EPSRC DTP PhD studentship: Energy demand innovations and the impacts on vulnerabilities

University of Exeter - College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences

Main supervisor: Catherine Butler (University of Exeter)
Co-supervisor: Karen Bickerstaff (University of Exeter)
Co-supervisor: Daniel Lash (University of Exeter)

Project Description:

Energy vulnerabilities and the closely related concept of fuel poverty capture problems of inadequate access to energy required to meet basic needs, and issues of health, wellbeing, and social participation that arise from lack of access (Bouzarovski et al. 2014). Problems of access have conventionally been characterized as related to lack of service provision (for example in off-grid communities), inabilities to afford energy costs, and poor quality infrastructure. More recently, however, energy vulnerabilities research has sought to provide deeper and fuller accounts of the ways that vulnerabilities are constituted (Simcock et al. 2015). This has included greater attention to a wider range of factors and issues that impact on energy vulnerabilities, including people’s personal circumstances, such as whether or not they are in work, and wider aspects of energy use beyond the domestic sphere such as in transport (Lucas et al. 2016), as well as the escalation of energy ‘needs’ for full social participation, for example as requirements for schooling come to include access to information technologies (Butler et al. 2014).  

Recent years have seen multiple forms of innovation related to energy demand, across technology, policy and markets (Stilgoe et al. 2013). From technological innovations, such as the roll out of smart meters and development of smart thermostats from companies like NEST (Nest.com, 2016), to policy and market innovations relating to tariffs and strategies for improving efficiency, competition, and fuel poverty targeting. Such innovations are as yet poorly understood in terms of their implications for energy vulnerabilities. Working with the UK’s leading fuel poverty charity (NEA), characteristics of case study household cohorts affected by a range of energy related vulnerabilities and to whom innovations and interventions are or will be targeted, will be identified. Longitudinal interview methods will support an in-depth understanding of how (technological, policy, and market) innovations are reshaping energy vulnerabilities in the UK. The research will make a major contribution to research on energy demand innovation and its consequences for energy deprivation, offering both conceptual and empirical insights into how they impact on people. 

The student will deliver a full research project from design and development through to publication giving them a sound grounding in research methods and conceptual development in an important and growing area of energy research. The supervisors will support the student in establishing and maintaining contact with other academics and key research users, and in developing skills in academic research impact. They will also be encouraged to undertake formal training courses and programmes appropriate to their research project needs, and more broadly for their future career.

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South West England