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Dr Iain Soutar

Dr Iain Soutar

Lecturer in Human Geography

 Stella Turk Building G3.04

 

University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, TR10 9FE

Overview

I am an environmental social scientist with a wide range of research interests. My research and teaching generally focuses on developing a better understanding of processes of change - and inertia - in energy and other complex systems, and the implications thereof for meeting both policy and societal objectives. This currently focuses on the following themes:

  • The coevolution of social and technological innovation
  • Digitalisation and democratisation within energy systems 
  • Governing for uncertainty in complex systems
  • Whole-systems and cross-systems thinking
  • Governing innovation at the water-energy-food nexus

I am a member of the Energy Policy Group, within the Centre for Geography and Environmental Science (CGES). I co-founded and continue to coordinate ExeterEnergy, the interdisciplinary network of over 150 energy researchers at the University of Exeter. 

Qualifications

2016 PhD From local to global value: The transformational nature of community energy (University of Exeter)
2009 MSc Economics for Natural Resource and Environmental Management (Cranfield University)
2004 BSc Environmental Science (University of Dundee)

Links

Research group links

Research

Research interests

I am interested in the drivers and implications of processes of transformation within the energy system. Ongoing social and technological innovation is changing both the structure and the functioning of energy systems around the world. The processes and outcomes of such change can be understood as transformational: they comprise technologies and infrastructures that are fundamentally different in terms of nature, scale and geography, and involve broader, deeper and more dynamic forms of engagement with the society in which they are embedded. My research is concerned with understanding both the factors and the implications of these changes.

Research projects

Net Zero Communities (2021-22)
NZCom is a project examining how local communities can meet net zero objectives while positively supporting vulnerable households and businesses. As part of this, I am leading the development of local scenario narratives to articulate plausible energy futures, as a basis for exploring options for new technologies, business models and institutional arrangements. This project is led by Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network (WREN), and is funded by Western Power Distribution (WPD) through Ofgem’s Network Innovation Allowance competition. Co-Invesigator.

SHIFFT - Sustainable Heating: Implementation of Fossil-Free Technology (2019-2022)
SHIFFT is a €5.7M research project supported by INTERREG 2 Seas led by the University of Exeter. The project aims to support cities in four European countries (Brugge, Mechelen, Middelburg and Fourmies) in developing strategies to decarbonise their heat as well as to help communities develop practical heat solutions. Research Fellow. 

Energy Democracy and the Politics of Energy Transition in African Countries (2020-23)
Supported by the UKRI/GCRF ‘Beyond Technology’ stream, this project is examining the role of energy democracy and inclusivity across three African countries: Lesotho, South Africa and Nigeria. Led by University College London and working with partner institutions in the UK and Africa, the Energy Policy Group is providing insights into how policy, regulation and wider governance frameworks can align to help foster more inclusive and democratic energy systems across diverse political and geographical contexts. Co-Investgator.

Completed projects

IGov2: Innovation and Governance for Future Energy Systems (2016-19)
The second phase of an EPSRC project, IGov 2 examined the level, type and speed of energy system change within GB and internationally, how existing and new energy system actors are responding, and how this is shaping future energy systems. The project website, outputs and final report are available here. Research Fellow

Stepping Up (2015-20)
Stepping Up was a three year EPSRC project led by University of Manchester focusing on innovation in the context of the nexus between water, energy and food systems. The project as a whole used a mixed method approach, consisting of quantitative and qualitative modelling techniques to understand the processes, implications and challenges of scaling up nexus-innovations to achieve transformational change at different scales. Recognising the critical importance of a transdisciplinary approach, we are engaging with stakeholders throughout the project to develop insights into the drivers, motivations, enablers, and constraints of up-scaling nexus-innovation in the UK. My specific role was in leading the Policy and Governance Work Package. The project website, outputs and final report are accessible here. Research Fellow.

Social Capital in Energy System Change (2014-15)
This European Social Fund (ESF) project developed out of my doctoral study on community energy. This project in particular focused on characterising the nature and role of bonding, bridging and linking social capital, and assessing the role of social capital more broadly in supporting, challenging and steering energy system change. Research Fellow.

