Transition pathways to a low carbon economy

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Mechanical Engineering

Abstract

This Consortium aims to carry out the Mission agreed at the Sandpit, i.e. To undertake socially and scientifically engaged research into innovative technologies, policies and practices leading towards a low carbon energy system , by addressing three Research Challenges: (a) to learn from past transitions to help explore future transitions and what might enable or avoid them; (b) to design and evaluate transition pathways towards alternative socio-technical energy systems and infrastructures for a low carbon future; and (c) to understand and where appropriate model the changing roles, influences and opportunities of large and small 'actors' in the dynamics of transitions.Whilst the consortium will develop widely applicable analysis frameworks, the project will focus on electricity-related futures and on the roles of actors, both large, e.g. multinational energy supply and distribution companies, national governments, major investors, and small, e.g. households, innovators and entrepreneurs. The research will contribute to the evolution of the necessary physical and institutional infrastructure changes that directly involve and affect the public, through engagement with new and incumbent stakeholders, and will promote innovation towards a future more sustainable energy system.The overall aim is to develop a set of potential transition pathways for the UK energy system to a low carbon future, and undertake whole systems assessments of the technical, economic, social and environmental feasibility, potential and acceptability of these pathways. These assessments will draw on a range of analytic and deliberative 'tools' and approaches, combining the 'story-telling' approach used in exploratory scenarios (e.g. by Shell) with critical technical and social assessments of what would be required to bring them about. We propose to interrogate the dynamics of transition pathways to to a low carbon economy by:* Developing a conceptual and analytical framework for exploring transition pathways, based on quantitative and qualitative methods, and encompassing engineering, economic, environmental, policy and behavioural sciences.* Identifying and exploring a limited set of transition pathways to a UK low carbon energy system focussing on the role of electricity supply and demand;* Undertaking detailed technical and social analysis of the feasibility and acceptability of these pathways, applying quantitative modelling and analysis of electricity systems and infrastructures, and qualitative assessment of the roles of industrial and consumer actors.* Bringing these together in a whole systems analysis, employing a 'toolkit' of techniques to explore and evaluate specific implications of these pathways to a highly electric, low carbon economy.Within an overall framework of electricity as the principal final energy vector within a low-carbon energy system, we will examine different potential transition pathways, involving different mixes of supply-side and demand-side technological and behavioural options. The project will identify and explore a limited set of potential transition pathways covering these options. The pathways will focus on three 15-year periods, which correspond to the 5 year carbon budgeting periods, proposed in the draft Climate Change Bill. These periods will be 2008-2022, 2023-2037 and 2038-2052. These pathways will be further developed and explored through discussions within the Consortium and with a range of stakeholders at invited workshops.There are three core research themes: (1) Transitions: from scenarios and history to pathways; (2) Technical and social analysis of supply-side, demand-side and infrastructure networks; and (3) Whole Systems Appraisal and Joint Working, Integration and Learning. They will be pursued in three stages: (1) Development of Frameworks and Outline Pathways; (2): Explore and Interrogate Pathways; (3): Complete Pathway Exploration; Produce, Test and Deliver Findings.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description A consortium of partners from nine university institutions was established under the auspices of research funding via a strategic partnership between E.On UK (the electricity generator) and the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), to study the role of electricity within the context of 'Transition Pathways to a Low Carbon Economy' [under Grant EP/F022832/1]. This team was made up of UK engineers, social scientists, policy analysts and innovation specialists. It has sought to develop and explore three 'transition pathways' towards a UK low carbon electricity system, to understand the changing roles of large and small 'actors' in the dynamics of these transitions, and to learn from the successes and failures of past transitions. They have focused on the choices and actions needed to 'get there from here', and on the analysis of the pathways' technical, socio-economic and environmental implications. An innovative, robust, and 'whole systems' evidence base has therefore been developed that is distinctive from those devised elsewhere in the UK energy research community. The pathways are not predictions or roadmaps; rather they are a way of imaginatively exploring future possibilities, to inform proactive and protective decision making and enhance the potential for building consensus towards common goals. They form the basis for most of the contributions in a Special Section of the journal Energy Policy (Vol. 52, 2013).
Exploitation Route In May 2012 a follow-on research project was initiated with funding from the EPSRC entitled 'Realising Transition Pathways: Whole Systems Analysis for a UK More Electric Low Carbon Energy Future' (under Grant EP/K005316/1). It involves the same nine academic partner institutions, and will seek to explore the constraints and opportunities in realising a low carbon UK energy sector, including those stemming from European developments. This new research project included studies on the horizon scanning of innovative energy technologies over the period to 2050, the feasibility of demand responses, uncertainties in economic analysis, the estimation of investment costs of the different pathways, and the implications of markets for investment decisions about energy technologies. Further work was undertaken on conceptualising, mapping and analysing 'actor dynamics' in the contemporary UK electricity sector, historical transitions and case studies, integrated energy networks modelling and evaluation, and 'whole systems' energy and environmental appraisal of low carbon technologies and pathways. The consortium also continued the development of their initial work on the branching points approach described above, and to identify and explore other potential branching points on the core transition pathways. In addition, the 'Realising Transition Pathways' project sought to identify and examine other past branching points, in search of patterns, insights and typologies that might inform understanding of, and agency in relation to, prospective branching points on the transition pathways to a low carbon, more electric future for the UK.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Transport

