Richard Lowes
Postgraduate Researcher


Research interests

I am primarily interested in the politics of the UK energy and environmental policy making process. My research would fit into either a sociological or public policy approach and I am generally more focussed on the 'human' side of energy than the engineering side.

I am particularly interested in how and why policy develops in particular ways, specifically how actors such as companies and trade associations are able to shape and change policy. This work builds on the theories of policy change, institutions and power.

Research projects

Power, politics and UK heat policy - PhD

Supervisors: Dr Bridget Woodman, Dr Peter Connor

Funding Body: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

My PhD research project is focussing on how policy can to help achieve the transformation to an increasingly sustainable system of providing heat in the UK. Currently the UK produces most of its heat, around 70% from fossil gas. This is environmentally and economically unsustainable as gas is a carbon based fuel and so has climate impacts and because the UK is becoming increasingly import dependent on gas.

Almost all scenarios suggest a reduced future role for gas in the UK with increases in the use of district heating and on-site heat generation expected however this represents a transformational change from the UK’s current heat regime. The focus of academic work in this area has been on modelling future heat systems and no-one has considered this transition from an energy policy perspective despite clear societal issues around economics, politics and consumer interests.

This is where my research looks to fill the gap. I plan to investigate the UK’s heat system from an interdisciplinary perspective, combining the theory around sustainability transitions with aspects of the theory of (social/political) power. The goal of my research is to understand why things have ended up being how they are, how social and political power maintain the existing system and reduce its ability to change and how policy makers can support and promote the use of increasingly sustainable heat technologies considering these issues.

Heat, Incumbency and Transformations

Principle Investigator: Bridget Woodman

Funding Body: UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC)

I am Research Fellow on this innovative project. The project is considering a UK transformation to a 100% sustainable heat system but focussing on the role of incumbent companies. It will map the current heat regime in the UK investigating who is present in the sector, consider how incumbents may be affected by the transition an then consider the socio-political impacts that these incumbents may have on a potential UK heat transformation.

More information the project can be found here.


Principle investigator: Poul Erik Morthorst, Technical Universityof Denmark (DTU)

Exeter lead: Profesor Catherine Mitchell

Funding body: Danish Innovation Fund

The FutureGas project is a major multi-disciplinary project investigating the future role of gas in Denmark. The project brings together engineers, mathematicians, social scientists and policy experts from across Europe. Our role in the project is to provide a comparative case study for Denmark, focussing on the UK, using our own expertise of the UK's energy system.

Research networks

I am:

A Member of the Energy Institute

A Member of the Sustainable Transitions Research Network

A Member of the UK Energy Research Centre

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