ITRC Webinar – Net Zero Energy and Transport Systems

Jan 21, 2021

ITRC’s pioneering, system-of-systems methodologies explore the key interdependencies between energy and transport systems.

On 21 October 2020, ITRC director, Jim Hall, chaired their fourth, well-attended webinar with a ‘deep dive’ into energy and transport systems. Dr Modassar Chaudry, Senior Research Fellow in the School of Engineering at Cardiff University and Dr Simon Blainey, Associate Professor in Transportation Within Engineering and Physical Sciences at University of Southampton presented an overview of ITRC’s work, with feedback and remarks from keynote speakers Alec Waterhouse, Head of Modelling, Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; Siobhan Campbell, Head of the Central Research Team and Deputy Chief Scientific Advisor, Department for Transport; and Nick Eyre, Director, Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS).

Jim outlined the scope of ITRC’s research, then invited Modassar and Simon to add more detail. With the UK legislated to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, the interdependencies between energy and transport systems will be of huge significance in the future, with much heavier use of electricity and, probably, hydrogen to power vehicles. And there will be other, additional complexities – the variability of supply of renewable energy (solar and wind), the need for energy storage and back-up, and the role of vehicles themselves – optimising energy conservation in terms of charging, battery use and vehicle to grid (V2G) discharging mechanisms. Implementation of policies and ongoing cost questions present additional complexity – as well as unknowns to do with technology and behaviour. Analysing all these factors is a hugely complex task. However, ITRC has used its NISMOD platform to create/explore alternative futures for transport and energy in previously impossible granularity – analysing options and a range of different scenarios.

Modassar introduced three, integrated NISMOD models (Energy Demand, Energy Supply and Transport) which allow assessment and analysis of alternative futures and strategies to meet the net zero 2050 target.

Simon then focused on ITRC’s research on transport – the NISMOD Road Transport Model, which covers the entire UK major road network and simulates changes in response to variables such as population growth, vehicle use, energy cost and travel time. From this the team have modelled two contrasting transport strategies: full electric, and electric and hydrogen. Both Simon and Modassar stressed the connection between transport, energy and heating, noting that before attempting any technology solution, we need to first double down on energy efficiency within homes.

Next up was Alec Waterhouse of the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. When the Committee on Climate Change made its recommendations to meet net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, he led the modelling task force that drew up a road map allowing legislation to make it possible. He spoke of his own team’s work with modelling, as they work towards the government’s sixth Carbon Budget.

Siobhan Campbell from the Department of Transport noted how transport and the wider energy system – separate up till now – are now facing the reality of being completely integrated into the energy system. She also acknowledged that transport is the biggest contributor to carbon emissions, and spoke of the need for technological and behavioural solutions to help achieve net zero, also of the government’s priorities post Covid and Brexit – to level up and decarbonise.

‘Chat’ was busy with questions from attendees, prompting further discussions including the ‘Marmite’ status of hydrogen as an energy source, the possibilities and unknowns of future energy technology, the problems of cleaning up HGV, maritime and aviation transport; and how behavioural aspects, transport demand, the role of regulations (price elasticities/speed limits) might all come into play in possible futures.

Watch the webinar on catch up, below:


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