© Zul Rosle

Prof. Catherine Mitchell talks about her contribution to the IPCC commissioned ‘Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation’.

Energy Policy Group

Current Research Themes

The EPG team is working across a number of different energy policy areas. This includes cross-cutting work on low carbon transitions, energy security and affordability, as well as specific research areas relating to:

  • Governance, rules and regulations
  • Innovation
  • Energy resilience
  • The demand side
  • System change and scale
  • Supply chains
  • Distributed generation and smart grids
  • Domestic energy behaviour and practice
  • Low carbon skills
  • Community energy and community renewables
  • The dynamics and value of small-scale energy transitions
  • Design of European renewable energy policies
  • Nuclear power
  • Affordability and fuel poverty
  • Politicisation and de-politicisation of energy policy
  • European 2030 Energy Policy
  • British gas policy, including gas from renewable energy sources

Current Research Projects 

Heat, Incumbency and Transformations (HIT)

HIT is a two year project investigating the potential impact of incumbency on the UK's potential transformation to a zero carbon heat system. Funded through the UKERC flexible fund, the project will a) analyse the existing evidence on heat system futures and consider the changing roles of current actors within the system, and b) consider how these incumbents may support or challenge the transformation to sustainable heating. You can find out more about the HIT project here

IGov: Innovation, Governance and Affordability for a Sustainable Secure Economy 

IGov is a four year research project aiming to understand and explain the nature of sustainable change within the energy system, focusing on the complex inter-relationships between governance and innovation. The project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Our approach is to examine theories of change alongside actual practice in the UK and a number of comparator countries. The ultimate objective is to develop a framework for governance that better enables practices to change and the UK to move towards a sustainable, secure and affordable energy system. IGov is about new thinking for energy.

You can find out more about IGov, its aims and outputs from the research website: www.exeter.ac.uk/igov 

AURES: AUctions for Renewable Energy Support: Effective use and efficient implementation options 

In response to maturing renewable energy industries and an ongoing drive for costs efficiency in renewable energy policy, the European Commission intends that competitive allocation of support for renewable energy becomes the norm from 2017. EPG is engaged as part of a consortium in a three year research programme to develop and disseminate guidelines for policy-makers on the design and implementation of renewable energy auctions. The other institutions in the ‘AURES’ consortium are the Technical University of Denmark, Fraunhofer ISI, Spain’s National Research Institute, the Technical University of Vienna, consultancies TAKON and Ecofys and Climate think-tank Concito. You can find out more and keep track of the research findings via the AURES website.

UKERC Phase III: The politics of UK and European energy policy interactions

The UK Energy Research Centre is the focal point for UK research on sustainable energy. It takes an independent, whole-systems approach, drawing on engineering, economics and the physical, environmental and social sciences. The Centre's role is to promote cohesion within the overall UK energy research effort. It acts as a bridge between the UK energy research community and the wider world, including business, policymakers and the international energy research community and is the centre piece of the Research Councils Energy Programme. We were responsible for policy and regulation within the infrastructure and supply theme during the first two phases which ran from 2004 to 2013. In Phase III (2014-2019) we are working within a theme on energy systems at multiple scales on a project on the politics of UK and European energy policy interactions. This project looks at tensions and trade-offs that may arise as the UK invests in more renewable energy, especially electricity, and at the same time integrates more with the rest of Europe, through market coupling and more interconnection. The project looks at political problems that have arisen within and between the two broad streams of European energy policy – the internal market project, and climate and energy packages – and implications for the AURES project.  

The Future of the Electricity Utilities 

The EPG are working on a Chatham House led project to explore current technology development and deployment trends in the power sectors in both the EU and East Asia. The research aims to help identify and discuss the major uncertainties and opportunities facing traditional utilities as well as develop recommendations for ensuring that policy/regulation and technology innovation occurs simultaneously. Ultimately this will help investors, utilities and policy makers ensure the smooth integration of new technologies and systems, reduce the risk of stranded assets and help ensure price stability. A series of Chatham House workshops will be run as part of the research and the overall findings will be published in 2016. 

