Sussex Energy Group new projects: IDRIC, CREDS & more

The UK Industrial Decarbonisation Research and Innovation Centre (IDRIC)

The decarbonisation of industrial clusters is of critical importance to the UK’s ambitions of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. The UK Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge (IDC) of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) aims to establish the world’s first net-zero carbon industrial cluster by 2040 and four low-carbon clusters by 2030.

The vision of IDRIC is to become a world-leading, high-impact research and innovation centre, acting as the national focal point and international gateway for UK industrial decarbonisation research and innovation.

SEG Director Benjamin K Sovacool is co-director of the Social, Economics, and Policy Research Innovation Theme. This theme examines social attitudes, preferences, and the sociotechnical dynamics of industrial decarbonisation. Read the University of Sussex IDRIC launch press release.

IDRIC’s strategic objectives are to: accelerate challenge-led research through transformative innovation; develop leadership by nurturing talent, building capacity and mapping skills; co-create and share knowledge by stimulating cross-learning, active networks and outreach; support policy and mission advocacy by providing evidence to policy makers and the public.

IDRIC is backed by £20m funding until 2024. The initiative is part of the £170m Industrial Decarbonisation challenge, delivered through the UKRI Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge.

CREDS: Digital Twin project

This Centre for Research Into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS) project, starting in September 2021, aims to examine the development of the digital twin (DT) concept within the built environment sector. It will investigate the drivers and barriers for DTs to transform understanding and practices to reduce energy demand.

The DT concept is increasingly prominent in the built environment and infrastructure sectors in the UK. A DT is a virtual replica of a physical asset or system that uses system data to provide a representation of it in operation; the technique has been used on equipment like jet engines and power generation turbines. Its application for systems within the built environment presents potentially powerful tools for both system and policy innovations to shape and reduce energy demand.

The project aims to answer the following questions:

  • How can the development and use of DTs in the built environment connect with understandings of energy demand to facilitate transformation for net zero?
  • Where and how is the DT concept being developed within the built environment sector?
  • What are the drivers and barriers to incorporating energy demand understanding within DT tools and their use?
  • What opportunities exist (or should be generated) to connect DT tools to energy demand understanding and transformation for net zero?

CREDS: Place-based business models for net-zero

This project will investigate how place-based business models for net-zero are being developed through digital living/working since the global Covid-19 pandemic, and how these place-based business models reduce energy demand.

To do this, the project will examine three prominent and emerging areas for net-zero action in Sussex and beyond involving: i) new opportunities for financing net-zero projects; ii) nature-based solutions for net-zero; iii) capacity building for decarbonisation skills.

The project will seek to study the ways in which these three areas have emerged through digital living, working and connections.

For example, the pandemic response encouraged people to minimise travelling and work from home, producing increased engagement and interest in nature-based solutions. However, the question remains how these fit with other, more technically oriented, net-zero-driven business model in Sussex.

The project also seeks to directly investigate how these three factors shape place-based opportunities for energy demand reduction, a gap which could lead to powerful asymmetries in the inclusion of energy demand action in developing place-based net-zero responses.

Research questions the project aims to answer include:

  • How do digital living, connections and working shape the emergence of place-based business models for net-zero?
  • How do emergent place-based business models shape opportunities for energy demand reduction?
  • What are the financing options and opportunities for projects/action on net-zero?
  • How is capacity building for decarbonisation skills for net-zero developed?
  • What are the nature-based solutions for net-zero?

Democratising the Just Transition: the role of Community Wealth Building

Dr Max Lacey-Barnacle has recently been awarded the Leverhulme Trust’s Early Career Research Fellowship, which he will begin in October this year, with supervisory support from Professor Tim Foxon.

Democratising the Just Transition: the role of Community Wealth Building will seek to draw upon principles of Community Wealth Building to understand how to democratise the forthcoming transition to a net-zero economy in a way that diversifies ownership and reorients a green recovery towards local economies and supply chains.

Using a mixed methods approach, the fellowship will draw on three contexts (Europe, the US and the UK) and in-depth interviews to synthesise cross-national insights on democratic pathways to a Just Transition. The fellowship’s outcomes will include publication in high-impact journals, collaboration with policy practitioners and an international research visit for cross-institutional knowledge exchange.

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The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the individual authors and do not represent Sussex Energy Group.

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