Net zero is an infrastructure challenge. In parallel with large scale societal, behavioural and economic change, all infrastructure that surrounds human societies will need to change if we are to get even close to the UK target of net zero emissions in 2050. UKERC is embarking upon a series of linked projects under the headingof infrastructural transformation – the first 10 years of net zero. This interdisciplinary work will cut across the wide-ranging themes that UKERC already encompasses and bring insights to bear from all of the disciplinarybackgrounds represented in the consortium.

The project is focused on six interconnected research areas, as seen in Figure 1 below. In all cases research will focus on steps that need to be taken in the next ten years.

Figure 1 Project research areas

The project work packages (WPs) are set out as follows:


WP Leads: Jianzhong Wu, Cardiff, Keith Bell, Strathclyde & Rob Gross, Imperial

This area is comprised of two interconnected work packages, one led by Cardiff and Strathclyde, and one led by Imperial.

The Cardiff and Strathclyde WP will address the future needs for flexibility in the system, as well as the potential sources of flexibility, taking into account the stability, balancing and adequacy of the future system.

The Imperial WP will follow a systematic review methodology, providing a review of the available options, their technical characteristics, availability and delivery costs, and associated policy and market implications. The impact of a radical increase in the scale and types of flexibility services on substitute expensive infrastructure upgrading is also being evaluated.

Environmental risks

WP Leads: Nicola Beaumont, PML, Andrew Lovett, UEA, & Jan Webb, Edinburgh

The environmental risk WP is led by researchers at PML, UEA and Edinburgh. The focus is on practitioner perceptions around decision making processes, specifically on whether local environmental impacts are taken into consideration by advisory bodies, such as Ofgem, the CCC, or the NIC. The approaches of the different devolved nations will be analysed and contrasted. A series of structured interviews will be undertaken to complement the analysis of policy documents in the energy and environment domains.

Beyond societal acceptance

WP Leads: Nick Pidgeon, Cardiff, & Jason Chilvers, UEA

This WP is led by researchers at UEA and Cardiff. The aim is to stock-take the current state of thinking in the area, and develop a cross-system approach that goes beyond the traditional notions of societal acceptance. Following a comprehensive literature review, a series of case studies will be undertaken on public engagement with energy and low carbon transitions, to draw out new insights on public values, the conditionality of acceptance of net zero-related infrastructure, and challenges for public engagement. This analysis will zoom in on 3-4 contrasting domains of infrastructural transformation relating to net zero across whole systems (for example: large scale carbon removal technologies, placed-based renewables such as onshore wind, and smart technologies in the home).

Critical paths and interdependencies

WP leads: Ioanna Ketsopoulou, UCL, & Rachel Freeman, UCL

This research area is comprised of two interconnected WPs, both led by UCL.

The first WP is focused on the identification of interdependencies, and the key sources of risk on the transition to net zero. Following a literature review, a series of semi-structured interviews with energy experts will be undertaken. More specific questions relate to the level of coordination required for the transition, and the role of existing infrastructure.

The second WP explores system dynamics from a project management, and a systems engineering perspective. Considering energy infrastructure as a complex adaptive system, a risk management approach will be developed for a system under transformation.

For more information contact Ioanna Ketsopoulou (