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 achieve the UK target of net zero emissions by 2050.

UKERC is embarking upon a series of linked projects under the heading of Infrastructure 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 the many disciplinary backgrounds represented in the consortium, specific areas of exploration detailed below.


Leads: Jianzhong Wu, Cardiff; Keith Bell, Strathclyde; and Rob Gross, Imperial

Cardiff and Strathclyde 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.

Imperial 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

Leads: Nicola Beaumont, PML; Andrew Lovett, UEA; and Jan Webb, Edinburgh

The focus here 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

Leads: Nick Pidgeon, Cardiff and Jason Chilvers, UEA

The aim of this area of work is to take stock of 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 focus 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

Leads: Ioanna Ketsopoulou and  Rachel Freeman, UCL

The first area of work focuses 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, with questions related to the level of coordination required for the transition, and the role of existing infrastructure.

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

For more information contact Ioanna Ketsopoulou (