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Ellen Webborn


To achieve the goal of an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050, the UK anticipates a large shift towards energy production from renewable sources. Due to the unpredictable, intermittent nature of these sources, and the fundamental requirement that power supply closely matches demand to prevent blackouts, effective implementation and operation of energy storage and demand-side response may become vital for a successful low carbon future.

My research currently focuses on the potential for thermostatically-controlled loads such as fridge-freezers, hot water tanks and air conditioners to provide distributed frequency response for electricity grid balancing. We ask if simple deterministic rules for the temperature set-points of such devices will lead to synchronisation and grid-instabilities, or whether a diverse population of devices can bring about stability and provide a valuable service to the grid. We model the devices as a population of coupled oscillators.

Our paper "A stability analysis of thermostatically-controlled loads for power system frequency control" has recently been accepted for publication in the Energy and Complexity special issue of the journal Complexity and is available to download.

Previous research focused on the economics of energy storage, which forms part of the ‘Integrated, Market-fit and Affordable Grid-scale Energy Storage’ (IMAGES) project that brings together a diverse team of experts from multiple universities and industrial organisations, looking at the technology and economics of energy storage.

From 2014-2016 I was working part-time at National Grid alongside my PhD. My aim was to create a business case for energy storage by considering the possible ancillary services to which a storage facility could contribute. Rather than seek revenue only from price arbitrage, energy storage could provide services such as frequency response, and reactive power services to the grid. Additionally a storage facility could be used as a substitute for or to delay network reinforcement/investment; potentially saving National Grid (and hence the consumer) millions of pounds. During this time I contributed to National Grid's 2014 Electricity Ten Year Statment (ETYS) and 2015 System Operability Framework (SOF).

Supervisors at the University of Warwick


  • MSc in Complexity Science , University of Warwick (2011-12)

  • Taught courses (first 6 months) and two 3-month mini projects

  • BSc with Intercalated Year in Mathematics, University of Warwick (2007-2011)
  • Erasmus Programme Université de Strasbourg, France (2009-2010)