Dr Murray Thomson BSc PhD
Reader in Networks & Systems
Murray is a Senior Lecturer in Electrical Networks and Systems at CREST: the Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technology, which is within the School of Electronic, Electrical & Systems Engineering at Loughborough University.
He is an electrical engineer with particular interest in the Integration of Renewables into existing electrical power systems. He specialises in the analysis of low-voltage distribution networks and the development of flexible demand as a means of grid balancing in future low-carbon power systems incorporating high penetrations of intermittent wind, marine and solar power.
BSc Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Leeds University, 1985
Software and Electrical Systems Engineer, Morris Cranes, Loughborough, 1986-1991
Self-employed Musician, 1991-1997
Joined Loughborough University, 1997
PhD Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Loughborough University, 2004
Senior Lecturer in Electrical Networks and Systems, Loughborough University, 2008
My research is primarily in the area of energy systems modelling, with a focus on high temporal resolution: looking at how things vary on an hourly or even minutely basis, as opposed to just considering annual averages or worst-case minimums and maximums.
I am interested in three closely related areas:
First is electricity consumption, at the level of the individual consumer, individual appliances and time of use. Where does it all go? Who is using it? Why are they using it? What are they using it for? When are they using it? Could they use it at a different time?
Second is the balancing of national electricity supply and demand as they vary throughout the day and throughout the year, particularly considering future scenarios including very high penetrations of low-carbon technologies such as wind and solar power. How much conventional backup plant is needed? How often will it get used? What is the role of energy storage? To what extent could time-shifting the demand be of value? I call this Flexible Demand or Demand Response; it is part of Demand Side Management.
Third is the operation of local distribution networks, particularly the "last mile" of cables or overhead lines that deliver electricity to individual homes and commercial buildings. How will these networks cope with an influx of low-carbon technologies such as photovoltaics, electric vehicles and heat pumps? How can we avoid digging up the roads? The "last mile" implies a focus on 400 V three-phase and 230 V single-phase circuits, which are called low-voltage or LV networks in the UK.
My research in these broad areas is supported through EPSRC projects including:
- Integrated, Market-fit and Affordable Grid-scale Energy Storage (IMAGES) EP/K002228/1
- Realising Transition Pathways - Whole Systems Analysis for a UK More Electric Low Carbon Energy Future EP/K005316/1
- Transformation of the Top and Tail of Energy Networks EP/I031707/1
- Stability and Performance of Photovoltaics (STAPP) EP/H040331/1
- LEEDR: Low Effort Energy Demand Reduction (Part 2 of the Call) EP/I000267/1
- SUPERGEN HDPS – CORE EP/G031681/1
- DD-DSM: Demonstration of Distributed Demand-side Management as a service to the UK grid operator TS/G002282/1
- Transition pathways to a low carbon economy EP/F022832/1
- SUPERGEN Highly Distributed Power Systems Consortium GR/T28836/01
- Impacts of, and limits to, wide scale embedded generation from micro-CHP and photovoltaics GR/S00774/01
- SOLAR CITY: An Electrical Energy Supply and Demand Planning Tool for The Urban Environment GR/N35694/01
E.ON have also generously supported my research over many years.
In practice, much of the actual work is done by my colleagues:
Dr Ian Richardson has done a lot of good work on integrated high-resolution modelling of domestic electricity demand and low-voltage electricity distribution networks. He did his PhD with us and is now a Visiting Academic.
Dr John Barton is a Research Associate and works on modelling of the balancing of national electricity supply and demand with high temporal resolution. His FESA model considers the GB power system on an hourly time-step basis, including detailed representations of energy storage and demand side management (flexible demand).
Graeme Hodgson is investigating the barriers to the implementation of Flexible Demand within the GB electricity supply system. This includes structural barriers such as commercial or regulatory disincentives and technical barriers relating to the practical implementation of commercial Flexible Demand services.
Sarah Higginson is researching how people use energy within their homes and whether there is scope to influence the timing of peoples’ energy-consuming practices so as to achieve a degree of flexibility that can assist in balancing a low-carbon power system of the future.
Eoghan McKenna is looking into how people may respond to a variable price of electricity at the domestic retail level, including the possibility that the price variations may be irregular and unpredictable due to the natural intermittency of wind and solar power.
Shiva Beharrysingh is modelling the operation of electricity distribution networks particularly with regard to phase unbalance, so that this aspect of power-quality does not become an obstacle to the use of electric vehicles, heat pumps, photovoltaics or any other low-carbon technologies.
Michal Krawczynski is a Research Associate working on a stochastic model of domestic thermal demand that can be integrated into the high-resolution electricity demand modelling mentioned above.
I also supervise MSc projects on the CREST Masters in Renewable Energy, and occasionally MEng projects.
Computer programming and written communication skills are very valuable throughout this field of research.
I teach modules:
Integration of Renewables ELP032, ELP632(DL) & ELD532(UG), which is a core module on the CREST Masters in Renewable Energy Systems Technology, offered to both on-campus and distance-learning students and available to industrialists as .
Power Electronics for Renewables ELC022, which is a third-year undergraduate module.
To support the above, I have developed a bespoke e-learning software package to convey the principles of electrical machines and concepts used in AC electrical power systems. It has 3-d interactive graphics to allow students to "see" the rotating flux and to get a "feel" for reactive power, phasor diagrams and so on. If you are on campus (and very patient!) you might be able run this directly:
(Please be patient – it can take over a minute to start.)
Additionally, I present the Electrical Aspects of Wind Power on both the CREST Wind Power Short Course, which is primarily for industrialists, and the Renewable Energy Technologies Short Course for the Royal Academy of Engineering.
I also supervise MSc projects on the CREST Masters in Renewable Energy, and occasionally MEng projects. Please see the Research tab.
Previously, I lectured on the Postgraduate Diplome in Energy, EPFL, Switzerland and was Chair of Governors at Rendell Primary School, Loughborough.