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.

Publications

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Description The fellowship provides 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 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 consists 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. I present below how the work streams have been affected and progress made. The fellowship is progressing thanks to a no-cost extension.

1. re-directed resources to forward the aims of my fellowship. Work progressed well on WS 1 Academic Knowledge contribution, with 5 journal papers submitted and at different stages of submission/ review. I have organised a virtual event to replace one of the conferences I was supposed to attend and secured a special issue contract for the event due in early 2021. Despite delays in the peer reviewing processes, overall progress has been made for this work stream, although many dissemination and networking opportunities could not be achieved due to Covid.
2. WS 2, Contribution to policy has been significantly affected by Covid. This work stream proposed two policy seminars and meetings with policy makers to contribute to the development of a synthesis report. Work patterns have been disrupted and Covid-related research took priority in many government departments, 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 am co-organising a virtual 'net-zero' event for policy makers and academic in June. I am collaborating with a communication specialist to develop a policy brief and with an illustrator to develop a video/ animation on the work done during the fellowship for dissemination.
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), yet key elements of this stream have been difficult to fulfil. These include participation in two training courses identified as essential to the fellowship (impact/public engagement training and social media).
Sectors Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

 
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 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 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