carbon heat: What’s best for homeowners and the energy system? Comparing electrification and hydrogen for heat decarbonisation is attracting substantial interest. We present for the first time a comprehensive technoeconomic comparison of domestic electrical- and hydrogen-driven heating technologies that captures how their performance and cost depend on their design and operation.

What made Britain’s power sector emissions fall by two-thirds? The contribution of taxes, subsidies, and regulations to British electricity decarbonization. We use Shapley values to precisely attribute outcomes (changes to CO2 emissions, electricity prices, and fossil fuel consumption) to individual drivers. 

Educational resource: How do we prepare the UK for a zero-carbon future? Members of the IDLES team published this brochure, aimed at 15-19-year-olds, in conjunction with the educational company Futurum. Describing whole-energy systems analysis, it features input from each of the six project areas and includes insights on career pathways, an activity sheet and a case study.

The contribution of taxes, subsidies, and regulations to British electricity decarbonization. Great Britain’s carbon emissions from electricity generation fell two-thirds between 2012 and 2019, providing an important example for other nations. This rapid transition was driven by a complex interplay of policies and events. Here, we use Shapley values—a concept from game theory—to disentangle these and precisely attribute outcomes (changes to CO2 emissions, electricity prices, and fossil fuel consumption) to individual drivers.