Meeting note: Demonstrating and scaling up low carbon energy systems

01 May 2018

Introduction and summary

UKERC hosted a roundtable on 9 March 2018 for around 15 academics – drawn from the social sciences, and engineering across the UK. The aim was to discuss potential research priorities for the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund programme: Prospering from the Energy Revolution. This programme will include a new Energy Revolution Research Consortium, funded by EPSRC.

This note summarises the discussion as well as comments made by some contributors on a draft version of the note.

Six research areas emerged from the discussion:
  1. Policy, regulation and ownership: The importance of understanding regulatory and policy frameworks which will have a major influence on the economics of demonstrators and subsequent ‘scaling up’. It is also important to examine what impact different ownership models could have.
  2. Models at different scales, including links between them. Modelling is likely to be required at local scale, including modelling that covers multiple energy vectors and their interactions; and at national scale to explore what impacts scaling up demonstrators could have on emissions, economics, etc. Models at building and demonstrator scale are also important to inform their design and development.
  3. Low carbon heat systems. Further understanding of different systems for decarbonising heat remains critically important to inform decision-making in an area where significant uncertainties remain. This includes understanding of technical, economic and social dimensions and how different solutions vary geographically.  A key question is the relationship between strategic choices and CO2 ambition.  It was said that there is a ‘qualitative difference’ between the goal of reducing CO2 emissions for terrestrial infrastructure by 80%, and by 100%.
  4. Public and social engagement. This cross-cutting theme encompasses the multiple roles of people in low carbon energy systems – as consumers, including the importance of consumer centred design and the delivery of energy services; and as citizens, including how public attitudes shape the future trajectory of energy systems.
  5. Demonstration and scaling up: there are important research questions about the appropriate scale for demonstrators, and how to use real world experience to develop a whole systems evidence base. Evaluation is crucial, including of demonstrators that have been implemented through other programmes (UK and international). The issues of scale and scaling-up are critical, and interact with the question of macroeconomic and policy environments.
  6. Measuring success: research is required to understand real demonstrator performance, and to understand how and why this differs from designed performance. Within this theme, it is also important to ask critical questions about how to measure success (e.g. in terms of jobs, economic activity, costs to consumers, etc.), and who the winners and losers could be.

Meeting note