Innovation and Opportunities in the Transition Towards Net Zero

With so many exciting new technologies that can help cut carbon emissions, the next step is ensuring they can all work in sync. Trialling combinations of low carbon technologies is essential for their roll out across the UK’s built environment.

On the windswept Welsh coastline is the UK’s only university with its own private beach. Swansea University is currently developing an innovative new campus 3km east of Swansea city centre. Called Bay Campus, it is trialling a variety of new energy efficiency technologies that aim to help the built environment industry reach its net zero goals.

“We’re aiming to create a kind of blueprint for other similar sites to take on a similar approach to energy systems in buildings,” says Mathilde Castagnet, Head of Programmes at the Active Building Centre, the main funder of the project.

The research and development project was commissioned by a specialist arm of the University called SPECIFIC, whose aim it is to pull together industry and academia to develop products that are scalable within the real world and help reduce carbon emissions in the built environment. SPECIFIC partnered with electrical firm RDM and their sustainable design consultancy sibling company EFT Consult to install the technology. At the heart of the project is a microgrid control system by Schneider that coordinates energy flow between a 135kw solar PV installation, a solar powered car port using an innovative new perovskite technology from Oxford PV, and vehicle to grid technology.

“The job of microgrid controller is to coordinate the most efficient way of using the energy and where to use it from,” says Chris Phillips, RDM’s site manager. “It will take the tariff information, future weather and everything else that it is collecting and use the energy from the most efficient place at that time.”

This smart grid system is part of a technological revolution underway in response to net zero. Innovations in solar PV, EV car charging, and batteries mean that these technologies are more accessible than ever before. Coupled with the energy crisis gripping much of Europe, demand for low carbon technology is at an all-time high, and electricians are rushing to install it.

“We carried out a survey in April 2022 and we found that already 72% of UK members were installing one net zero technology or another or several,” says Andrew Eldred, the ECA’s director of Workforce and Public Affairs. “The opportunity for electricians and for the firms who employ electricians are vast because we do have this very broad skill set.”

It’s not a demand that is likely to diminish. With the UK government targeting net zero by 2050, there is a mass electrification that needs to happen.

“Any companies that are considering investing in training and technology, I’d say go for it,” recommends Chris Jenkins, director of EFT Consult. “It’s something that’s not going to go away. It’s something that’s only going to grow. And therefore, make that commitment. And I believe that it’ll pay off.”

Find out more