URL http://lowcarbonpathways.org.uk/
 
Description The project added engineering, social science and policy-relevant perspectives to UK research on the implication of transition pathways to a highly electric, low carbon economy. It provided E.ON (the main commercial sponsor), as well as the UK energy sector generally, with novel strategic insights into the constraints and 'tipping points' associated with the national challenges that will result from concerns over climate change and energy security. The project provided a practical demonstration of the 'co-production' approach in which stakeholders and academics with different disciplinary expertise work together to produce commercial and policy-relevant knowledge which will contribute to the mitigation of climate change in the coming decades. Whole systems thinking amongst a variety of disciplines has been recognised by Research Councils UK as an important requirement of research into energy challenges. It is embedded in programmes such as Carbon Vision, SUPERGEN, TSEC and the UKERC. The consortium provided an integrated mix of engineering and social science perspectives which will contribute to the delivery of whole systems thinking. Specific beneficiaries would be:- The Electricity Sector Specifically and Energy Sector More Widely: E.ON UK, National Grid, Ofgem, the new Energy Technologies Institute (ETI), specialist Engineering Institutions, and eventually other key players at both the supply and distribution end of the market. A clearer view of possible transition pathways, and greater knowledge about the technical and social/institutional viability of options will reduce uncertainty and facilitate investment choices. Electricity/Energy Consumers: End users in all main sectors (industrial, domestic, commercial and transport) who would benefit from solutions that would ensure security and sustainability in future energy provision, as well as potentially facilitating lower costs for satisfaction of service needs. Civil Society: Many stakeholders who would benefit from secure and sustainable future power systems that are deemed to be technically, economically and environmentally desirable. Policy-oriented Organisations: UK Government Departments (Cabinet Office, DEFRA, DfT, DTI, and OSTI), the Carbon Trust, the Energy Savings Trust, the Environment Agency, the European Commission, and the European Environment Agency. Greater certainty about pathway and option viability will facilitate more focussed policy development. Other National and International Energy Research Teams Addressing Low Carbon Transitions: For example, several of the SUPERGEN consortia, and participants in the various UKERC themes, together with European research teams working on transitions in socio-technical systems. Whole Systems Appraisal Methodologies: This provides useful information and applications to many of the above. It will also provide useful outputs for bodies engaged in the technology assessment of energy systems (such as POST and the EC's IPTS, Seville, Spain).
First Year Of Impact 2008
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Energy,Environment,Other
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description RCs
Amount £2,566,732 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/K005316/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 05/2012 
End 04/2016
 
Description Transition Pathways to a Low Carbon Economy - Final Dissemination Conference
Amount £12,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/I501169/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 03/2012 
End 06/2012
 
