Current research projects

Innovation pathways, strategies and policies for the Low-Carbon Transition in Europe (INNOPATHS)

Source: European Commission Horizon 2020

Summary: The Paris Agreement substantially increased the need for countries and regions to understand the full economic, social and environmental implications of the deep decarbonisation to which the global community is now committed. The EU has long had decarbonisation ambitions, but there remains considerable uncertainty as to precisely how these ambitions will be achieved, or what the impacts of such achievement will be on the EU economy and society more generally. INNOPATHS will resolve this uncertainty to the extent possible, will characterise and provide a quantification of the uncertainty which remains, and will describe in great detail a number of possible low-carbon pathways for the EU, together with the economic, social and environmental impacts to which they are likely to lead. These pathways will be co-designed with the aid of 23 stakeholders from different sectors who have already provided letters of support to INNOPATHS. INNOPATHS will suggest through this analysis how the benefits of these pathways, such as new industries, jobs and competitiveness, may be maximized, and how any negative impacts, such as those on low-income households, or on carbon-intensive sectors, may be mitigated. INNOPATHS will communicate its insights through the normal scientific channels, and make substantial contributions to the scientific literature, but will go well beyond this in terms of interactions with stakeholders, building on the co-design processes in the project to reach out to stakeholder networks of businesses, NGOs, local and national policy makers. INNOPATHS will create four innovative online tools to explain its pathways, technological transitions and policies, to different constituencies. Through these tools and other dissemination and communication mechanisms, INNOPATHS will have a substantial impact on the climate and energy policy debates up to and beyond 2020, increasing the probability that decisions in this area will be taken in an informed and cost-effective way.

Case studies and European preferences for low-carbon heat

Source: European Commission Horizon 2020

Low-carbon energy sits at the forefront of attempts within Europe to decarbonize buildings and other systems.  To address this task, the SWS-HEATING project will develop an innovative seasonal thermal energy storage unit with a novel storage material and creative configuration.  The targeted benefit of this next generation solar heating technology is to reach and overcome a solar fraction of 60% in central/north Europe, reaching 80% in the sunnier south of Europe, with a compact and high-performing STES system at low cost, realizing solar active houses throughout the European Union.  Case studies of past, rapid transitions in low-carbon heat will be conducted, looking for lessons that can be applied to SWS-heating. Then, a novel dedicated survey questionnaire eliciting social and user perceptions of SWS-heating and other heating devices will be developed. Questions will focus on aspects such as user expectations and practices with SWS-heating and heat as an energy service, but also business models and policy recommendations.  Lastly, social aspects of the system with positive and negative impacts along its lifecycle will be evaluated, and a long-term technology roadmap presented.

Centre for Research on Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS)

Source: RCUK Energy Programme (ESRC and EPSRC)

Summary: CREDS brings together a world-leading and multi-disciplinary group of researchers. It is led by the RCUK Energy Demand Research Champion Prof. Nick Eyre, and supported by a team of 7 Co-Directors who have a balance of skills, covering the key energy demand sectors - buildings, transport and industry - and a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds. Collectively they have almost 200 person years of experience in energy demand research, with an emphasis on technology, innovation and systems perspectives.  The aims for the Centre are to develop and deliver internationally leading research, focussing on energy demand from a systemic, socio-technical perspective;  to secure impact for UK energy demand research in businesses and policymaking; and to champion the importance of energy demand, as part of the strategy for transition to a secure and affordable low carbon energy system. The research objectives of the Centre are to understand how to go further, by delivering more ambitious technological change and energy using practices; go faster, by accelerating innovation, including through more effective policy intervention; facilitate greater flexibility in energy demand to balance increasingly complex energy systems.  

Fracking, Framing and Effective Participation in the United Kingdom

Source: NERC and ESRC

Summary: Hydraulic fracturing ('fracking') is a technology that allows the extraction of unconventional fossil fuel resources (oil and gas). The technology has been widely used in North America over the last decade but is in a much earlier stage of development in the UK. Government policy in the UK is actively encouraging the deployment of this technology and test drilling has taken place at several sites. There has been significant policy and public controversy around the use of the technology: it is simultaneously viewed by some actors as a novel and risky technology with the potential to adversely affect public health and the environment, but by others as rather more mundane and manageable.  This contested nature of shale development amongst different groups and stakeholders represents a key socio-political challenge for development. We analyse this challenge as arising from distinct ways of understanding and viewing the fracking issues ('framing') amongst different kinds of actors. We aim to investigate the relationships between three distinct but related research areas: public perceptions of the issue, policy debates ('frames') around shale gas and fracking, and formal processes of public engagement and participation on the matter. The primary benefit of the research will be to provide both a better understanding of the scale and nature of the social and political challenges facing shale gas development in UK, and a better understanding of the potential of public participation and engagement to help address these challenges.

Social Innovation for the Energy Transition (SONNET)

Source: European Commission Horizon 2020

Summary: The overarching aim of SONNET is to develop a systematic understanding of the ways and conditions under which social innovation in the energy sector can contribute to the Energy Union Strategy and enable a clean energy transition of Europe’s energy system. To achieve this aim SONNET will explore the links between citizen involvement, social innovation and transformative changes within the energy system in order to develop evidence to examine its central hypothesis: social innovation in the energy sector induces new forms of social interactions, governance arrangements and business models, which enable greater civic engagement and empowerment as well as social acceptance to drive the clean-energy transition, making energy more secure, sustainable and affordable. The empirical focus will be on social innovation in urban areas located within low-carbon regions and carbon-intensive regions.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report 

Source: Lead Author for Working Group III (Mitigation), Chapter 4 on “Mitigation and development pathways in the near-to mid-term"

Summary: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change. It was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and United Nations Environment Programme to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.  The IPCC is currently in its Sixth Assessment cycle, during which it will produce three Special Reports, a Methodology Report and the Sixth Assessment Report.  Working Group III’s contribution to the AR6 will include 17 Chapters addressing different scientific aspects of climate change mitigation, from energy systems, building, transport and industry, to agriculture, food and land use. It will also include a chapter focusing on urban systems, finance, technology and international cooperation.