Living without electricity

On 5 December 2015, Storm Desmond caused unprecedented flooding in north Lancashire and Cumbria. In Lancaster, the main electricity sub-station was flooded, cutting electricity supply to 61,000 properties. The loss of power quickly affected many other services that we all take for granted including mobile phones, internet and cash machines. The impacts of the loss of power were the subject of a workshop convened by Lancaster University, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the IET. This report is a summary of that workshop and a consideration of what lessons could be learned from the city’s experience.

Living without electricity (4.06 MB)


Sustainability of liquid biofuels

The Academy has conducted a study on the sustainability of liquid biofuels in UK transport. This was undertaken at the request of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) (now the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) and the Department for Transport (DfT), which both funded the study.

The study conducted an in-depth review the evidence and underlying methodologies for the quantification of the carbon footprints of biofuels. It also reviewed wider sustainability issues such as food security, rural development and social impacts.

The main conclusion is that biofuels can and should play an increased role in decarbonising UK transport, however a risk-based approach to policy is needed to avoid incentivising biofuels that do not meet the carbon savings required. Stronger accreditation schemes are also needed in biofuels, but also across all land-based supply chains, to safeguard against negative social and economic impacts.

Sustainability of liquid biofuels (8.00 MB)


A critical time for UK energy policy

This study, the latest undertaken at the request of the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology, considers the future of the energy system of the UK and how it can deliver against the so-called energy ‘trilemma’ — the need for a system that is secure and affordable as well as low carbon. The main conclusion is that there remain serious risks in the delivery of the optimal energy system for the UK. Government is advised, as a matter of urgency to:

  • Undertake local or regional whole-system, large-scale pilot projects to establish real-world examples of how the future system will work
  • Drive forward new capacity in nuclear, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and offshore wind
  • Develop policies to accelerate demand reduction
  • Clarify and stabilise market mechanisms and incentives

A critical time for UK energy policy (504.06 KB)


Counting the cost

Following on from the 2013 report on the GB electricity capacity margin, the Academy was invited by the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology (CST) to undertake research into the economic and social costs and impacts that would result from shortfalls in electricity supply, within specific sectors and across the UK economy as a whole. The report, Counting the cost, assesses the available evidence base on the potential costs of electricity shortfalls. This is important in order to help policymakers understand the cost/benefit trade-off from investing in greater levels of capacity or resilience to disruption.

Counting the cost (581.35 KB)


Wind energy

With wind energy set to play an expanding role in the UK’s energy system, the Academy has carried out a study on the implications of large-scale deployment of wind energy on the UK electricity system. The report, published in 2014, concentrated mainly on the engineering implications of wind energy from design, operation and integration into the national grid system. In addition to the engineering issues, costs and carbon emissions are also considered as the UK tries to move towards solving the ‘trilemma’ of secure, affordable and low-carbon energy. The study considered a medium timeframe up to 2030.

Wind Energy: implications of large-scale deployment on the GB electricity system (2.72 MB)


Made for the future

We all carry our own carbon footprint: from our car journeys to heating our homes, everyday life has an impact on energy and material resources. While individuals have responsibility for minimising our use of energy and resources, engineers have a significant role in designing domestic technologies to achieve greater efficiency and less waste. This study, which was published in 2013,  looked at the whole lifecycle of domestic technologies, examining the role of engineering innovation in each step.

Made for the future: challenges in creating a sustainable domestic supply chain (1.05 MB)


GB electricity capacity margin

In 2013, a study was undertaken at the request of the Prime Minister's Council for Science and Technology (CST) to explore whether the capacity margin of the GB electricity system could reach unacceptably low levels within this decade.

GB electricity capacity margin: A report by the Royal Academy of Engineering for the Council for Science and Technolog (399.24 KB)


Future ship powering options

A study, published in 2013, explored current and potential future marine propulsion systems, measuring them against the twin but related objectives of energy efficiency and environmental sustainability. The report followed a working party of more than 20 eminent engineering experts, led by Professor John Carlton FREng, Professor of Marine Engineering at City University London. Options investigated included greater use of LNG (liquefied natural gas) in current power units, battery and alternative fuel technologies, and nuclear-powered ships. No single or simple answer was identified that will meet every need or that can be applied to every type of vessel. Instead, further work is needed to adapt current technologies from the maritime industries and elsewhere to broader application in different types of ship and to research and develop innovative technologies specifically for maritime propulsion.

Future ship powering options: Exploring alternative methods of ship propulsion (5.79 MB)


Electric vehicles

Electric vehicles hold the promise, if widely adopted, of drastically reducing carbon emissions from surface transport and could, therefore, form a major plank in the UK’s efforts to meet the binding emissions reduction targets enshrined in the 2008 Climate Change Act. This report, published in 2010, considers the implications of electric vehicles becoming mainstream by 2050.

Electric vehicles: charged with potential (1.87 MB)


Heat: degrees of comfort

A study, published in 2012, considered the future of provision and use of heat in the UK economy out to 2050. If the UK is to meet legally binding carbon emissions targets in the future, the way we both use and produce heat will have to change radically in the next 40 years - but what technologies will become dominant and what will be the impact on the average UK householder?

Heat: degrees of comfort (1.13 MB)


Decommissoning in the North Sea

A workshop was held to discuss the decommissioning of oil and gas platforms in the North Sea.

Decommissioning in the North Sea (1.21 MB)