Energy and Society
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Our projects enhance the visibility of social science research on Energy at Edinburgh in ways that unlock new pathways to generate national and international impact


Heat and the City

Our multi-disciplinary research addresses a major gap in UK sustainable energy policy and governance, which is the neglect of energy used for heating and hot water in buildings. The project focuses primarily on the development of district heating networks, exploring processes of sociotechnical change at household, community and policy levels. It is funded by the UK Research Councils’ Energy and Communities Programme, and is one of seven projects which place society, environment and economy at the centre of the public debate.




Webb, Hawkey, Lovell, Tingey and Winskel, with others




Local Engagement in Energy Systems Development

This research project, funded by the Energy Technologies Institute, and with new funding from the UK Energy Research Centre, is providing the first systematic overview of local engagement in energy systems development. Early findings show that almost one third (30%) of the UK’s 434 local authorities are actively planning, and investing in, local energy productivity and provision. Most of this activity is on a limited scale with only around 9% of UK authorities showing evidence of significant numbers of energy project investments. The characteristics of these energy leaders indicate multiple routes into engagement, including economic regeneration, investment in housing upgrades and affordable warmth, energy and carbon saving, and energy from waste. We are also finding differential levels of engagement across the UK, with Scottish local authorities over-represented among the more active group.




Webb, Hawkey, Tingey



Pilot study report

UKERC Phase 3: Energy Pathways

Edinburgh is involved in the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) Phase 3’s Energy Pathways theme, which is examining the UK’s energy transition in an uncertain world, and the synergies and trade-offs between the key drivers for this transition. The research will analyse pathways that meet current UK policy targets for reducing emissions, and will compare them to others in which other energy system drivers overwhelm low carbon policies, or the future direction of policy changes dramatically.








ClimateXChange: International Energy Policy and Markets

The aim of this research is to develop an interdisciplinary understanding of international developments in energy markets, policies and regulations. Within this broad scope, the main focus will be on the European level, and the development of the EU’s Internal Electricity Market (IEM). In investigating the IEM, our aim is to understand and translate European-wide developments in terms of their impacts on (and opportunities for) Scottish and UK energy system transition, including wholesale markets and trading, infrastructure development, system balancing and reserve, and low carbon investment.




Bolton and Winskel





This knowledge exchange network, funded by Intelligent Energy Europe and Scottish Government, works with cross-sector partners to develop national Heating and Cooling Plans. STRATEGO partners are supporting 23 European cities and regions to map their local heating and cooling demand and supply and to define areas of priority for intervention. The STRATEGO Scotland project officer works with the Heat and the City Team at the Institute of Governance to develop and share knowledge for sustainable heat and cooling developments.







Scotland project website

European project website

Community Energy Projects - The Social Factors for Success

This project, commissioned by the Scottish Government, examined the critical issues around social capital, community, and governance that influence the success of small-scale energy projects.  Working with Scene, it investigated the motivators and barriers to community energy projects, and assessed the potential and limitations of the predominant business models for community energy.  The project was funded by ClimateXChange for the Scottish Government. 




Haggett, Bomberg, with others




InGrid - Integration of Power Transmission Grids (2015-2018)

The primary objective of this project is to generate new knowledge about the institutional, technological, and economical, challenges related to the transformation of transmission power grids across Europe. Greater energy systems integration can facilitate longterm, sustainable restructuring of European countries' energy systems, efficient use of renewable energy sources, power system flexibility, and further increasing the shares of renewable energy. The project is funded by the Norwegian Research Council through the ENERGIX programme








Reframing Energy Demand: Innovation for Sustainable Heat (2014-17)

This project aims to develop a new analysis of innovations in energy efficiency and sustainable heat by drawing on two related strands of social science research: social studies of the technical infrastructures and social studies of the markets which underpin energy demand and supply, and which structure the pace and shape of change. Our research will identify the potential, and means, for shared learning between European cities, in relation to energy efficiency and sustainable heat policy and practice. We will do this by working closely with UK and European policymakers, businesses and communities.




Webb, Winskel, Bolton, Hawkey




Environment, Impact and Aesthetics - a new EIA for Natural Scotland

This is a project funded by Creative Scotland and Imaging Natural Scotland on designing creative responses to capture a sense of the place, value and meaning that are inherent in landscapes - and translate this into a form which feeds into the EIA and planning processes for wind farms.  Working with artists, it developed a range of innovative ways to understand how a wind farm changes a landscape and the meaning that that landscape has for the people.  The results are an additional chapter to a traditional planning document for a wind farm application, which explore key issues of people, place and community.








