Empirically-based analysis and scenarios of low-carbon energy transitions from a demand perspective
Dr J Steinberger
Prof J Barrett
No more applications being accepted
Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
This ambitious and ground-breaking project takes as its premise the fact that most models of low-carbon energy transitions are based on marginal cost-optimising frameworks, which ignore the systemic and interconnected nature of energy systems, the relationship between energy and economy as well as the institutional forces (vested interests) which actively stand in the way of cost-optimal solutions. This leads to an overly optimistic assessment of the role of technology in delivering emission reduction.
As a result, this project takes a very different starting point. Rather than considering energy technologies in isolation, and examining single technology changes, its approach is systemic. Rather than idealizing energy systems as optimal, it will be based on empirical evidence from historical energy system transitions. Rather than focusing on the supply-side of energy, it will start from the socio-economic demand for energy services, and how this may be satisfied through low-carbon systemic changes. Within the Institute for Transport Studies, the DEMAND Centre is part of the RCUK End Use Energy Demand portfolio and is examining new ways to reconstruct the changing dynamics of demand for mobility and energy use in buildings and for mobility, creating opportunity for cross-Leeds synergies.
The Sustainability Research Institute is emerging as one of the leading institutions in the UK in modelling energy / economy relationships and providing a systematic approach to modelling low carbon transitions. This project will build on this strength with the PhD candidate joining a team that is funded by a number of Research Centres funded through the RC UK Energy Programme. However, these centres cannot fund PhD scholarships meaning that funding through PICC is ensuring that continual and capacity of energy / economy modelling.
The first component of the PhD will be to quantitatively characterize and analyse past evidence of system-wide energy transitions, with a focus on transport systems, and the technological, economic, and political factors surrounding them. On the basis of this analysis, the foundations for the required modelling framework will be established.
The second component of the PhD will be to build on the existing energy / economic models that are being developed at Leeds to include these additional systematic variables. This component will include “calibrating” on past energy transitions, to ensure that it captures the right interconnected factors required for change.
The third component will carry the modelling forward to consider the likelihood of radical low-carbon energy system futures based on different underlying scenarios, again with a focus on transport systems: simple technology promotion, carbon taxes or price changes, as advocated by most current policy mixes, or more integrated and demand-oriented solutions which take institutional arrangements and technological interconnectedness into account.
The outcomes of this PhD are expected to be published in high-ranking journals and contribute directly to ongoing national and international policy debates. We also have a close working relationship with the modelling team at the Department of Energy and Climate Change who are very interested in using this analysis to advise of the UK’s carbon commitment.
Entry requirements/necessary background for students:
Strong quantitative background or aptitude.
How good is research at University of Leeds in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?
FTE Category A staff submitted: 79.20
Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)
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