Entrance hall of the ICMSEnergy Management: Flexibility, Risk and Optimisation

In June 2016, ICMS hosted a workshop on Energy Management: Flexibility, Risk and Optimisation

This workshop aimed to bring the disciplines of power systems engineering and mathematics closer together to address the energy trilemma: the need for energy supply to be secure, clean, and affordable. This workshop is part of the EPSRC-DST Indo-UK Initiative in Applied Mathematics.

Another week with a busy schedule including a poster session, networking sessions to consider a 2019 INI programme, a public lecture, discussion session and talks from industry and academic participants.  Even so, several of the delegates used the free afternoon to go on an excursion to a nearby distillery. 

This week’s public lecture was by Goran Strbac (Imperial College), Quantifying the value of flexibility in future lower carbon energy systems.  Several SME Energy companies and consultants from across Scotland attended the lecture and enjoyed lively debate at the reception afterwards. 

Goran Strbac highlights the domestic challenges with lower carbon energy


Delegates at the Energy Management: Flexibility, Risk and Optimisation Workshop, 2016


Whilst the workshop was on, we took the opportunity to speak to the delegates in a bit more detail.

Rita Shaw, Electricity North West 


Rita undertook a Physics undergraduate / masters degree before leaving academia to work in the energy industry.  Initially she worked for an engineering company in the renewable energy sector.  She identified an opportunity to undertake a doctorate (with University of Surrey) whilst in industry, and moved to join Electricity North West (an electricity distribution network operator).  10 years on she is still with Electricity North West. She works in the Network Strategy team looking at loading on networks and is interested in making good decisions about how to provide sufficient network capacity.  Historically, that would involve decision of whether to buy a new transformer and where to install it etc. That provides substantial capacity but it comes at a substantial cost.  New strategies could involve buying back capacity from major customers by reducing their demand when there is no spare capacity.  There are substantial difference in scale for these approaches (cost, time etc) and decision support tools are required. 

Can you tell me what you were expecting when you signed up for this event and what have you got out of it so far?

I was expecting a mix of disciplines and was concerned as to whether the ‘maths’ focus would be too far away from my area of expertise.  However so far it has helped me focus on the structure of maths for my problem.  I’ve been able to provide an industry perspective which has been useful for the other delegates.  It has made me reflect on my work and helped me to communicate with the delegates from other backgrounds. I’ve learned some stuff and I’ve taught some stuff - which is what the workshop is all about.  There has been a good combination of maths and real life physics & engineering problems.  The range of presentation styles, content, maths has been really interesting.

What have you found most enjoyable about the week so far?

I’ve liked hearing other delegates’ perspectives on problems via the talks and discussions over lunch.

How does participating in this workshop differ from your normal day?

I’m interacting with people with very different backgrounds and perspectives.  I’ve had to think carefully about what background they have when communicating.  It is also a chance to spend some time away from the computer.

Have you met interesting people?


What new connections have you made? 

Some new contacts, but it has probably been more important as a route to cementing some existing relationships with academia

What might this lead to? 

I think future interactions with existing contacts are likely to be more meaningful as we have a better understanding of each other’s perspectives. 

Have you been to many other events?

I’ve attended conferences.  Those have tended to be dominated by the power network industry albeit with academic participants.  This workshop has a much stronger maths focus, as you would expect.

Are there any particular challenges for an Industrial delegate at these events

It can be difficult to justify the time out of the office for these type of events.  I have an existing relationship with some of the academics and am working on a project that has a requirement for dissemination.  Without those criteria I’m not sure I would have been able to justify the time.  However, participation can be very beneficial.

How can we increase diversity in mathematics?

Visibility. Seeing participants from different backgrounds, styles and approaches contribute and participate is important. I don’t like to think we should overly focus on gender diversity - it’s an obvious difference but not the defining difference to how we do our jobs -  the important thing is enabling us all in all our diversity to contribute their best. Pleased to hear ICMS is asking questions in this area.

Do you prefer blackboard or powerpoint?

Depends on the use, for big audiences it is important to have a prepared presentation that everyone can see – so powerpoint. It can also be shared afterwards. However sometimes the ability to draw a graph to illustrate a point on a blackboard is important, and can be the key to making the powerpoint presentation understandable.


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