Mrs Nicolette Fox

Post:Phd Student (The Sussex Energy Group)
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Can solar panels reduce vulnerability to fuel poverty and support moves to a low carbon electricity system? My PhD study, funded by the EPSRC's Autonomic Power System,  examined what happens when you give 7 social housing tenants the opportunity to generate and use renewable energy.

How do they adapt their day-to-day routines to capture solar power given that its generation is influenced by weather, seasons and changing daylight hours?  What impact does it have on their domestic life and finances?  Can becoming producers and consumers -  ‘prosumers’ - of solar power not only help towards developing a low carbon energy system in the UK, but also reduce vulnerability to fuel poverty?

It is believed that Take 7 is the UK’s first longitudinal qualitative study to explore these issues in families with prepayment electricity meters. The project engaged solar PV households in research over four seasons and encouraged peer-to-peer knowledge sharing using stories and materials developed in collaboration with them.

The case study methodology was underpinned by a professional and personal commitment towards research being used for social action, as well as serving “the community in which it was carried out”  (Lincoln 1995). In addition, it drew on the concept of ‘crystallization’ that uses both analytical and creative genres to offer a “wide angle view of the setting or phenomenon” (Ellinson 2009).

Based on the research, I  produced a film for a public event for fuel poverty  and am currently working on an animation. The research has been used by three local authorities to improve their roll out of solar panels to social housing tenants. In addition, I produced a booklet with a social housing landlord that was distributed to several hundred solar PV social housing tenants. I also produced a solar PV leaflet with two local authorities. 

 In June 2016 I was awarded a Sussex University Impact Award for Public Engagement. I am also a finalist in the NCCPE Engage awards for Higher Education public engagement. My PhD research has also been selected by the EPSRC as a case study.

My past work has included roles as an award-winning sustainability campaigner, communications consultant and television and newspaper journalist.