Description Transition Pathways (phase 1) 
Organisation Cardiff University
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Prof Geoff Hammond at the University of Bath was the Co-Principal Investigator for the project. Prof Hammond and his team were responsible for managing the project and finances.
Collaborator Contribution Prof Peter Pearson at Cardiff University was the Co-Principal Investigator. All academic partners provided Co-Investigators and researchers to help carry out the project as described in the initial work plan. E.ON UK provided funding and were members of the projects Advisory Board.
Impact Production of a journal Special Issue. The Transition Pathways to a Low Carbon Economy: Final Dissemination Conference. Coin Street Community Centre, London, 18th April 2012 (http://www.lowcarbonpathways.org.uk/lowcarbon/conference/Presentations.html).
Start Year 2008
 
Description Transition Pathways (phase 1) 
Organisation E ON
Department E ON UK
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Prof Geoff Hammond at the University of Bath was the Co-Principal Investigator for the project. Prof Hammond and his team were responsible for managing the project and finances.
Collaborator Contribution Prof Peter Pearson at Cardiff University was the Co-Principal Investigator. All academic partners provided Co-Investigators and researchers to help carry out the project as described in the initial work plan. E.ON UK provided funding and were members of the projects Advisory Board.
Impact Production of a journal Special Issue. The Transition Pathways to a Low Carbon Economy: Final Dissemination Conference. Coin Street Community Centre, London, 18th April 2012 (http://www.lowcarbonpathways.org.uk/lowcarbon/conference/Presentations.html).
Start Year 2008
 
Description Transition Pathways (phase 1) 
Organisation Imperial College London
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Prof Geoff Hammond at the University of Bath was the Co-Principal Investigator for the project. Prof Hammond and his team were responsible for managing the project and finances.
Collaborator Contribution Prof Peter Pearson at Cardiff University was the Co-Principal Investigator. All academic partners provided Co-Investigators and researchers to help carry out the project as described in the initial work plan. E.ON UK provided funding and were members of the projects Advisory Board.
Impact Production of a journal Special Issue. The Transition Pathways to a Low Carbon Economy: Final Dissemination Conference. Coin Street Community Centre, London, 18th April 2012 (http://www.lowcarbonpathways.org.uk/lowcarbon/conference/Presentations.html).
Start Year 2008
 
Description Transition Pathways (phase 1) 
Organisation Loughborough University
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Prof Geoff Hammond at the University of Bath was the Co-Principal Investigator for the project. Prof Hammond and his team were responsible for managing the project and finances.
Collaborator Contribution Prof Peter Pearson at Cardiff University was the Co-Principal Investigator. All academic partners provided Co-Investigators and researchers to help carry out the project as described in the initial work plan. E.ON UK provided funding and were members of the projects Advisory Board.
Impact Production of a journal Special Issue. The Transition Pathways to a Low Carbon Economy: Final Dissemination Conference. Coin Street Community Centre, London, 18th April 2012 (http://www.lowcarbonpathways.org.uk/lowcarbon/conference/Presentations.html).
Start Year 2008
 
Description Transition Pathways (phase 1) 
Organisation University College London
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Prof Geoff Hammond at the University of Bath was the Co-Principal Investigator for the project. Prof Hammond and his team were responsible for managing the project and finances.
Collaborator Contribution Prof Peter Pearson at Cardiff University was the Co-Principal Investigator. All academic partners provided Co-Investigators and researchers to help carry out the project as described in the initial work plan. E.ON UK provided funding and were members of the projects Advisory Board.
Impact Production of a journal Special Issue. The Transition Pathways to a Low Carbon Economy: Final Dissemination Conference. Coin Street Community Centre, London, 18th April 2012 (http://www.lowcarbonpathways.org.uk/lowcarbon/conference/Presentations.html).
Start Year 2008
 
Description Transition Pathways (phase 1) 
Organisation University of Bath
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Prof Geoff Hammond at the University of Bath was the Co-Principal Investigator for the project. Prof Hammond and his team were responsible for managing the project and finances.
Collaborator Contribution Prof Peter Pearson at Cardiff University was the Co-Principal Investigator. All academic partners provided Co-Investigators and researchers to help carry out the project as described in the initial work plan. E.ON UK provided funding and were members of the projects Advisory Board.
Impact Production of a journal Special Issue. The Transition Pathways to a Low Carbon Economy: Final Dissemination Conference. Coin Street Community Centre, London, 18th April 2012 (http://www.lowcarbonpathways.org.uk/lowcarbon/conference/Presentations.html).
Start Year 2008
 
