UK Centre for Research on Energy Demand

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Environmental Change Institute SoGE


This proposal responds to a call from the Research Councils for a national Centre on energy demand research, building on the work of the existing six End Use Energy Demand Centres, for which funding ends in April 2018.

Energy demand reduction is a UK success story, with a 15% fall in final energy consumption since 2004. Major further reductions are possible and will be needed, as part of a transformation of the energy system to low carbon, to deliver the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UK carbon budgets. Moreover, a low carbon energy system will be increasingly reliant upon inflexible and variable electricity generation, and therefore demand will also need to become more flexible. In short, changes in energy demand reduction will need to go further and faster, and demand will need to become more flexible.

These challenges have far-reaching implications for technology, business models, social practices and policy. Our vision is for energy demand research in the UK to rise to these challenges. The Centre's ambition is to lead whole systems work on energy demand in the UK, collaborating with a wider community both at home and internationally. We aim to deliver globally leading research on energy demand, to secure much greater impact for energy demand research and to champion the importance of energy demand for delivering environmental, social and economic goals.

Our research programme is inter-disciplinary, recognising that technical and social change are inter-dependent and co-evolve. It is organised into six Themes. Three of these address specific issues in the major sectors of energy use, namely: buildings, transport and industry. The remaining three address more cross-cutting issues that drive changing patterns of demand, namely the potential for increased flexibility, the impact of digital technologies, and energy policy and governance.
Each Theme has a research programme that has been developed with key stakeholders and will provide the capacity for the Centre to inform debate, deliver impact and share knowledge in its specific area of work. The Themes will also undertake collaborative work, with our first joint task being to assess the role of energy demand in delivering the objectives of the UK Government's Clean Growth Plan.

The Centre will also include Challenges that respond to cross-thematic questions for UK energy demand. These will mostly be developed in consultation over the early years of the Centre, and therefore only one is included in the initial plan: on the decarbonisation of heat.

The Centre will function as a national focus for inter-disciplinary research on energy demand. In doing this it will need to respond to a rapidly evolving energy landscape. It will therefore retain 25% of its funds to allocate during the lifetime of the Centre through a transparent governance process. These funds will support further challenges and a 'Flexible Fund', which will be used to support research on emerging research questions, in particular through support for early career researchers.

We are working closely with key stakeholders in business and policy to design our research programme and we plan detailed knowledge exchange activities to ensure that the work of the UK energy demand research community has broader societal impact.

Planned Impact

The Centre aims to be a globally leading research organisation in the field of energy demand. The scale of energy demand, its flexibility and how these might change are increasingly recognised to be key dimensions of the challenge of transforming energy systems to be low carbon to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change. In a UK context, using energy more efficiently and flexibly is critical to developing an affordable, secure, low-carbon energy system.

The outputs of our research will set out how technical, behavioural and social change can reduce energy demand across all the main energy-using sectors of the economy: buildings, transport and industry. In addition, we will identify the main approaches to making energy more flexible, the opportunities resulting from the digital economy and how policy might drive change.

To ensure these results have an impact, we will produce a range of different outputs, including policy and business briefings, media articles and conference presentations. The Centre will also interact directly with key stakeholders. We will have a strong network of active partners, who will assist in dissemination of our research results. We will collaborate with them over the lifetime of the Centre to shape the research programme, co-create projects, discuss conclusions and plan outcomes.

As a national Centre, we will represent the whole energy demand research community in our events and outputs. In this way, the Centre will act as the focal point for UK university based research on energy demand issues. It will play a key role in ensuring that relevant research in UK universities is made available to businesses and policy-makers addressing these challenges.

Our key non-academic audiences will be: businesses directly engaged in promoting energy demand innovation and major industrial energy users; policymakers and their influencers, in the UK and more widely; other organisations supporting energy demand reduction and flexibility; and the media that communicates on these issues to the general public.

Our modelling work will produce data and software tools, which we will make available to other researchers via the UK Data Archive and the UKERC Data Centre.
Our first output will be an analysis of the energy demand aspects of the UK Government's Clean Growth Plan and Industrial Strategy. And we will provide evidence to the Committee on Climate Change for the UK's 6th Carbon Budget.

We will develop strong international research partnerships, through a visitor programme and strategic links with key research organisations in other countries. Through these we aim to influence the reports of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change.

We will develop strong international research partnerships, through a visitor programme and strategic links with key research organisations in other countries. Through these we aim to influence the reports of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change.



Nick Eyre (Principal Investigator)
Janette Webb (Co-Investigator)
Ian Hamilton (Co-Investigator) orcid
Michael John Grubb (Co-Investigator) orcid
John Barrett (Co-Investigator)
Jacopo Torriti (Co-Investigator)
Mona Chitnis (Co-Investigator)
Frank Willem Geels (Co-Investigator)
Stefan Thor Smith (Co-Investigator)
Benjamin Sovacool (Co-Investigator)
Philip Charles Eames (Co-Investigator)
Roger Fouquet (Co-Investigator)
Steven Robert Sorrell (Co-Investigator)
Benjamin Alexander Potter (Co-Investigator)
Stanley John Blue (Co-Investigator) orcid
Marco Sakai (Co-Investigator) orcid
Tim John Chatterton (Co-Investigator)
Tim Schwanen (Co-Investigator)
Mark Barrett (Co-Investigator)
Zia Wadud (Co-Investigator)
Peter Taylor (Co-Investigator)
Tadj Oreszczyn (Co-Investigator)
Paul Anthony Ruyssevelt (Co-Investigator)
Timothy James Foxon (Co-Investigator)
Phil John Coker (Co-Investigator)
Anthony Edward Whiteing (Co-Investigator)
Clifford Alastair Elwell (Co-Investigator)
Karen Lucas (Co-Investigator) orcid
Milena Mareike Buchs (Co-Investigator)
Caroline Anne Mullen (Co-Investigator)
Aidan Michael O'Sullivan (Co-Investigator)
David Shipworth (Co-Investigator)
Gregory Richard Marsden (Co-Investigator) orcid
Giulio Mattioli (Co-Investigator) orcid
Lai Fong Chiu (Co-Investigator)
Andrew Simon Smith (Co-Investigator)
Robin Lovelace (Co-Investigator)
Dan Van Der Horst (Co-Investigator)
Robert John Lowe (Co-Investigator)
E Shove (Co-Investigator)
Jillian Leigh Anable (Co-Investigator) orcid
Robert G Liddiard (Researcher)
Margaret Ruth Tingey (Researcher)
Kate Scott (Researcher) orcid
Michael Fell (Researcher) orcid
Debbie Hopkins (Researcher)
Mari Martiskainen (Researcher)
Steve Pye (Researcher) orcid
Brendan James Doody (Researcher) orcid
Christian Brand (Researcher)
Alexander James Summerfield (Researcher)
PEI-HAO LI (Researcher) orcid
Paul Brockway (Researcher) orcid
Phillip David Biddulph (Researcher)
Andrew Z Smith (Researcher Co-Investigator) orcid
Gesche Margarethe Huebner (Researcher Co-Investigator)
Tina Fawcett (Researcher Co-Investigator)


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Bennett G (2018) Space heating operation of combination boilers in the UK: The case for addressing real-world boiler performance in Building Services Engineering Research and Technology

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Crawley J (2018) The relationship between airtightness and ventilation in new UK dwellings in Building Services Engineering Research and Technology

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Eyre N (2018) Reaching a 1.5°C target: socio-technical challenges for a rapid transition to low-carbon electricity systems. in Philosophical transactions. Series A, Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences

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Fell M (2019) Capturing the distributional impacts of long-term low-carbon transitions in Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions