UCL Energy Institute

Dr Catalina Spataru

Dr Catalina Spataru

Associate Professor

Bartlett School Env, Energy & Resources

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
18th Oct 2010

Research summary

I specialise in whole energy systems dynamics modelling and resource nexus, with great interest in low carbon energy transition (technologies, policies), SDGs, resource governance, circular economy. 

I am the founder of the Islands Laboratory at UCL, a unique initiative that will provide information and an electronic toolbox to analyse and interpret islands data and assess sustainable solutions for islands nations worldwide. For more information please go to https://islandslaboratory.com 

I made several contributions to the understanding of the whole energy system; working towards the development of a in-house dynamic energy model (DynEMo) for UK and France, and a scalable dynamic energy model (DEAM) to simulate half hourly energy flows for consumers connected to substations to determine possible future loads imposed to plan upgrades. I have also initiated new research areas: i. power blackouts prevention and reliability of coupling energy networks, developing a modelling framework to asses the impact of intermittent renewable energy sources, trade and risks to energy security for European countries, with a primary focus on Ukraine-Russia-EU route; ii. assessing trade-offs between resources under different climate change scenarios in emerging economies (BRICS; MINT) constructing a dynamic water-energy-land model (IDA3/5); iii. development of a trade model to assess integration of RE following interconnections in Islands and in super grids in the Global South. My past research includes: i. resilience of gas network, safety and risk assessment of end users following releases of natural gas/hydrogen, probability assessment of leakages and explosions. The work has been used to define a Decision Support Tool for European Countries to assess the socio-economic aspects of hydrogen addition to natural gas system; ii. Development of energy models at micro distributed level; iii. A Smart Home tool with a friendly user interface to determine potential savings due to behaviour change and technologies upgrade in buildings. I used and tested different indoor localisation systems for people tracking and activity recognition including wireless networks, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and cameras. 

I made contribution to international reports, e.g. World Energy Council Scenarios Composing Energy futures to 2050; Global Systems Science Orientation paper part of EU-FET consultation process. I organised workshops and act as scientific chair for a number of conferences, organised workshops and round-table discussions with colleagues worldwide (e.g. Stanford University). 

Teaching summary

I taught lectures on fluid mechanics, mathematics, renewable energy, energy systems modelling, lab demonstrations (PV and Wind turbines) for undergraduate, MSc and Mres students. I have been invited as guest lecturer (e.g. Nottingham University, UK; Nurtingen University Germany). Between 2012-2015 I helped Prof. Bob Lowe with the MRes module TMI and between 2011-2014 I was running together with Dr Mark Barrett the Energy Systems modelling module (MSc EDE). In 2014 I delivered lectures part of the UCL Engineering IEP yr.1 Sustainable Energy Challenge on Smart Grids and Energy storage. I am currently leading and teaching the following modules: i. Smart Energy Systems module (MSc EDE), a multidisciplinary module which I proposed and developed in 2013, providing students with an understanding of methods, concepts and practice of current and future whole energy system dynamics, offering a combination of theory, practical case studies, with interactive exercises, use of data and development of a model for islands. ii. Metrics, Modeling and Visualisation of the Resource Nexus module (MSC Sustainable Resources) - an interdisciplinary module developed in 2015 providing an understanding of trade-offs and interlinkages of water, energy, land, food, materials nexus and sustainability with focus on islands; iii. Communications skills (MRes EDS).

I have been supervising several MSc, Mres and PhD students. Some of them took over the models I developed and extend/apply them in their dissertations under my supervision. For example, DEAM algorithms were included in the PhD model SpDEAM of Ed Sharp which calculates hourly loads at a spatial resolution of 0.5 degrees Latitude/Longitude.  


I joined UCL Energy Institute in 2010 and I am currently an Associate Professor. Previously I worked as a Principal consultant, Journalist, Research Fellow, Senior Researcher, Assistant Prof. I have a PhD in Engineering, Gas build-up and the frequency of explosions following releases of Natural Gas/Hydrogen mixtures, obtained from Loughborough University, UK. During my studies I have won various fellowships studying at Universidad Complutense de Madrid Spain via Socrates-Erasmus Programme; Al. I. Cuza University, Romania; Carnegie Mellon; USA; University of Perugia, Italy. I was a visitor research fellow at MIT, USA (2014) and a visiting professor at Nuertingen-Geislingen University Germany (June 2017). I have been invited regularly as a speaker both in academic (delivering guest talks and lectures e.g. Princeton University 2014) and professional circles (e.g. Cheltenham Science Festival UK, European Business Summit Brussels, etc). I have organised public engagement events and I engaged with media being interviewed by journalists (e.g Sunday Telegraph). 

I received the Award Trevithick Fund in 2011 from Institution of Civil Engineers for the paper Low Carbon Housing Design Informed by Research, published in the Proceeding of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Engineering Sustainability. I am the regional representative of the IEEE Women in Power (Region 8- Europe).