Description Transition Pathways (phase 1) 
Organisation University of East Anglia
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Prof Geoff Hammond at the University of Bath was the Co-Principal Investigator for the project. Prof Hammond and his team were responsible for managing the project and finances.
Collaborator Contribution Prof Peter Pearson at Cardiff University was the Co-Principal Investigator. All academic partners provided Co-Investigators and researchers to help carry out the project as described in the initial work plan. E.ON UK provided funding and were members of the projects Advisory Board.
Impact Production of a journal Special Issue. The Transition Pathways to a Low Carbon Economy: Final Dissemination Conference. Coin Street Community Centre, London, 18th April 2012 (http://www.lowcarbonpathways.org.uk/lowcarbon/conference/Presentations.html).
Start Year 2008
 
Description Transition Pathways (phase 1) 
Organisation University of Leeds
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Prof Geoff Hammond at the University of Bath was the Co-Principal Investigator for the project. Prof Hammond and his team were responsible for managing the project and finances.
Collaborator Contribution Prof Peter Pearson at Cardiff University was the Co-Principal Investigator. All academic partners provided Co-Investigators and researchers to help carry out the project as described in the initial work plan. E.ON UK provided funding and were members of the projects Advisory Board.
Impact Production of a journal Special Issue. The Transition Pathways to a Low Carbon Economy: Final Dissemination Conference. Coin Street Community Centre, London, 18th April 2012 (http://www.lowcarbonpathways.org.uk/lowcarbon/conference/Presentations.html).
Start Year 2008
 
Description Transition Pathways (phase 1) 
Organisation University of Strathclyde
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Prof Geoff Hammond at the University of Bath was the Co-Principal Investigator for the project. Prof Hammond and his team were responsible for managing the project and finances.
Collaborator Contribution Prof Peter Pearson at Cardiff University was the Co-Principal Investigator. All academic partners provided Co-Investigators and researchers to help carry out the project as described in the initial work plan. E.ON UK provided funding and were members of the projects Advisory Board.
Impact Production of a journal Special Issue. The Transition Pathways to a Low Carbon Economy: Final Dissemination Conference. Coin Street Community Centre, London, 18th April 2012 (http://www.lowcarbonpathways.org.uk/lowcarbon/conference/Presentations.html).
Start Year 2008
 
Description Transition Pathways (phase 1) 
Organisation University of Strathclyde
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Prof Geoff Hammond at the University of Bath was the Co-Principal Investigator for the project. Prof Hammond and his team were responsible for managing the project and finances.
Collaborator Contribution Prof Peter Pearson at Cardiff University was the Co-Principal Investigator. All academic partners provided Co-Investigators and researchers to help carry out the project as described in the initial work plan. E.ON UK provided funding and were members of the projects Advisory Board.
Impact Production of a journal Special Issue. The Transition Pathways to a Low Carbon Economy: Final Dissemination Conference. Coin Street Community Centre, London, 18th April 2012 (http://www.lowcarbonpathways.org.uk/lowcarbon/conference/Presentations.html).
Start Year 2008
 
Description Transition Pathways (phase 1) 
Organisation University of Surrey
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Prof Geoff Hammond at the University of Bath was the Co-Principal Investigator for the project. Prof Hammond and his team were responsible for managing the project and finances.
Collaborator Contribution Prof Peter Pearson at Cardiff University was the Co-Principal Investigator. All academic partners provided Co-Investigators and researchers to help carry out the project as described in the initial work plan. E.ON UK provided funding and were members of the projects Advisory Board.
Impact Production of a journal Special Issue. The Transition Pathways to a Low Carbon Economy: Final Dissemination Conference. Coin Street Community Centre, London, 18th April 2012 (http://www.lowcarbonpathways.org.uk/lowcarbon/conference/Presentations.html).
Start Year 2008