Supporting renewable energy deployment: exploring routes from research into practice

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Cardiff School of Planning and Geography

Abstract

This fellowship is based upon my PhD research and provides the platform to build upon the approach developed, contributing to build an independent research profile and exploring routes from research into practice.
The PhD investigated the mechanisms that lead to an effective diffusion of renewable energy technologies, exploring their spatial differential (how and where these technologies might be deployed) examining the relationship between energy and materiality. The research highlighted several material dimensions of renewable energy discussing and unpacking why, and in what ways, they matter, and why it is important to give them consideration. The empirical evidence collected shows how the various material dimensions of renewable energy affects its spatial distribution and deployment at the regional level.
Conceptually, the work showed that stressing the material dimensions of renewable energy offers an opportunity to explain how particular renewable energy resources come to be fashioned in some areas and not in others. The influence on innovation processes and deployment that natural resources can exert, through their physical properties, their geographical recurrence and their symbolic and discursive values, has been insufficiently captured in the innovation and policy literature linked to renewable energy.
Analytically, it provided an empirical framework within which the issues of materiality can be explored. This heuristic approach has been valuable in explaining spatial differences in Italy and the UK and can be adopted for further comparative empirical investigations. This work, while contributing towards a better understanding of the spatial dynamics of energy transition, has offered an opportunity to explore new connections to innovation theory and regional studies and as brought in new empirical data from other countries.
The fellowship will explore further the synergies between recent and current research from different scientific disciplines and theoretical perspectives that can improve our understanding of - and how to identify and address- the opportunities that renewable energy deployment and innovation entails. The fellowship will provide the opportunity to share and expand upon my research findings, engaging relevant interdisciplinary academics. This will be achieved through joint publications, presentations and academic exchange and networking activities.
The PhD research also stressed that the achievement of higher-level targets will depend significantly upon the successful and rapid implementation of projects at sub-national levels, such as regions and their cities. These are the levels at which decisions about investments in, and the siting of, renewable energy power schemes are crucial. The material dimensions identified in the thesis can provide useful insights into the spatial unevenness and variation of renewable energy deployment at the regional/local levels and what can be done, in policy terms, to redress this unevenness.
The novel approach developed can be applied to inform renewable energy policy thinking and decision-making. The framework can help practitioners, developers and policy users to appraise resources and select, develop and more effectively deploy renewable energy technologies (including wind, marine, hydro, geothermal, solar and bioenergy), highlighting the criticality of the electricity infrastructure networks at the regional level. The fellowship will offer the opportunity to share the insights from the PhD and its practical implications with research users, making research findings usable and accessible and exploring routes from research into practice. It will support the refinement of policy advice and recommendations aimed at improving the design of future policy intervention.
 
Title Networks and Meeting Netzero- illustration and summary of The making and shaping of 'NetZero' infrastructures in and beyond 'the city' 
Description Illustrator images (2 images) summarising the outcome of the making and shaping of 'NetZero' infrastructures in and beyond 'the city' 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact not known 
URL https://blogs.cardiff.ac.uk/geographyandplanning/the-making-and-shaping-of-net-zero-infrastructures-...
 
Description The fellowship provided the opportunity to engage with policy partners, strengthening the routes from research into practice via knowledge exchange mechanisms. The fellowship work, informed by interviews, policy workshops and academic collaborations, has helped to identify the challenges that local and regional actors face while engaging with energy infrastructures to meet net-zero goals. This raises questions around the kind of governance that might be needed to align innovation and infrastructure change to speed up achieve effective and democratic steering and enhance policy processes.
Exploitation Route The activities planned after mid-March 2020 had to be modified and delayed due to circumstances, and in many cases mitigating measures were not possible. These include limited access to policy participants, and limited opportunities for face to face interaction. Personal circumstances related to parental responsibility also arising from Covid have had an effect, too.
The programme of the fellowship consisted of three interwoven work streams. Work stream 2 Contribution to Policy and Work stream 3 Planning Mentoring and Skill development have been significantly affected by the pandemic and were both an integral part of the dissemination and academic personal development dimensions of the Fellowship. While the work streams have been affected by COVID 19, the the connection made during the fellowship have provided a platform for achieving its aims and outcomes. The effect of the pandemic and how outputs and outcomes have been modified is shown below.
1. WS 1 Academic Knowledge contribution: 6 journal papers have been published and I have co-organised a series of events to further engage with academics working in similar field.
2. WS 2, Contribution to policy; while this workstream was significantly affected by Covid, affecting the organisation of meetings or online substitutes. Work accomplished on this stream includes ongoing social media engagement, attendance and participation in two policy webinars and a response to two Call for Evidence to the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales and Welsh Affair Committee. I co-organised a virtual 'net-zero' event for policy makers and academic in June 2021. I am collaborating with a animator to develop an animated video to contribute to research outreach activities (expected to be published Spring 2022).
3. I engaged with a range of skill development via online training and worked on the submission of an Expression of Interest for further funding to UKRI (unsuccessful), While participation to training courses identified as essential to the fellowship (impact/public engagement training and social media) has been affected, skills development is ongoing and I have manged to secure a permanent lecturing contract.
Sectors Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

