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Students devise solution to slash carbon emissions

From left: Frank Weigand (RWE npower); James Carberry, Sarah Abbott, Bethany Knibb and Graham Hinchly (Bristainable Energy team); Kevin McCullough and Volker Beckers (RWE npower)

From left: Frank Weigand (RWE npower); James Carberry, Sarah Abbott, Bethany Knibb and Graham Hinchly (Bristainable Energy team); Kevin McCullough and Volker Beckers (RWE npower)

31 March 2010

A team of students from the University of Bristol are joint winners of a national competition to devise new ways of delivering low-carbon energy for the future.

The Bristol team, called ‘Bristainable Energy’, tied with the University of Birmingham for first place in the RWE npower ‘Energy Challenge’, a UK-wide competition that invites students to devise solutions to one of the biggest challenges facing the energy sector: how should a power generation and supply company respond to climate change? Adding to the challenge, students had to consider affordability, public perception, sustainability, customer retention and security of supply issues in their solution.

The UK has legally binding targets to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, with an interim reduction target of 34% by 2020. To achieve these targets, the UK faces the prospect of whole-scale decarbonisation of energy generation in addition to massive investment in new, clean forms of energy. 

The Bristol team’s solution included developing more renewable energy and an innovative fixed-price green energy tariff, while Birmingham’s idea included the use of hydropower to cope with peaks in demand. The two winning teams were selected from eight finalists, including Imperial College, London, City University and Churchill College, Cambridge.

Key to Bristol University’s win was the use of a fixed-priced tariff entitled ‘breathe’. The tariff is designed to educate consumers about energy use and encourage energy efficiency, while also providing price certainty for consumers and generators. This certainty allows the generator to plan investment in renewables to provide clean, affordable energy for the future.   

The members of the winning teams were each awarded £1,250, and £5,000 for their university. The judges, comprising senior staff from RWE, were impressed with the unique nature of both teams’ solutions, and the way in which they combined education and generation.

Volker Beckers of RWE npower said: ‘Both university’s presentations were excellent and stood out due to the original way each team tackled the challenge of cutting emissions, while ensuring clean energy provision for the future.

‘The UK, like the rest of the world, is facing pressing challenges in responding to climate change – how we generate and consume energy is central to meeting the targets that have been set. It will call for innovative thinking and clear solutions that are financially and environmental viable and it’s been exciting to see the ideas put forward in our Energy Challenge. Based on the strength of the presentations we have seen, it’s clear the young engineers and science undergraduates of today will be the pioneers of tomorrow. Among the goals of the Energy Challenge is encouraging and rewarding young people studying engineering and science, and attracting new students to these important topics.’

The Bristol team comprised James Carberry (Mechanical Engineering), Graham Hinchly (Mechanical Engineering), Sarah Abbot (History) and Bethany Knibb (Biochemistry). Team captain James Carberry said: ‘We’re thrilled to be winners of the RWE npower Energy Challenge, and that our ideas stood out against such a strong field of competitors. Taking part in a competition that’s challenged us on such an important topic has been a great experience, and we’re thrilled that our hard work has paid off.’

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