Manchester researchers tackling the challenge of increasing electricity demand

Scientists at Manchester are supporting National Grid on a project funded through the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) from Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) to address the challenge of increasing demand for electricity, particularly in more densely populated urban environments.

This Discovery Phase project will be led by NGET with support from partners to develop an understanding of the barriers, opportunities, and benefits of modernising existing electricity infrastructure by replacing conventional cables with the use of High Temperature Superconductor (HTS) cable technology to increase network capacity in the urban environment.

HTS cables have three to ten times higher power density than conventional cable systems, meaning they deliver higher capacity at lower voltage levels and via a lower number of routes. Lower voltage substations have smaller footprint, which is very beneficial for densely populated areas. HTS technology will allow faster network capacity increase, delivering time, cost, and carbon savings with reduced energy losses and wider environmental benefits including reduced disturbance to local communities caused by construction activities.

The project aims to deliver benefits for ‘Whole system integration and decarbonisation’ by facilitating electrification of current and future needs for energy provision for heat, power, and transport while reducing the carbon impact of electricity system and evaluating the costs and opportunities of repurposing existing infrastructure and/or assets” such as existing cable routes, tunnels and substations leading to lower costs for upgrading infrastructure with HTS cabling.

Dr Vidyadhar Peesapati, will be working closely with National Grid and the project partners, in understanding the potential of this new technology, and understanding how this technology can be accelerated onto the network, to solve some of the biggest capacity issues associated with the wide scale electrification of heat and transport.


Dr Vidyadhar Peesapati, Knowledge Transfer Fellow in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, explains: “Such is the challenge of net zero that we must embrace the opportunity presented by emerging technologies. Manchester’s expertise in applying new technologies and our ability to innovate at pace, means we can offer the agile partnership organisations like National Grid need.

“We share their ambition to learn fast, through knowledge exchange, so that together we can develop solutions that will have a real world impact, accelerating pathways to net zero.”

The Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) is a funding mechanism for the Electricity System Operator, Electricity Transmission, Gas Transmission and Gas Distribution sectors. The SIF aims to find projects that help shape the future of the gas and electricity networks and succeed commercially where possible.

The fund is expected to invest £450 million in energy network innovation from 2021-2026, with the option to extend and increase as necessary.

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