IET project to inform UK’s future electricity networks enters next phase

April 7, 2014
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The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has received funding from the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) ‘the UK’s innovation agency’ for the second phase of its Power Networks Joint Vision (PNJV) project. The PNJV is calling for a ‘whole system’ approach to adapting Great Britain’s power grid for decarbonisation, with a ‘systems architect’ at the helm.

The funding will enable the project to gain valuable new understanding and knowledge of the role systems architects already play in other industries in the UK, such as air traffic control, railways, defence and telecoms.

The subsequent phases of the project will also include:

  • investigating how other countries with similar industry structures and challenges manage the systems architect role for their electricity networks; and
  • a review of existing academic studies with further evidence for the need for a systems architect to manage the growing complexities of Great Britain’s electricity networks.

The current piece of work is being driven by Professor Roger Kemp CEng FIET from Lancaster University with the final results and recommendations from the project expected to be published circa September 2014.

Funding from the TSB was prompted by Electricity Networks: Handling a Shock to the System, a recent IET report highlighting the need to address the new challenges facing the electricity network as Great Britain moves to a low carbon economy. These challenges include two-way local power flows, less predictable generation, as well as new demands such as electric vehicles and heating. The report has been greeted with widespread interest from the industry, government and regulator. The work has strong synergies with work also underway within DECC and the energy regulator, Ofgem, looking at whole system issues.

Commenting on the new funding, Dr Simon Harrison, Chair of the IET Energy Policy Panel and PNJV said: “The reaction to our report from government and industry has been unanimously positive. Everyone agrees that we must look at the energy system holistically, rather than at individual parts in isolation, and there is recognition within the industry that exploring the feasibility of a systems architect for our electricity system could be a significant step forward. This latest funding from TSB means we can develop our initial thinking into a fully researched and substantiated set of recommendations. These recommendations can then help create a long-term strategy for building a future energy system that is reliable, affordable and fit-for-purpose in a low carbon world.”

Nick Smailes, Lead Technologist for Energy at the Technology Strategy Board, said: “We are working with industry and Government to launch an Energy Systems Catapult in 2015. The work by the IET will help us understand the challenges that Britain’s energy sector faces and we welcome its work on whole system thinking, including ideas for an energy systems architect, which is a relatively new concept for energy systems in Britain.”

Power Networks Joint Vision (PNJV) is led by a group of energy experts from industry, government and the regulator. It was set up by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) to share learning and knowledge and identify long-term and cost-effective ways to create innovative electricity networks and sustainable power generation.


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The IET is one of the world’s largest organisations for engineers and technicians.  We have nearly 160,000 members in 127 countries around the world. The IET is working to engineer a better world. We inspire, inform and influence the global engineering community, supporting technology innovation to meet the needs of society.  The IET is the Professional Home for Life® for engineers and technicians, and a trusted source of Essential Engineering Intelligence® and thought leadership. For more information, visit

The Energy Systems Catapult will join a network of elite technology and innovation centres established by the Technology Strategy Board as a long-term investment in the UK’s economic capability. Applying business-led research, Catapults help businesses transform great ideas into valuable products and services to compete in the global markets of tomorrow. Other Catapults include Future Cities, Connected Digital Economy, Cell Therapy, Satellite Applications, High Value Manufacturing, Transport Systems and Offshore Renewable Energy. Energy Systems and Precision Medicine are due to open in 2015. For more information please see

The Technology Strategy Board is the UK’s innovation agency.  Its goal is to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation.   Sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Technology Strategy Board brings together business, research and the public sector, supporting and accelerating the development of innovative products and services to meet market needs, tackle major societal challenges and help build the future economy. For more information please visit