Energy efficiency (end use energy demand)

Research into energy demand and its reduction through technical measures (e.g. energy efficiency) and socio-economic measures. This area includes research in the context of the built environment, transport, heat, and industrial processes and products. The research is interdisciplinary, covering socio-technical and techno-economic approaches (e.g. energy-efficient technologies, materials, design, deployment, markets, policy, regulation, organisational aspects and individual behaviour).

The Committee on Climate Change’s Fifth Carbon Budget has recognised reducing energy demand as the most effective intervention to meet 2050 greenhouse gas emission targets while other approaches focus on supply (Evidence source 1).

This research area focuses on research that includes a technical and socio-economic understanding of demand for energy services, rather than solely on technology or solely on socio-economic aspects. The critical-mass programme within the area's portfolio consists of six End-Use Energy Demand (EUED) centres and aims to enable stakeholders in government and industry to understand energy demand and how it might change in the future.

Having grown during the last Delivery Plan period, we will maintain our investment in this area as a proportion of the EPSRC portfolio and will now establish a sustainable critical-mass activity. Specifically:

  • The fields of energy demand in transport and in non-domestic buildings should become more integrated into critical-mass activities
  • Research on heat is an important cross-cutting theme and the integrated approach to it should continue
  • A key priority is to form a stronger link with research on energy supply, including mapping the co-evolution of EUED with supply. Activity should include research into the relationship between individual decisions and absolute energy demand
  • The link to developments in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and digital technologies is increasingly important, and the area's portfolio should include research on data, ICT and new business models that turn demand-related opportunities into new products or services

Societal and economic impact derives from reducing the energy needed for sustainable lifestyles and breaking the link between economic growth and energy demand. The primary route for impact in this area's portfolio is by influencing both government and corporate industrial policy, especially within energy-intensive industries. Success will require practical evidence and a co-ordinated approach to engaging government and policy-makers.

To build a sustainable community of researchers, we will build studentship funding and support for leaders in the field of energy demand research.

One aim for the UK EUED research community is to establish itself as world-leading and achieve this through the internationalisation of the socio-technical and economic approach to this topic. Official Development Assistance funding presents an opportunity to pursue this agenda.

Highlights:

The interdisciplinary nature of this research is a strength of the UK community and socio-technical research (e.g. on behavioural issues and business models) is recognised as a crucial aspect (Evidence 2). Some UK research activities are starting to establish themselves as world-leading and the multidisciplinary approach taken by the EPSRC programme is regarded as a strength. Several of the EUED centres are now engaged in international activities, including working with the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Since demand reduction can be a low-intervention, low-cost method of cutting carbon emissions, a key challenge is to ensure that researchers work with policy-makers so that policy measures arising from their research are appropriate and successful. Stakeholders have identified significant opportunities to reduce energy demand in the industrial sector and in non-domestic buildings, as well as through innovation in heating technologies and infrastructure (Evidence 3,4,5,6). There is considerable potential net economic value from energy savings, plus opportunities for growth in green product innovation.

During the last Delivery Plan, this research area grew within the EPSRC portfolio, increasing by a factor of three between 2011 and 2016. During this period, six multidisciplinary EUED centres have been funded. The 2016 portfolio can be broken down into transport (24%), built environment (18%), industrial/processes (36%) and cross-cutting/general (22%). There are a very small number of early-career fellows in this area and one Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT), covering energy demand in the built environment. Given the importance of this area to meeting 2050 greenhouse gas emission targets this academic capacity should be maintained.

Within the overall EPSRC portfolio, this research area is underpinned by the Infrastructure and Urban Systems area. It also draws on research areas in the ICT Theme as intelligent technologies can contribute to solving some energy demand problems. There is very strong overlap with the Resource Efficiency area and the Manufacturing the Future Theme, especially with research that considers the embodied energy of other resources and materials.

There is a close link to research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC); ESRC and EPSRC jointly fund the EUED centres.

This research area aligns with aspects of the Resilient, Connected, Productive, and Healthy Nation Outcomes. The following Ambitions are particularly relevant:

R1: Achieve energy security and efficiency

By enabling better understanding of energy demand and contributing to the reduction of energy demand and efficient use of energy, EUED and energy efficiency research can help cut energy use, making delivery of a secure energy supply more achievable.

R4: Manage resources efficiently and sustainably

EUED research provides knowledge about how energy is embodied in materials and natural resources, and how energy is consumed.

R5: Build new tools to adapt to and mitigate climate change

This research area includes development of new tools to enable people to use less energy or use it more efficiently and sustainably.

C1: Enable a competitive, data-driven economy

Research in this area provides insight into energy demand through analysis of complex data (e.g. detailed consumer energy use data).

C3: Deliver intelligent technologies and systems

Research is needed to develop intelligent digital environments that can help people use energy more efficiently (e.g. demand-side response technologies).

P5: Transform to a sustainable society, with a focus on the circular economy

This research area provides better understanding of energy use by industrial and commercial processes.

H2: Improve prevention and public health

By researching issues such as fuel poverty, or air quality in relation to energy use in the built environment, this research area helps prevent health problems.

  1. Committee on Climate Change, The Fifth Carbon Budget, (2015).
  2. Research Councils UK (RCUK) Energy Strategy Fellowship, Prospectus Reports: Energy in the Home, Industrial Energy Demand, Transport Energy, (2013).
  3. Low Carbon Innovation Coordination Group (LCICG), Industrial Sector Technology Innovation Needs Assessment, (2016).
  4. Low Carbon Innovation Coordination Group (LCICG), Domestic Buildings Technology Innovation Needs Assessment, (2016)
  5. Low Carbon Innovation Coordination Group (LCICG), Non-Domestic Buildings Technology Innovation Needs Assessment, (2016).
  6. Low Carbon Innovation Coordination Group (LCICG), Heat Technology Innovation Needs Assessment, (2016).

Together, the six EUED centres have written a Research Strategy that presents a vision for a sustainable UK EUED research programme.

Research area connections

This diagram shows the top 10 connections between Research Areas within the EPSRC research portfolio. The depth of the segment relates to value of grants and the width of the segment relates to the number of grants shared by those two Research Areas. Please click to see the related Research Area rationale.

Maintain

We aim to maintain this area as a proportion of the EPSRC portfolio.

Visualising our Portfolio (VoP)
Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships.

EPSRC support by research area in Energy efficiency (end use energy demand) (GoW)
Search EPSRC's research and training grants.

Contact Details

In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Name: Luke Davis
Organisation: EPSRC
Telephone: 01793 444478