From local to global value: the transformational nature of community energy (2011-2016)
This research developed a rich understanding of the role and value of community energy, and wider societal engagement more generally, in the transformation of the UK energy system. Analysis of the social, economic and environmental impacts of a specific community energy project in Cornwall, UK illustrate the breadth and scale of potential local impacts. Moreover, the community energy movement, along with the expansion of parallel ‘local energy’ efforts is indicative of heightened democratisation in the UK energy system. A link to the thesis can be found here. This was a European Social Funded (ESF) doctoral study, superviser by Professor Catherine Mitchell (Exeter) and Dr Andy Angus (Cranfield)

Energy Security in a Multipolar World (2010-11)
ESMW was an ESRC/EPSRC funded interdisciplinary research cluster, bringing together researchers from multiple disciplines including energy policy, international relations, sociotechnical transitions and supply chain analysis to analyse the various temporal and dimensional aspects of energy security. The project website and outputs can be found here. Research Associate.

Publications

Key publications | Publications by category | Publications by year

Key publications


Soutar I (2021). Dancing with complexity: Making sense of decarbonisation, decentralisation, digitalisation and democratisation. Energy Research & Social Science, 80, 102230-102230. Full text.

Publications by category


Journal articles

Suckling J, Hoolohan C, Soutar I, Druckman A (In Press). Unintended consequences: Unknowable and unavoidable, or knowable and unforgivable?. Frontiers in Climate
Soutar I (2021). Dancing with complexity: Making sense of decarbonisation, decentralisation, digitalisation and democratisation. Energy Research & Social Science, 80, 102230-102230. Full text.
Pownall T, Soutar I, Mitchell C (2021). Re-Designing GB’s Electricity Market Design: a Conceptual Framework Which Recognises the Value of Distributed Energy Resources. Energies, 14(4), 1124-1124. Abstract.
Hoolohan C, Soutar I, Suckling J, Druckman A, Larkin A, McLachlan C (2019). Stepping-up innovations in the water–energy–food nexus: a case study of anaerobic digestion in the UK. Geographical Journal, 185(4), 391-405. Abstract.  Full text.
Judson E, Fitch-Roy O, Pownall T, Bray R, Poulter H, Soutar I, Lowes R, Connor P, Britton J, Woodman B, et al (2019). The centre cannot (always) hold: examining pathways towards energy system de-centralisation. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 118 Abstract.  Full text.
Hoolohan C, Larkin A, McLachlan C, Falconer R, Soutar I, Suckling J, Varga L, Haltas I, Druckman A, Lumbroso D, et al (2018). Engaging stakeholders in research to address water–energy–food (WEF) nexus challenges. Sustainability Science, 13(5), 1415-1426. Abstract.  Full text.
Soutar I, Mitchell C (2017). Towards pragmatic narratives of societal engagement in the UK energy system. Energy Research and Social Science, 35, 132-139. Abstract.  Full text.
Rowan JS, Carwardine J, Duck RW, Bragg OM, Black AR, Cutler MEJ, Soutar I, Boon PJ (2006). Development of a technique for Lake habitat survey (LHS) with applications for the European Union Water Framework Directive. AQUATIC CONSERVATION-MARINE AND FRESHWATER ECOSYSTEMS, 16(6), 637-657. Author URL.

Chapters

Soutar I (2018). Community Energy as a site for Social Innovation. In Backhaus J, Genus A, Lorek S, Vadovics E, Wittmayer J (Eds.) Social Innovation and Sustainable Consumption: Research and Action for Societal Transformation.
Britton J, Soutar I (2013). Energy Security Policy in Britain: Markets, Complexity and Challenges. In Mitchell C, Watson J, Britton J (Eds.) New Challenges in Energy Security the UK in a Multipolar World, Palgrave Macmillan, 68-91.  Abstract.
Soutar I, Whiting J (2013). Energy security policy in Britain: Markets, complexity and challenges. In Mitchell C, Watson J, Whiting J (Eds.) New Challenges in Energy Security: the UK in a Multipolar World, London: Palgrave MacMillan.

