Control For Energy and Sustainability

EPSRC Programme Grant

Control engineering concerns the automated operation of a device to achieve a specified purpose, while avoiding instabilities and unintended, disruptive transient behaviour. Examples include a chemical reactor under feedback control, a fly-by-wire aircraft, or a group of devices such as a wind-farm connected to a grid.

New technologies are required to meet a major challenge of the future: reduction of the environmental damage caused by power generation and transportation. Control engineering has a major role to play, because dealing with the problem is not just a matter of developing new devices, but of knowing how to integrate and control them in order to achieve their full potential. This research programme is aimed at advances in the theory and application of control engineering of special significance for renewable energy generation and energy efficient transportation, and at facilitating the adoption of these advances by the commercial sector.

In the power systems field, increased worldwide energy demands and concerns about climate change have created a multi-dimensional shift in the field with control, estimation and forecasting moving increasingly to the fore. Media coverage of the large-scale power outages in the North-Eastern United States, London, Italy, Sweden and Denmark, all in 2003, serves to heighten public awareness, but also underlines the importance of fundamental research into the control and design of complex interconnected systems. The need to achieve robustness against cascade failures, which can be triggered by mundane and relatively common events, is fundamental. The programme also seeks to address major challenges associated with ‘embedded generation’, taking account of the integration of wind power into a network, transmission, local network control, and random intermittency of supply.

An equally prominent issue for policy-makers is that of reducing carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuel, particularly in the transportation sector. The programme includes research aimed at advancing the state-of-the-art for control of internal combustion engines, which are not likely to be replaced by other technologies in the near future, to improve their efficiency. The application and development of advanced control techniques have an important contribution to make to the efficient use of fuel - it is our aim to devise new air traffic management schemes to reduce the fuel consumption and consequently carbon emissions of aircraft resulting from air traffic congestion. The programme is directed also at developing new methods of control with the potential to improve both the efficiency and performance of ground vehicles.