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National challenges

Energy and environment

We help the UK to get more value from existing networks, renewables and low-carbon technologies

Using technology-enabled change to support the energy and environment sector

The need to decarbonise our economy, whilst monitoring and adapting to climate change, is driving huge transformation in all sectors.

The UK government is committed to reducing our impact on the environment and transforming our energy system to make it cleaner and more affordable, through the Clean Growth Strategy and the 25 Year Environment Plan, as well as collaborating and supporting other countries to reduce their impacts. Our greenhouse gas emission reduction targets are among the most ambitious globally and the next few years will see record investment in clean growth innovation.

NPL is helping to meet these targets and support world-leading innovation in the UK and internationally. Our work is driving down the cost of renewables and low-carbon technology, and increasing our understanding of emissions and pollution. We apply the latest advances in measurement to make every stage of energy generation and transport more efficient, safe and affordable, and to improve the quality of data available on climate change and environmental pollution.

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Case study

Improving the quality and efficiency of crop production


Case study

Providing accredited measurements for hydrogen fuel


Case study

Developing non-destructive testing for 2D materials


Measurement challenges

The major sector-specific technical and measurement priorities identified through industry consultation for energy and environment are:

Sources of clean energy

  • Evaluate new technology performance
  • Ensure the safety of energy technologies
  • Improve energy affordability
  • Minimise the impact of energy on the environment

Transitioning our energy system

  • Integrate new technology into existing infrastructure
  • Develop a smart electricity grid

Protecting the environment

  • Monitor global-scale changes to the environment
  • Detect and quantify emissions of greenhouse gases
  • Identify the sources of air pollution

Using environmental data

  • Increase the uptake of space-borne environmental data
  • Reduce concentrations of greenhouse gases and health-relevant air pollutants


There are a number of themes woven through the measurement challenges specified that will need to be considered at a macro level. These are:

  • Developing low cost sensors and data networks. There is a need for lower-cost sensors in new areas such as detecting greenhouse gas emissions, managing the electricity grid and monitoring the health of energy infrastructure.
  • Testing and verifying the claims of new technologies used in the low carbon economy, to give investors and customers confidence.
  • Developing accurate and internationally comparable standards, to promote more accurate monitoring on a global scale.
  • Supporting the growth of the energy and environment sector. The UK has a strategy to lead in the provision of climate services, and is looked-to internationally for advice on climate change, air quality and energy.

About us

Our team combines professionals with experience in industry, consultancy, non-profit organisations, science and innovation. The team sets NPL's energy and environment strategy, assessing UK and international market drivers and policy developments. We work closely with our scientists to inform NPL's approach to current and foreseeable industrial challenges. We create partnerships with key stakeholders from the private, public and non-profit sectors to help drive innovation. Contact us to find out more about our energy and environment work.

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We need to validate the performance of innovative new environmental technologies, to ensure that businesses can prove their claims to investors and customers.

Richard Barker - Head of Energy and Environment

NPL’s key work streams

NPL is working broadly to overcome the sector challenges identified by industry, maximising value and continuing to align to UK energy and environment sector challenges. These are:

  • To support the roll out of electric vehicles, through conducting research into next-generation battery technologies, to increase their lifetime and develop new techniques for testing the claims and viability of new batteries
  • To develop new approaches to environmental monitoring and pollution reduction. We assess the accuracy of low-cost air quality sensors and provide confidence in measurements of greenhouse gases, to increase our understanding of air pollution and ensure data can be used to make decisions on tackling climate change and poor air quality
  • To reduce the cost and ensure the safety of energy technologies. We work with industry to provide new measurement tools for emerging technologies like hydrogen, helping to ensure their safe commercialisation.
  • To make the UK’s nuclear energy industry safer. We support industry through cost-effective decommissioning and support for automation of hazardous activity.

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Find out more about the range of work we do in energy and environment

Work with us

Our research and measurement solutions support innovation and product development. We work with companies to deliver business advantage and commercial success.
Contact our Customer Services team on +44 20 8943 7070