Dr Paul Brockway

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Job title: Senior Research Fellow
Division: School of Earth and Environment
Organisation: Sustainability Research Institute
Tags: Early Career Forum, Fellowship: Postdoctoral Fellowship, Researcher


I completed an MEng in Engineering Science at Oxford University (1995), a MSc in Climate Change and Sustainability (2009), and a PhD in Energy/ecological economics (2015).  Following a postdoctoral position at the University of Leeds (2015-2018), I have now taken up an EPSRC Early Career Fellowship at the University of Leeds (2018-2023).

My Fellowship

Despite decades of energy efficiency policies and investment, global primary energy consumption is still rising, slightly behind GDP growth. This creates a key problem, as in part to meet climate change targets, governments are introducing new energy efficiency policies to try and limit future energy consumption, whilst still allowing economies to grow to improve citizen well-being. New insights and methods are therefore required to unlock how energy-GDP decoupling can be achieved. Our ability to deliver the 2015 Paris climate change agreement may depend resolving the decoupling problem.

My fellowship project "Applying thermodynamic laws to the energy-GDP decoupling problem"
uses a thermodynamically rigorous energy analysis method known as exergy analysis. Exergy is ‘energy available for work’, and meets both the first (conservation of energy) and second (energy cannot be converted completely into work) laws of thermodynamics. The aim of my project is to build on momentum and insights from recent research – including my own – to complete world leading exergy-based research into the energy-GDP decoupling problem within an expanded international research network. Three key research questions are studied:

Q1. What is the relationship between energy efficiency and energy rebound?
Q2. How much primary energy will we need in the future to meet our energy service demands?
Q3. To what extent can we decouple primary energy use from GDP?

Unpicking the energy-GDP puzzle meets key UK and global priorities: identifying pathways for GHG emissions mitigation whilst allowing space for economic growth. The opportunity for a small team (a PhD, postdoctoral researcher and myself) and partners to make progress on this long-term vision underpins the reason I am applying for the early career fellowship

The early-career fellowship will help deliver on my long term strategic vision for this emerging research field: I can see the potential for this research area to address a key global issue [energy-GDP decoupling], have established myself as a leader in this field, and can utilise my experience in developing new research areas to significantly upscale the research effort into this question. The fellowship will strengthen my growing global influence in the exergy economics field, and position both myself and the UK as international leaders in this important research arena.