How to mitigate the climate emergency?


The digitalisation of energy infrastructure and other key technologies such as photovoltaics (PV), storage, and battery electric vehicles can optimise energy use, enhance efficiency, information flow and affordability. It can enable electric mobility, smart charging, renewable energy integration and energy monitoring for low-carbon energy systems.

Yet, digitalised energy systems have diffused slowly, with a tendency to benefit early adopters - typically more affluent citizens – and, as yet, it has not brought about rapid energy system decarbonisation. Furthermore, digitalisation poses risks to data protection and privacy, and to social trust between citizens, governments and businesses for democratic environmental governance.

The aim of this project, Responsive Organising for Low Emission Societies (ROLES), therefore, is to analyse how European city-regions can accelerate decarbonisation of energy systems through digitalisation of energy infrastructure, in ways that also create societal benefit.

Research Approach

From December 2020 to November 2023, the team of ten researchers is undertaking engaged study in three cities to identify how to enable socially inclusive digitisation of energy transition technologies in diverse contexts. This means diffusion must enable low-carbon transitions that create benefits not only for privileged actors, but vulnerable groups and small enterprises.

Since the technology exists and the economic basis for gains from digitalisation of energy systems is clearly established, the researchers will probe socio-political factors. Understanding power relations is necessary to understand the redistributive social impact of digitalising energy systems, and to harness its pro-poor potential, blocking perverse, inequitable outcomes.

The team will identify climate-friendly and pro-poor ways to digitalise energy infrastructure for electric mobility hubs in Bergen, solar energy neighbourhoods in Brighton, and smart energy monitoring in Trento. This will include considered of necessary policies, modes for citizen engagement, and institutions.

Impact and Outreach

Poster displaying smart local energy systems

The team of researchers work together with multiple stakeholders in the case cities, through local engagement in a series of events and extended individual interactions, to co-produce knowledge. The team has produced two products: a policy toolkit and a non-fiction comic. 

Responsive Organising Toolkit

The Responsive Organising Toolkit focuses on how to digitalise energy infrastructure for low emission societies in ways that are socially inclusive. It is designed for city actors – such as local councils, community groups and non-governmental organisations – as well as for EU and national level policymakers who are interested in energy digitalisation.  

Take a look at ROLES' Responsive Organising Toolkit. 

A smiling man waving under text saying "People Power Smart Local Energy Systems"

Non fiction comic: People Power Smart Local Energy Systems 

Funded by the University of Sussex's Knowledge Policy Fellowship Scheme, the team has produced a comic that explores how to make smart local energy systems more inclusive.

You can find it here: People Power Smart Local Energy Systems [PDF 25.17MB]

More Information

The project brings together partners in three countries:

  • The University of Bergen and University of Stavanger in Norway, where the project team focuses on smart mobility transitions in Bergen.
  • The University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, where the project team focuses on solar neighbourhood transitions in Brighton.
  • Eurac Research in Italy, where the project team focuses on smart meter transitions in Trento.

Find out more about ROLES