SUPERGEN 1 Renewal Core - FlexNet: Renewal of the Supergen Consortium on Future Network Technologies

Project: Research council


FlexNet has been set the goal of researching the future form of the electricity network. This is a great challenge because electricity networks are formed from long lifetime equipment that will often be in place for more than 50 years and which costs a great deal to replace. Much of the UK network was constructed in the 1960s and 1970s and falls due for replacement soon. This is both an opportunity and a threat. The plans for replacement must stand the test of time or future generations will face a large bill for making changes. We are at a point where the future of electricity generation is uncertain. We know that low-carbon energy is the objective but the network required to support offshore wind is very different from the network to support domestic-scale fuel cells. The key will be to plan, design and build networks that are sufficiently flexible to meet several quite different scenarios. There are limits to the flexibility though. First, flexibility generally requires more investment for which electricity consumers ultimately pay. Second, electrical networks are major projects that impact local communities and those communities' have important views on what technology is acceptable. Third, flexibility calls for a far greater level of real-time control of the network which poses challenges in analysis and implementation. FlexNet will research the technologies to provide flexibility, the market mechanisms through which investment is encouraged efficiently and the way in which public attitudes might shape what can be done. FlexNet is a consortium of universities, electrical network operators, equipment manufacturers and NGOs. The seven universities combine expertise in electrical engineering, economics and social science. The consortium builds on the work of its predecessor, FutureNet.
Effective start/end date1/10/0730/03/12


Social sciences
Electrical engineering
Real time control
Fuel cells