In this blog post, I will introduce my research in the ENSYSTRA project and my experiences so far.
About my research
ENSYSTRA project comprises 15 Ph.D. fellows studying the energy transition in an interdisciplinary way (divided into four work packages). I am part of the WP 2 – technologies and development pathways, where I study the developments of the key offshore renewable energy technologies in the market. Specific focus is given to offshore wind, wave & tidal technology, biofuel production from seaweed. In my research, I use quantitative methodologies like experience curves and bottom-up cost modeling to examine the learning process of offshore energy technologies. In other words, I identify what technological developments or potential innovations leads to cost reductions, and what do these technologies need in terms of support and policy actions to succeed in the market. By identifying these elements beforehand, I will be able to extrapolate the developments of these technologies over time and explain their role in the future energy system.
Interesting findings in my research so far
Offshore wind is becoming one of the key components in the energy mix of North Sea countries. Also, recent auction results in the Netherlands and Germany are making headlines about offshore wind projects reaching subsidy-free status. But, there are still some milestones left ahead for the technology to achieve that feat (for more details, refer subsidy-free renewables  and merchant risk ). Studying similar aspects of technology developments and providing answers based on empirical evidence is exciting and challenging. Over the past year, I have been developing detailed mathematical models to represent the complex relationships between cost developments of offshore wind technology and its learning effects. The presence of regulatory differences across the North Sea countries (e.g., regulations on transmission/offshore grid) challenges a like-for-like comparison between the wind projects. However, the models have provided interesting insights into the progress of the offshore wind, and I am looking forward to publishing the results soon.
As part of the ENSYSTRA training program, ESR’s participate in secondment stays at a partner organization. I visited ORE Catapult Ltd, UK, for three months as a visiting researcher. ORE Catapult is the UK’s leading technology innovation and research center for offshore renewable energy. During my secondment period, I was working with the Analysis & Insights team of the company. We had numerous discussions about the developments of offshore wind technology, and they provided valuable inputs and suggestions for developing my cost models. It was an excellent opportunity, and I find it very useful for my research.
By ESR Srinivasan Santhakumar– email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ideas about continuing research after the ENSYSTRA project
Accurate evaluations of energy technology costs are critical to policy choices and investment decisions. So, there will always be a question, how much will this technology cost by this year?
Nevertheless, currently, I do not have a concrete idea about my plans after the project. But I am interested in the research topic, and I will continue to contribute as much as I can.
Milestones I want to achieve in the near future
I have almost completed two years of my Ph.D. Over the past year, I primarily focused on studying the developments of offshore wind technology. The next step is to publish my findings on offshore wind and begin to explore the next part of my thesis (which is wave & tidal technology).
If you are interested in the specifics of the 15 research projects, you can find summaries and video explanations from the researchers here.
Our project is supported by 23 industry partner institutions.
 CarbonBrief. What does ‘subsidy-free’ renewables actually mean? 2018.
 Heiligtag S, Kühn F, Küster F, Schabram J. Merchant risk management : The new frontier in renewables. McKinsey Co 2018.
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