I was initially attracted to this role because it offered the opportunity to research on investments in low carbon technologies (e.g., renewables and multi-energy systems) under uncertainty, which is a topic that I am passionate about and was the focus of both my MsC and PhD studies. Additionally, this role offered me the opportunity to work in research groups in which I can interact with specialists in the area from Manchester, other universities (e.g., Strathclyde) and the industry (e.g., ENWL and EDF, among others).
I chose the University of Manchester because of its prestige in the area of power systems research. Moreover, after doing some research on the University and the city itself, I realised that (excluding the weather) the quality of life for researchers in this institution is quite high, as The University of Manchester offers a lot of support for researchers, particularly PhD students and early researchers; and the city is big enough to offer a wide variety of activities while remaining small enough to allow reaching most places within a couple of minutes.
My work focuses on how to identify the best alternatives to invest in low carbon systems (e.g., power generation with renewable energies, distribution systems under the smart grid paradigm and so forth) that can have a long operational lifetime (e.g., 30 years) during which future changes in the power sector (e.g., new policies and technologies and changes in demand and energy prices, among others) may render the systems obsolete or unprofitable. In the face of this challenge, my work aims at identifying and exploiting flexibility embedded in the planning and design of the abovementioned systems, which may allow project planners to adjust the systems in response to changes in the future with the objective of maintaining their value.
On a typical day, my work may involve gathering information, interacting with other researchers, coding and publishing. Firstly, I try to maintain my knowledge up to date and define the particular issue to be addressed by my research by frequently gathering information concerning new research in the area and my different projects. Secondly, I interact with other researchers in my work groups by discussing ideas and exchanging knowledge and information and with some students that may need support with their research. Thirdly, I research different ideas brought about by literature surveys and interactions with other researchers, which typically involve coding a simulations and/or analysis platform. Finally, I share my methodologies and findings in reports and research articles.
I really like the dynamics of research, as there is always something new to explore and even similar projects may involve completely different challenges. On the one hand, it can be frightening to be uncertain about how to tackle the new challenges. On the other hand, facing he challenge and solving new issues is always very rewarding.
I work directly with several of my colleagues who are working on similar topics as mine and with researchers form other Universities and industry who are involved in the same project or research work stream. The outputs of the different research works have been showcased in different group meetings, seminars, and international conferences.
I hope that my research attracts focus on the value of flexibility embedded in the planning and design process of low carbon technologies; ultimately, facilitating the development of highly flexible and thus valuable, low carbon systems. This would be a paradigm shift on current research that centres on the value of the technology under deterministic (non-flexible) conditions; thus potentially undervaluing of the complete system.
A real ‘game-changer’ would be the introduction of policies that would shift industry’s focus from best short-term solutions to best long-term solutions. Considering that emerging energy and environmental uncertainties are becoming significant, industry would need the development of new concepts and tools to exploit the flexibility within their projects to maximise profitability and minimise risks as uncertainties unfold. This would, firstly, draw attention to research on flexible energy systems and provide substantial real industry data as new concepts are being tested and, ultimately, favour the development of valuable flexible energy systems.