The UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has announced £15 million of funding for the next phase of energy demand research in the UK. A new Energy Demand Research Centre, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), will be led by Professor Mari Martiskainen at the university of Sussex and Professor Sara Walker at Newcastle University, with ten additional universities and several external stakeholder partners involved in the programme. Below, Prof Martiskainen outlines plans for the Centre and why the focus on energy demand is so critical.
Reasons for the focus on energy demand
The UK has a legal duty to become a Net Zero society by 2050, requiring a change in the way energy is used across different sectors of industry, businesses, transport and buildings. The most recent Climate Change Committee report highlighted the lack of progress and called for bolder delivery and without a significant reduction in energy demand, we are unlikely to meet interim targets (2030) and these longer-term climate ambitions. Many homes and businesses have also faced high energy prices in the last year, bringing greater attention to issues of energy affordability and security. These challenges provide an opportunity for energy demand reduction to bring benefits of reduced emissions, less inequality, better prosperity and improved quality of life.
As the UKRI’s flagship investment in energy demand research, the Energy Demand Research Centre has a key role in continuing the excellent work of centres like CREDS. Our aim is to actively collaborate with partners across policy, industry, civil society and to provide an evidence base on actionable solutions for energy demand reduction across different sectors.
The Centre’s work programme
The Centre’s programme of work was developed via a three-stage stakeholder engagement process and our team comprises of Co-investigators, Researcher Co-investigators and named researchers from different academic backgrounds, career stages and disciplines. We are particularly delighted with the 12 in-kind PhD studentships that the universities involved in the centre are providing, so that we can build capacity for the UK’s future energy demand research community. From the start, our team has had a strong committed to the principles of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) and we intend our research programme to reflect that. We have identified our core values as:
- Fair to people and the planet
- Transparent in our approach
- Bold in our thoughts and actions
- Open to different points of view
- Impactful towards the future of energy demand.
Our overarching vision for the Centre is to inform and inspire energy demand reductions that support an affordable, comfortable and secure Net Zero society. To meet this vision, our research approach is set within five main themes:
- Futures (led by Prof John Barret, Leeds): to understand the underlying conditions needed to deliver a low energy future in the UK to contribute to rapid greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions.
- Flexibility (led by Prof Jacopo Torriti, Reading): to assess the needs, impacts and implications of demand-side flexibility – i.e. the capacity to use energy in different locations at different times of the day or the year – and to explore solutions that enable effective and equitable deployment of demand-side flexibility.
- Place (led by Prof Greg Marsden): to build a new approach to place-based approaches and policy making which provides actionable insights, tools and processes which enable an acceleration of the Net Zero transition.
- Governance (led by Dr Kate Pangbourne, Leeds): to develop a research and action programme that contributes to the Centre’s delivery of short-term impact and identifies feasible models, policies and pathways to overall energy demand reductions and decarbonization.
- Equity (led by Prof Karen Turner, Strathclyde): to generate rigorous, interdisciplinary and actionable evidence and knowledge on how different energy demand solutions can deliver an affordable, clean and more equitable Net Zero energy system.
This is complemented by an innovative and important focus on cross-cutting policy-driven transition challenges including: 1) Engineering an integrated Net Zero transition; 2) Delivery models for accelerating Net Zero transition; 3) Energy security through energy demand solutions; and 4) Realising Net Zero through green jobs and skills.
Some of the key research initiatives of the Centre include:
- Examining interventions to mitigate peaks and increase flexibility in the timing of energy demand, encompassing a variety of technologies and pricing mechanisms.
- A Citizens Panel which will help us test public opinion on low energy demand scenarios and a similar panel is planned for governance and policy actors.
- Further developments of the Placed Based Carbon Calculator which was created as part of CREDS.
- Working with schools and colleges to build skills needed for the uptake of low energy demand solutions such as home retrofits.
- Testing energy demand solutions via living labs such as an Equity Living Lab that helps identify energy inequities and trial energy demand solutions.
The Centre team and engagement
The Energy Demand Research Centre is led by Sussex and Newcastle universities, with other partners including Cardiff, Edinburgh, Imperial College, Lancaster, University College London, Leeds, Manchester, Reading, Strathclyde and Surrey universities. The current team includes the following people:
- Professional services: Ms Hannah Corbett; Mr Ryan Giddings; Ms Kate Kelly; Ms Rhiannon Lamb; Ms Robin Styles
- Futures theme: Prof John Barrett; Prof Rebecca Willis; Ms Alice Garvey; Dr Steve Pye; Mr Elliot Johnson; Dr Johnathan Norman; Mr Oliver Broad; Dr James Price
- Flexibility theme: Prof Jacopo Torriti; Prof Meysam Qadrdan; Dr Aruna Sivakumar; Dr Hui (Mia) Ben; Dr Michael Fell; Dr Jose Remirez-Mendiola; Dr Jacek Pawlak
- Place theme: Prof Greg Marsden; Prof Stefan Bouzarovski; Prof Peter Taylor; Dr Donal Brown Donal; Dr Malcolm Morgan; Dr Faye Wade; Dr Imogen Rattle; Dr Ahmed Gailani
- Governance theme: Dr Kate Pangbourne; Dr Marie Claire Brisbois; Prof Tim Foxon; Dr Janine Morley; Dr Llinos Brown; Dr Gerardo A. Torres Contreras
- Equity theme: Prof Karen Turner; Dr Gesche Huebner; Dr Lirong Liu; Dr Christian Calvillo Munoz; Dr Antonios Katris
- Directors: Prof Mari Martiskainen and Prof Sara Walker
As a 5-year Centre, we have a strong focus on engagement with key stakeholders in academia, industry, policy, NGOs and the media, in order to achieve high impact for our research. Several of the centre’s projects have therefore been co-created with external stakeholder partners from industry, policy and NGOs. We also have a Flexible Fund that will be used for rapid responses, further projects and international engagement for example.
The official launch of the centre will take place in the autumn and we look forward to working closely with the existing energy demand research community and its key stakeholders. For more information and to discuss opportunities to collaborate please contact Prof Mari Martiskainen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Energy Demand Research Centre is supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council [grant number EP/Y010078/1].Follow Sussex Energy Group