Whole energy systems

The Energy Programme takes a whole-systems approach to energy research, examining the social, environmental, and economic impacts of energy pathways and choices, as well as the challenges surrounding technological innovation in these areas. Better understanding of the effects of the design of market and regulatory frameworks on energy production, supply and use can inform the development of effective public policy, as can better understanding of consumer demand.

The Energy Programme seeks to ensure that the work that we fund engages with policy makers, regulators, industry, civil society and the public. The RCUK energy programme supports the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) which takes an independent whole-systems approach, drawing in physical, environmental and social sciences.

UKERC is looking at how the UK can move towards a sustainable and resilient energy system. It also encourages collaboration between user and research communities at both a national and international level and supports early career researchers.

The Energy and Communities Collaborative Venture consists of seven grants that work directly with communities to examine how individuals and communities use, understand, and manage energy, and help them find ways to reduce energy demand. The grants are expected to have significant impact within the communities they are working with and beyond in terms of addressing energy demand reduction in the context of increasing challenges to energy security and equity.

The Realising Transition Pathways project explores what needs to be done to achieve a transition to a low carbon economy that successfully addresses the energy policy trilemma of simultaneous delivery of low carbon, secure and affordable energy systems.

The Whole Systems Energy Modelling consortium (wholeSEM) is a major project working to develop, integrate and apply state-of-the-art energy models. Energy models provide essential quantitative insights into the 21st century challenges of decarbonisation, energy security, energy equity and cost-effectiveness.

IGov (Innovation, Governance and Affordability for a Sustainable Secure Economy) is a four year project aiming at understanding and explaining the nature of sustainable change within the energy system, focusing on the complex inter-relationships between governance and innovation.

RCUK energy strategy fellow Jim Skea is researching the effectiveness of systems of energy innovation. In this project the research team will compare the effectiveness of different approaches to energy innovation systems in a number of leading countries with a view to learning lessons for successful energy research and innovation policy.

Major centres in policy funded by us include the Sussex Energy Group and the Electricity Policy Research Group in Cambridge.

The Energy Programme considers it important to look at the challenges facing energy in a holistic way, from energy demand to incorporating new technology developments where appropriate, as well as the public perception of future changes.

This whole-systems approach should enable the delivery of effective policy and practice to the benefit of the UK society and the economy.