 
Description My research contributes towards analysis of spatial distribution of agency, at regional level, offering an alternative spatial frame to the national and urban focus that dominates much energy transition research. My approach has the advantage of considering both physical infrastructure systems and the regulatory framework in energy transitions. This goes beyond the importance of planning approvals for individual projects and considers how energy networks can be more strategically reconfigured, to better foster decarbonisation. My research stresses how the material organisation of infrastructure networks is important and how the use of the regional scale as both a frame and an object of study for the issue of electricity transmission/ distribution is considered an interesting conceptual contribution offering an addition to current energy transitions literature which tends to look at infrastructure energy systems only from a socio-cultural perspective (as indicated from the reviewers of two of my latest publication).
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Energy,Environment
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Renewable Energy in Wales, Call for Evidence, National Infrastructure Commission Wales
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
 
Description Written Evidence: Inquiry on Renewable Energy in Wales; Welsh Affair Committee
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
 
Title Discussions around current policy initiatives and priorities for renewable energy deployment in Wales and the UK 
Description Following a participatory approach, a number of consultation/ discussion with policy makers and industry representatives have been conducted to encourage a dialogue between the evidence-based research (gatehred during the PhD) and the policy making process. The aim is to reflect and connect with current policy initiatives/ priorities and allow for dissemination of PhD results and the case study best practices. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The meetings have represented an opportunity to act as a knowledge transfer mechanism and will inform the content of two policy workshops (the first one scheduled in the spring in Cardiff and the second one arranged in the fall in Belfast. 
 
Description End-of Life of wind turbine 
Organisation University of the West of England
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Small grant application to RGS/IBG to explore end of life wind turbine in Italy; expertise in Italian Energy system, innovation and circular economy
Collaborator Contribution Expertise in planning and re-powering of wind power plants
Impact no output or outcomes yet. Application is still under evaluation and review.
Start Year 2021
 
Description Energy infrastructure collaboration 
Organisation University of Manchester
Department Sustainable Consumption Institute (SCI)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution collaborated to write the request for funding to run a workshop on '(Re)making infrastructures in response to sustainability and climate emergencies: challenges, strategies, and opportunities'
Collaborator Contribution Funding requested approved.
Impact Plan for a special issue
Start Year 2022
 
Description Blog- How can we address the bottlenecks of energy infrastructure networks to accommodate renewable energy uptake? 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Engagement activities showcase my research during COP26
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.cardiffmet.ac.uk/news/Pages/infrastructure-networks-to-accommodate-renewable-energy-upta...
 
Description Blog- the making and shaping of 'net zero' infrastructures in and beyond the 'city' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact In the blog post we shared some of the key insights from the event, alongside the visual summaries captured by the event illustrator
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://blogs.cardiff.ac.uk/geographyandplanning/the-making-and-shaping-of-net-zero-infrastructures-...
 
Description Contributed research questions to Energy-SHIFTS Energy Efficiency Working Group to identify future priorities for energy- Social Sciences and Humanities research. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact I was asked by the Energy-SHIFTS Energy Efficiency Working Group to contribute research questions to identify future priorities for energy- Social Sciences and Humanities research. Over 400 researchers contributed research question suggestions for the two-year Energy-SHIFTS project that started in April 2019 and is aiming to identify future priorities for funding through EU framework programmes.
The research question I suggested was 'What kinds of governance are needed (and at what spatial and temporal scales) to support a move from energy efficiency projects as largely ad-hoc and piecemeal activities, into strategic and systemic programmes that transform the built environment and ensure an integrated focus on energy, water, waste and resource use in the long-term?' The question made it into the final top 100 shortlist of questions .
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://energy-shifts.eu/research-questions-horizon-europe/
 
Description Questions to guide sustainability transition - the critical role of governance (Cardiff University Blog- guest) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Guest Blog to discuss questions to guide sustainability transition - the critical role of governance
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL http://blogs.cardiff.ac.uk/geographyandplanning/2020/12/15/questions-to-guide-sustainability-transit...
 
Description RSA Cities, Regions and Sustainability Transitions (CREST) Webinar series 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact I have been contacted to present my paper on State mediation and renewable energy geographies: on the role of regions in energy transitions to the Regional Studies Associations Cities, Regions and Sustainability Transitions (CREST) Webinar series
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Round table discussion on Renewable Energy in the Foundational Economy 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I have been invited to seat at this round table to discuss the role of renewable energy in the South Wales Valleys. It attracted a number of stakeholders that work in renewable energy looking at synergies with the foundational economy, looking at ways in which renewables can benefit communities and the local economy in in the Valleys in Wales.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description The making and shaping of 'net zero' infrastructures in and beyond the 'city' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact event organised as part of the Cardiff University School of Geography and Planning, Impact and Engagement Event series.
The event brought together climate policy specialists, system integration leaders, and network professionals with expert knowledge concerning climate change, the management of infrastructures and achieving net zero. Our speakers explored how meeting net zero involves network-specific and cross-network challenges, which are simultaneously configured in and beyond cities and across different spatial scales and timeframes. as part of the event we created some illustrations that were disseminated at the end of the event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Virtual Workshop: Understanding Change in Urban Infrastructure Landscapes 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Participation to a virtual workshop on energy landscape research; interdisciplinary, focusing on theory and a commitment to understanding infrastructure questions in practice.
I presented a paper providing a regional lens to landscape research; this is an important entry point to understand landscape change- which resonates very well with landscape studies but is an insight that will sound very new in the dialogue between landscapes and energy.
Resulted in paper submission to Landscape Research (submitted 02/03/2021)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020