The right tool to unlock energy systems thinking and to save the public sector pound

FLEXIS colleagues from the integrated energy supply work package

(L-R) Professor Jianzhong Wu, Professor Nick Jenkins, Dr Sathsara Abeysinghe, Mr Alexandre Canet, Dr Muditha Abeysekera

The public sector is the largest buyer of gas and electricity in the UK. Energy managers of public sector organisations such as hospitals, campuses and schools are faced with a significant challenge to optimise the operation of multi energy supply systems (electricity, gas, heating/cooling) amidst the large variations within day and seasonal energy prices.

Before this project, there were no easy to use tools to unlock these possibilities and to support energy managers in making these decisions.

In January 2019, the then FLEXIS Researcher, and now Lecturer, Dr Muditha Abeysekera, secured a £39,507 EPSRC grant via the Centre for Energy Systems Integration (led by Newcastle University), to create a tool to address this challenge.

With support from his FLEXIS colleagues, Professor Nick Jenkins, Professor Jianzhong Wu, Dr Sathsara Abeysinghe and Mr Alexandre Canet, Dr Abeysekera worked in partnership with a range of industry and academia, namely, the Energy Systems Catapult, the UK Governments Crown Commercial Services (Energy), Queen Elisabeth Hospital at King’s Lynn and the University of Warwick, to develop a tool to support decision making on the day to day and seasonal operation of on-site energy systems whilst considering the energy price fluctuations and the synergies between multi energy systems.

The decision support tool was demonstrated at Queen Elizabeth Hospital at Kings Lynn. The tool showed that by improving controls of on-site energy assets and optimising the operation of the energy system, the hospital could save around 10% on its energy use, including a 15% reduction in carbon emissions and achieve cost savings of around 17%.

Since then, this research has:

  • attracted £90k additional funding from EPSRC to further develop decision support tools in collaboration with project partners
  • influenced investments in the building management system at Queen Elizabeth Hospital
  • provided technical input to the Energy Systems Catapult’s Modern Energy Partners programme
  • influenced formal collaborations to commercialise the decision tools in partnership with Energy services company, QiO Technologies


FLEXIS colleague Dr Muditha Abeysekera

Dr Muditha Abeysekera

“When I started this research project, I was a FLEXIS funded researcher at Cardiff University. In the space of a year, this research has given me lots of experience and opportunities within the industry and supported me to progress my career and take on a role as a lecturer within the university.

This project extracted learning from academic research to develop a simple methodology to evaluate operation decisions of energy systems and highlight the potential benefits of local multi-vector energy systems for providing local grid services.

It also showed there are major benefits to be captured from fuel arbitrage and energy storage systems; from optimising the interactions with energy suppliers and other neighbouring energy systems, through to the interconnection of energy networks and smarter cost effective energy choices. This project was a real team effort and I’d like to thank everyone involved for their, guidance, commitment to research and openness to change.”

Dr Sathsara Abeysinghe, who was employed to work in this project, also found the collaboration truly rewarding. Dr Abeysinghe who is originally from Sri Lanka specialises in a statistical analysis of energy systems. She gained a PhD degree from Cardiff University and is now working with FLEXIS staff and researchers to advance her research interests.

The CESI project provided her with a brilliant opportunity to put her skills to the test and see the results unfolding. The success of this research exceeded Sathsara’s expectation. She is now working on the second stage.

FLEXIS researcher Dr Sathsara Abeysinghe

Dr Sathsara Abeysinghe

“The success of this research grant enabled me to transition from a closely mentored researcher to an independent researcher with my own project. From the beginning of this project, I found myself developing a vast variety of skills in research, organisation and project management within a short period of time, which I am sure will benefit my future career.

As a continuation of the first stage CESI project, in this new project we proposed to bridge the gap between the potential benefits of the theoretical most effective operation of public sector multi energy systems and realising these benefits.

Currently we are developing new control algorithms/strategies to improve the real time operation of the two public sector case study sites including the Queen Elizabeth hospital Kings Lynn.

I have been fortunate to work with a remarkably talented research team and extremely supportive project partners in this project. I am hopeful that this project will be of great success.”