Wind Farms Community Engagement Good Practice Review

This project explored the best practice and engagement for on- and offshore wind farms.  It addresses fundamental questions of what public engagement is, how it is done, and whether it matters.  This was explored through an analysis of the planning system in seven countries across Europe and a series of case studies, both on and offshore.  It finds that examples of good engagement, where changes are made on the basis of what people say and this is communicated to them, have the potential to transform views of particular wind farms and the industry in general.  The project makes a series of recommendations for policy making, and was funded by ClimateXChange for the Scottish Government. 




Haggett, Rudolph, with others


Community Ownership of Commercial Energy Projects

This project, funded by ClimateXChange for the Scottish Government, is about the opportunities for communities to invest in commercial energy projects.   Working alongside government, industry and practitioners, it explores the funding and support mechanisms available to communities and the means through which developers can engage with each other.  It identifies a significant number of hurdles, and with a comparative analysis of community investment in a range of countries from around the world, as well as case studies from Scotland, develops a series of recommendations for the Scottish Government.  The final report will be available shortly.




Haggett, Rudolph, with other



Community Benefits from Offshore Renewables

This project is about best practice for community benefits, in the unexplored terrain of offshore developments.  It is being funded by ClimateXChange for the Scottish Government, and the work is being carried out in conjunction with Local Energy Scotland.  There is currently very little evidence and few examples of community benefit for offshore developments, and this project is therefore analysing examples from around the world and in a range of policy and planning systems of where benefits to communities have been offered and the impact that this has.  It is ongoing, and will make a series of recommendations to inform current Scottish Government policy making on this topic.  The final report will be available shortly.




Rudolph, Haggett


DEAL (Intelligent Domestic Energy Advice Loop)

IDEAL is an EPSRC funded research project led by Nigel Goddard, Informatics. It explores the interaction of domestic energy use (electricity, gas or other heating sources) with digital sensor and feedback systems which provide information to householders on how much energy they are using in their own activities such as showering, cooking and heating, and which suggest ways to reduce their energy costs. The multi-disciplinary team of computer scientists and social scientists are working together to explore the socio-technical feasibility of this type of personalised energy use feedback, and responses to it. The study is recruiting households from different socio-economic groups, in the cities of Edinburgh, Milton Keynes and York.








TEDDINET (Transforming Energy Demand through Digital Innovation Network)

TEDDINET is an EPSRC funded research network led by Dan Van Der Horst, Geography, to support the work of UK projects examining the opportunities afforded by ICT to improve energy demand management. The aim is to ensure that the individual projects achieve more than the sum of their parts and leave a strong legacy for industry, government and society. Multidisciplinary teams of researchers are studying the social and the technical configuration of energy demand, and the corresponding potential to reduce energy use and costs through digital innovation. TEDDINET works by initiating, facilitating and nurturing communication and collaboration within this research community, as well as externally between the research community, policy-makers, civil society and other academics, nationally and internationally.








Energy Management in Public Sector Buildings

This research, commencing 2015, is led by Nigel Goddard, Informatics. Interwoven with the study of digital technology’s role in managing energy use, we will research social-practices reliant on energy in public-sector buildings, using findings from social research on end-user innovation to engage with the dynamics of organisational change. This will include working with the particular building managers who are formally responsible for reducing energy use, as well those varied groups of publics and employees who work in, and use, the buildings and whose activities rely on energy – in the City of Edinburgh Council and University of Edinburgh these activities include use of ICT equipment, heating controls in rooms, use of equipment for cooking, cleaning, showering, cooling, illumination and sound, archival storage of materials, and supply, storage and movement of foods, liquids and others materials.






TROPOS: Modular Multi-use Deep Water Offshore Platform Harnessing and Servicing Mediterranean, Subtropical and Tropical Marine and Maritime Resources

This is an EU FP7 funded project exploring the future of offshore platforms, used for leisure, aquaculture and energy generation.  It iss a multi-disciplinary engineering project on which Edinburgh Sociology are contributing both the theoretical and methodological expertise on the key social factors which influence offshore wind developments. 




Rudolph, Haggett