The University of Westminster has been awarded a £507,000 grant from the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) to support a two-year research project into smart grids.

Smart grids promise to add greater flexibility in electricity supply, support the increasing levels of of renewable energy being added to the national grid, and deliver more accurate metering and billing to consumers and businesses, the university said.

Dr Nazmiye Ozkan, senior research fellow at the University of Westminster's policy studies institute, said: “The research framework will provide key strategic insights which will help steer the development and implementation of smart grids, and help understand and manage the relevant risks and barriers."

Professor Jim Skea OBE, research director of the UKERC, said: “Smart grids promise to transform the way that all users of electricity systems -  producers and consumers - interact with each other.

"However, there is no shared vision as to where the smart grid concept might take us. This project will make an important contribution in terms of exploring the possibilities.”

The necessary vision is perhaps becoming increasingly important as the government recently announced tenders to spend almost £5 billion on three wide area networks to link smart meters in 30 million UK homes and businesses, and accompanying data services as part of the government outlay.

Such a large layout of cash on smart grids and smart meters may prove controversial. In June, the National Audit Office said the roll-out could cost a total of £11.3 billion. The NAO said there were “major risks” to value for money, as there was “uncertainty” about “the extent to which smart meters will result in changed energy use by consumers over a sustained period”. The government had also not yet developed a benefits realisation plan, said the NAO.

Researchers at Brunel University, Cardiff University, University of Exeter, and the University of Nottingham are all contributing to the University of Westminster research project.

Photo: National Grid