Stepping Up

The EPG are one of several partners in an EPSRC project being led by University of Manchester on the Water-Energy-Food Nexus. Current food, energy and water systems of provision are locked-in to unsustainable and insecure models characterised by centralised power structures. Faced with increasing resource scarcity and societal inequalities, a changing climate and greenhouse gas targets, there is a need for a step-change to put the UK on a sustainable Water-Energy-Food (WEF) pathway. The project will be looking at UK examples of initiatives with low impact across water, food and energy systems. It will study what does and doesn’t work to explore what constitutes good practice across the WEF nexus. Once identified it will model these low-impact systems, to interrogate if and how they could be replicated in other settings - such as a much larger scale, or within a different type of organisation. The study will involve stakeholders’ expertise within the modelling to produce data to help with decision-making that can be shared with industry, government and a wider society. The project started in October 2015 and is funded by EPSRC - Grant EP/N00583X/1. You can find out more about the Stepping Up project aims and outputs here

ENSYMORA

The EPG are research partners in ENSYMORA (ENergy SYstems MOdelling, Research and Analysis); a project supported by the Danish Council for Strategic Research under the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation. The project is part of the Council's research stream "Strategic research in sustainable energy and environment". It has the objectives of developing and improving methods and models used for energy systems analysis,  planning to better reflect the large changes in future energy systems and using the models to analyse technical options, economic incentives, and policies related to both demand and supply of electricity. In particular, the models are used to address the challenges of a fossil free energy system. Find out more from: www.ensymora.dk.

 

Past Research Projects

Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Catherine Mitchell was a Lead Author in the IPCC Working Group Three - Fifth Assessment report (AR5), which was published in 2014. She was also a Coordinating Lead Author (CLA) of the Policy, Financing & Implementation Chapter of the IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation published in 2011

UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) Phases 1 & 2

The UK Energy Research Centre is the focal point for UK research on sustainable energy. It takes an independent, whole-systems approach, drawing on engineering, economics and the physical, environmental and social sciences. The Centre's role is to promote cohesion within the overall UK energy research effort. It acts as a bridge between the UK energy research community and the wider world, including business, policymakers and the international energy research community and is the centrepiece of the Research Councils Energy Programme.

We were responsible for policy and regulation within the infrastructure and supply theme during the first phase which ran from April 2004-2009 and EPG continued in this role for Phase 2 which finished in 2013. 

A UKERC systhesis report is was produce in 2014 which drew on the findings of the phase II research: UKERC 

Energy Security in a Multipolar World (ESMW)

ESMW was an interdisciplinary research cluster funded for four years by the  Economic and Social Research Council and the EPSRC. It brought together experts in energy policy, international relations and supply chains to examine issues such as: oil and gas supply chains; energy infrastructure; vulnerability of supply chains; international relations in a multipolar world; development of new technologies and their supply chains; concerns about delivery and availability of low carbon technologies; institutional changes required to deliver major cuts in energy demand; potential of individual and local actions to improve energy security; legal implications and possibilities.

ESMW finished at the end of 2012, but a wide range of resources are still available on the ESMW website: www.exeter.ac.uk/energysecurity.

A new edited book: New Challenges in Energy Security – The UK in a Multipolar World is now available which bought together some key insights from ESMW.

EU Renewable Energy Policy

This research aimed to provide policy makers and interested stakeholders with a set of consensual principles for designing future remuneration schemes that will provide an effective, efficient and societally acceptable framework for RES-E (Renewable Energy Sources – Electricity) investment in the coming decade.
It was coordinated by the Smart Energy for Europe Platform and involved a group of 12 internationally renowned renewable electricity policy and market experts, who developed 14 policy principles for ensuring renewable electricity investments for a post-2020 perspective.
For further information visit www.remunerating-res.eu.

Falmouth Energy Week

We ran three Falmouth Energy Weeks (FEW) which were designed to provide a forum for the dissemination of cutting-edge ideas, decision-making and energy policy design. These events bought together central decision-makers and stakeholders within energy policy in the UK to discuss the urgent transformation required to move towards a sustainable energy system. Subject to funding we hope to continue this unique series of energy events in the future.
Information and resources from all the Falmouth Energy Weeks is available from: www.exeter.ac.uk/few/.

Securing the UK’s Power Supplies

The EPG, in partnership with SSE, Consumer Focus and WWF, and representatives from 20 other organisations, ran a series of energy roundtable events that resulted in a joint communique on UK energy policy. This series concluded that the Government’s draft Energy Bill and existing energy efficiency policies would, in their current state, fail to deliver a secure, clean and affordable power sector for the UK and would result in the UK missing out on some key economic growth opportunities. The work identified a number of key concerns on current policies and proposals and some recommendations for a more successful way forward. Further information is available from www.exeter.ac.uk/news/featurednews/title_216632_en.html and thecommunique can also be downloaded: hassets.wwf.org.uk/downloads/power_supplies_communique.pdf.