University of Canterbury

University of Canterbury is receiving $13.3 million (GST exclusive) over 7 years for the Advanced Energy Technology Platform research programme “Architecture of the future low-carbon, resilient, electrical power system”.

The following is the public statement for this programme from our contract with University of Canterbury.

The world is facing a climate crisis. If we do not quickly adapt how we produce, use, transport and manage energy, we and our children will face dire consequences. Changes have begun worldwide: increased renewable and sustainable electricity generation, uptake of electric vehicles, and electrification of industrial processes. All these reduce fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. But it is not enough. We must implement new initiatives to drastically address climate change.

The electrical grid which enables our modern way of life was conceived more than 100 years ago. The industrial and consumer loads and generator technologies of the past were all based on alternating current (AC), leading to today’s AC electrical network. However, new generation technologies like solar and wind power, as well as electric vehicles and battery storage all use direct current (DC). Our appliances, computers, smartphones, heat-pumps and more, as well as common industrial loads are also mostly DC based. Because of this, many converters are needed to interface generation and loads to the AC grid, creating inefficiency and causing compatibility problems.

Conveying electrical power by DC reduces losses and lessens voltage drop. A part transition of our electrical grid to DC has many technological benefits, including more flexible and efficient systems for generation, conveyance, storage and use, as well as easier integration of renewable generation and technologies such as electric vehicles and battery storage.

The changes required to address the climate crisis will make an AC/DC hybrid grid inevitable. This is no simple task; the electrical grid is humanity’s largest “machine”. Our team comprises of researchers from the Universities of Canterbury, Auckland, AUT, Victoria, Waikato and dozens of overseas collaborators. Together, we will tackle some key challenges of the future grid and build technical capability across our whole system, ultimately benefitting every New Zealander.

For more information contact Professor Neville Watson, University of Canterbury, +6433694542.

Last updated: 16 September 2020