Conferences

Judson E, Soutar I, Fitch-Roy O (2021). Energy democracy: a digital future?. Joint Annual Conference of the Science, Technology and Society Unit - Graz University of Technology, the Inter-Disciplinary Research Centre for Technology, Work and Culture (IFZ) and the Institute of Advanced Studies on Science, Technology and Society (IAS-STS). 3rd - 5th May 2021.
Soutar I (2019). Emergence and control in UK energy system democratisation. in Search of Good Energy Policy.
Soutar I (2018). Energy System Change: Insights for the Circular Economy?. Circular Economy Disruptions: Past, Present and Future. 8th - 10th Jun 2018. Author URL.
Soutar I (2018). Understanding innovation at the Water-Energy-Food nexus. 9th International Sustainability Transitions Conference. 12th - 14th Jun 2018.
Haltas I, Suckling J, Soutar I, Druckman A, Varga L (2017). Anaerobic digestion: a prime solution for water, energy and food nexus challenges.  Abstract.
Soutar I (2017). Balancing diversity and coherence in innovation space-making at the water-energy-food nexus. Energy-water-climate change nexus (EWCN) in a transitional economy: sustainability and resilience. 22nd - 26th May 2017.
Soutar I (2017). Conditions for transformation in the water-energy-food nexus. Transformations 2017: Transformations in Practice. 30th Aug - 1st Sep 2017.
Soutar I, Mitchell C (2017). Towards pragmatic narratives of societal engagement in the UK energy system. AAG Annual Meeting.
Soutar I, Mitchell C (2016). Grappling with Wickedness: the articulation of WEF nexus governance in the UK. RGS Annual Conference.
Soutar I (2015). The role of social capital in energy systems transformation: Insights from community energy. SCORAI workshop: ‘Beyond’ Transition? Understanding & Achieving Sustainable Consumption through Social Innovation.  Abstract.  Author URL.
Soutar I (2015). The use (and abuse?) of evidence in the development of the UK Community Energy Strategy. the interface between sustainability research and policy. 26th - 27th Jan 2015.
Soutar I (2014). Is small-scale beautiful (and how beautiful?): Understanding the role of community energy within the wider UK energy system. Earth Systems Governance.
Soutar I (2013). What role for small-scale energy? Understanding the value of challenging large-scale lock-in. Facing the Future Symposium. 10th - 12th Apr 2013.
Rowan JS, Soutar I, Phillips GE (2006). Morphometric analysis of UK lake systems as a compliance tool for the European Water Framework Directive.  Author URL.

Reports

Judson E, Soutar I, Mitchell C (2020). Governance Challenges Emerging from Energy Digitalisation. EPG Discussion Paper: EPG2002. Author URL.
Larkin A, Abdel-Aal M, Druckman A, Falconer R, Forbes P, Hoolohan C, Lumbroso D, McLachlan C, Scott M, Shu Q, et al (2019). Stepping up. What will it take to accelerate a step-change in sustainability for water, energy and food?.

Publications by year


In Press

Suckling J, Hoolohan C, Soutar I, Druckman A (In Press). Unintended consequences: Unknowable and unavoidable, or knowable and unforgivable?. Frontiers in Climate

2021

Poulter H (2021). Adaptive Governance for Energy System Decentralisation: a case study of the National Electricity Market in Eastern Australia.  Abstract.
Soutar I (2021). Dancing with complexity: Making sense of decarbonisation, decentralisation, digitalisation and democratisation. Energy Research & Social Science, 80, 102230-102230. Full text.
Judson E, Soutar I, Fitch-Roy O (2021). Energy democracy: a digital future?. Joint Annual Conference of the Science, Technology and Society Unit - Graz University of Technology, the Inter-Disciplinary Research Centre for Technology, Work and Culture (IFZ) and the Institute of Advanced Studies on Science, Technology and Society (IAS-STS). 3rd - 5th May 2021.
Pownall T, Soutar I, Mitchell C (2021). Re-Designing GB’s Electricity Market Design: a Conceptual Framework Which Recognises the Value of Distributed Energy Resources. Energies, 14(4), 1124-1124. Abstract.

2020

Judson E, Soutar I, Mitchell C (2020). Governance Challenges Emerging from Energy Digitalisation. EPG Discussion Paper: EPG2002. Author URL.

2019

Soutar I (2019). Emergence and control in UK energy system democratisation. in Search of Good Energy Policy.
Larkin A, Abdel-Aal M, Druckman A, Falconer R, Forbes P, Hoolohan C, Lumbroso D, McLachlan C, Scott M, Shu Q, et al (2019). Stepping up. What will it take to accelerate a step-change in sustainability for water, energy and food?.
Hoolohan C, Soutar I, Suckling J, Druckman A, Larkin A, McLachlan C (2019). Stepping-up innovations in the water–energy–food nexus: a case study of anaerobic digestion in the UK. Geographical Journal, 185(4), 391-405. Abstract.  Full text.
Judson E, Fitch-Roy O, Pownall T, Bray R, Poulter H, Soutar I, Lowes R, Connor P, Britton J, Woodman B, et al (2019). The centre cannot (always) hold: examining pathways towards energy system de-centralisation. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 118 Abstract.  Full text.

