The renowned Isaac Newton Institute (INI) has hosted a programme on Mathematics in Energy Systems (MES) from January to May 2019. The programme consisted of five week-long workshops, two associated knowledge exchange workshops with industry and nine focused work tracks motivated by the theme (https://www.newton.ac.uk/event/mes):
“The rapid advance of renewable generation brings fundamental interdisciplinary research challenges. On shorter timescales there are increasing problems of control and optimisation, while new questions of physical and economic design are emerging on the longer investment timescales. Network flows must be managed reliably under uncertain demands, uncertain supply, emerging network technologies and possible failures and, further, prices in related markets can be highly volatile. Drawn from mathematics, economics and engineering, the interdisciplinary participants in this programme will address a range of associated problems, including modelling, prediction, simulation, control, market and mechanism design and optimisation. Our aims are both to develop methodology which is urgent for the next several years and to sow the seeds of a lasting mathematical research agenda.”
Professor Hill was invited to the first workshop on “Flexible operation and advanced control for energy systems” and the closing workshop “Looking forward to 2050”. The speakers came from leading universities in the USA (Harvard, MIT, University of California, Michigan etc), Europe (ETH Zurich, Eindoven, etc), UK (Cambridge, Edinburgh, etc) and the Asia-Pacific (Auckland, Sydney, etc). There was a good mix of senior people and younger leaders. A notable feature of the closing workshop was that almost half the speakers were women including the highly regarded and experienced Marija Ilic from MIT and rising star Na Li from Harvard.
Professor Hill commented that this type of meeting is his favourite, much more than big conferences, where discussions across several disciplines go on from breakfast to dinner and in groups around the institute. Being a typical mathematics institute there were blackboards everywhere and of course a good coffee machine; even some coffee cups could be written on. So many research ideas and plans were ongoing in conversation and being written down in various ways.
This inspirational event certainly showed that the broader energy area, even just the more analytical systems aspects, is a diverse interdisciplinary subject with a strong future.