The University of Reading is leading a key theme in a new research hub, aiming to change the way the UK uses energy.

Professor Jacopo Torriti, from the School of Built Environment, will lead the Flexibility Theme of the new £15 million Energy Demand Centre, as part of a £53 million investment in six research hubs and centres aiming to help the UK meet its net zero target by 2050.

The Flexibility Theme will explore the capacity to shift energy consumption at different times of the day or the year to make the most of renewables.

Professor Torriti said: “Flexibility of electricity demand is one of the most critical challenges of a net zero society.

“This is because being able to move energy demand loads would enable suppliers to make better use of variable renewable energy, would make the most of smart systems and battery storage, and would minimise the investment needed in energy infrastructure to meet peak energy demand.

“These changes would make the task of reaching net zero more straightforward and more affordable.”

The work could help curb energy bills by encouraging use of energy away from the peak times, such as early evenings.

The research is part of a series of new UK energy research centres and hubs, aimed at boosting knowledge, creating innovative green technologies and reducing demand for energy to achieve greener, cleaner domestic, industrial and transport energy systems.

Lord Callanan, Minister for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance, said: “Our world-leading expertise and knowledge on the latest clean technologies starts in our universities.

“Today’s Government funding will support cutting-edge research across Britain, helping to deliver cleaner, cheaper home-grown renewable energy sources – helping grow our economy and boost our energy security.”

Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive of UKRI, said: “The funding announced today will support researchers and innovators to develop game changing ideas to improve domestic, industrial and transport energy systems.”

Energy Demand Research Centre

Reducing energy use could help meet half of the required emissions reductions we need to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

A new national Energy Demand Research Centre will build an evidence base for understanding consumer behaviour, assessing the impact of socio-technical energy demand reduction measures, and research mechanisms to improve energy efficiency.

The centre, led by the universities of Sussex and Newcastle, will investigate how domestic, industrial and transport energy demand reduction can be delivered on a local and national level across the UK.

The centre has been awarded £15 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).