2018

Soutar I (2018). Community Energy as a site for Social Innovation. In Backhaus J, Genus A, Lorek S, Vadovics E, Wittmayer J (Eds.) Social Innovation and Sustainable Consumption: Research and Action for Societal Transformation.
Soutar I (2018). Energy System Change: Insights for the Circular Economy?. Circular Economy Disruptions: Past, Present and Future. 8th - 10th Jun 2018. Author URL.
Hoolohan C, Larkin A, McLachlan C, Falconer R, Soutar I, Suckling J, Varga L, Haltas I, Druckman A, Lumbroso D, et al (2018). Engaging stakeholders in research to address water–energy–food (WEF) nexus challenges. Sustainability Science, 13(5), 1415-1426. Abstract.  Full text.
Soutar I (2018). Understanding innovation at the Water-Energy-Food nexus. 9th International Sustainability Transitions Conference. 12th - 14th Jun 2018.

2017

Haltas I, Suckling J, Soutar I, Druckman A, Varga L (2017). Anaerobic digestion: a prime solution for water, energy and food nexus challenges.  Abstract.
Soutar I (2017). Balancing diversity and coherence in innovation space-making at the water-energy-food nexus. Energy-water-climate change nexus (EWCN) in a transitional economy: sustainability and resilience. 22nd - 26th May 2017.
Soutar I (2017). Conditions for transformation in the water-energy-food nexus. Transformations 2017: Transformations in Practice. 30th Aug - 1st Sep 2017.
Soutar I, Mitchell C (2017). Towards pragmatic narratives of societal engagement in the UK energy system. AAG Annual Meeting.
Soutar I, Mitchell C (2017). Towards pragmatic narratives of societal engagement in the UK energy system. Energy Research and Social Science, 35, 132-139. Abstract.  Full text.

2016

Soutar I (2016). From local to global value: the transformational nature of community energy.  Abstract.  Author URL.
Soutar I, Mitchell C (2016). Grappling with Wickedness: the articulation of WEF nexus governance in the UK. RGS Annual Conference.

2015

Soutar I (2015). The role of social capital in energy systems transformation: Insights from community energy. SCORAI workshop: ‘Beyond’ Transition? Understanding & Achieving Sustainable Consumption through Social Innovation.  Abstract.  Author URL.
Soutar I (2015). The use (and abuse?) of evidence in the development of the UK Community Energy Strategy. the interface between sustainability research and policy. 26th - 27th Jan 2015.

2014

Soutar I (2014). Is small-scale beautiful (and how beautiful?): Understanding the role of community energy within the wider UK energy system. Earth Systems Governance.

2013

Britton J, Soutar I (2013). Energy Security Policy in Britain: Markets, Complexity and Challenges. In Mitchell C, Watson J, Britton J (Eds.) New Challenges in Energy Security the UK in a Multipolar World, Palgrave Macmillan, 68-91.  Abstract.
Soutar I, Whiting J (2013). Energy security policy in Britain: Markets, complexity and challenges. In Mitchell C, Watson J, Whiting J (Eds.) New Challenges in Energy Security: the UK in a Multipolar World, London: Palgrave MacMillan.
Soutar I (2013). What role for small-scale energy? Understanding the value of challenging large-scale lock-in. Facing the Future Symposium. 10th - 12th Apr 2013.

2006

Rowan JS, Carwardine J, Duck RW, Bragg OM, Black AR, Cutler MEJ, Soutar I, Boon PJ (2006). Development of a technique for Lake habitat survey (LHS) with applications for the European Union Water Framework Directive. AQUATIC CONSERVATION-MARINE AND FRESHWATER ECOSYSTEMS, 16(6), 637-657. Author URL.
Rowan JS, Soutar I, Phillips GE (2006). Morphometric analysis of UK lake systems as a compliance tool for the European Water Framework Directive.  Author URL.

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External Engagement and Impact

Administrative responsibilities

I co-founded, and coordinate ExeterEnergy, an interdisciplinary network of 140+ energy researchers at the University of Exeter


Committee/panel activities

External reviewer for several energy-related MSc programmes for Universities of Oxford and Sussex


Editorial responsibilities

I have reviewed manuscripts for a number of publications including: Energy Research and Social Science Energy Policy; Energy Strategy Reviews; Environment and Planning A; Energies; Science and Culture; Local Environment; and Energy Sources Part B: Economics, Planning and Policy

Supervision / Group

Postgraduate researchers

  • Emily Judson Governance challenges emerging from energy system digitalisation
  • Thomas Pownall Re-designing Electricity Markets for a High Renewable Future

Alumni

  • Helen Poulter: Adaptive governance for energy system transformation: A case study of the National Electricity Market in Eastern Australia (2021)

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