Energy Demand in Context – A week in Loughborough

Energy Demand in Context – A week in Loughborough
17th October 2013 Karen Holmes

On Monday 22nd September we (the students from the UCL side of the London-Loughborough Centre for Doctoral Research in Energy Demand) travelled up to Loughborough University to begin our first module, Energy Demand in Context. A busy and exciting week lay ahead of us.

The LoLo MRes Energy Demand team at Beaumanor Court

The week was a fantastic opportunity to meet the Loughborough staff and students from the closely related sister MRes Energy Demand programme. The taught part of the week took place at the beautiful Beaumanor Court, not far from the Loughborough University campus. After initial meeting and greeting, the residential week began with an historical look at Energy Demand from Professor Robert Lowe (Bob) followed by a coursework briefing. The coursework for the week was to develop a pathway, using the DECC 2050 Pathways Calculator, to obtain an 80% reduction in UK CO2emissions by 2050. The goal was for groups to present the pathway as a ‘pitch’ to DECC (played by our lecturers and professors) as to why their pathway, and not some other, should be adopted by the government as its plan for emissions reduction. The race was on!

With coursework in the back of the back of our minds, we started the second day with a lecture on Energy Use in non-domestic buildings from Loughborough’s Professor Kevin Lomas. We covered the importance of ventilation, ventilation systems and the current UK energy benchmarks for non-domestic buildings. The day also included an Energy Supply lecture from Bob, exploring a history of the UK’s fuel mix, as well as current UK energy supply from nuclear, fossil fuels and renewables. Later that day Bob spoke to us about Electricity Supply and the Integration of Renewables, where we took a look at transmission and distribution of electricity. That evening we chatted about our coursework over a couple of pints in the bar.

Day three saw us starting with a look at domestic energy demand with Kevin. Here we looked at how energy is used in homes. This was followed by a review of building physics with Dr Cliff Elwell, before having a go at the ‘Domestic Energy Challenge’. The challenge is based on a model built by Cliff which saw us taking on the ‘roles’ of couples living in semi-detached homes. We were given a budget, depending on the personas we adopted and the challenge of making our homes more energy efficient. The model calculated for supply from solar PVs that we may have installed, or generated the interest rate of the loan we may have taken out for installing a ground source heat pump, among other things. The game also threw in random climate scenarios, such as a severe winter which saw heat demand and energy costs rise, or geopolitical factors, such as unrest in the Middle East, which saw oil prices rise. With some scarily accurate predictions from Cliff (!), the game was an interesting lesson in the costs and associated risks of investing in renewables at home. After this, we took a look at Socio – Technical Factors impacting occupant behaviour and a look at The Warm Front Study with Professor Tadj Oreszczyn.

Getting stuck in with the Energy Demand Challenge!

We were also fortunate enough to have Alison Mathias and Jane Briginshaw from the Homes and Communities Agency speaking with us about Social Housing and managing energy demand.  This was followed by a look at reducing energy demand in housing stocks with Tadj. That evening, we were given an infra – red camera demonstration, including a chance to experiment with different objects such as bags filled with CO2, sheets of glass and each other! It was a great opportunity to see how heating and heat loss can occur and we also got the opportunity to see a demonstration of the greenhouse effect.

Professor Tadj Oreszczyn and one of the Loughborough students trying out the infra-red camera

The Thursday saw us taking a tour of the boiler room and ventilation system of Burleigh Court, the hotel we were staying in for the week. This was a fantastic opportunity to see what we had been discussing in lectures, at work, and to take a look at two of the hotel’s condensing boilers as well as the system ventilating the kitchens.

A tour of the one of the boiler rooms at Burleigh Court with Professor Kevin Lomas and Dr Simon Taylor (Loughborough, not pictured)

After the tours, we looked at reducing domestic energy demands with Kevin, followed by taking a look at smart technology with Cliff. We discussed energy control and optimisation strategies in the home, as well as smart grids. We also took a look into the future and considered radical changes to the energy system and possible demand reduction technologies. This linked nicely with a session that we had in the afternoon on energy use behaviour. Victoria Haines from Loughborough University spoke to us about why people use energy in different ways and the sociological and psychological perspectives of different behaviours, including reducing energy use.

The Friday saw the last day of our residential course. We revisited what we had learnt over the week with an energy quiz and then went straight into our group coursework presentations on the DECC 2050 Pathways calculator. Each group gave a 15 minute pitch, followed by a Q & A session. It was exciting to hear what the other teams had come up with! A quick feedback and wrap up session then saw us waving goodbye to our Loughborough colleagues and taking the train back to London after a packed and interesting week.