Energy underpins our lives and economic development. Fossil fuel combustion is the main source of greenhouse gas emissions and so energy use is integral to climate change mitigation. Energy is also increasingly central to climate change adaptation challenges through its inter-linkages with water use, agriculture and land use, and urban infrastructure. There is broad consensus on the need for dramatic transformation of the energy system in the coming decades to achieve climate stabilisation and adaptation goals. Globally, the energy system faces additional challenges including: how to ensure security and resilience; how to provide universal access to clean, flexible and convenient fuels; and how to reduce pollution and its adverse health and natural consequences.
Energy and Emissions Theme Research
Framed by these needs for a sustainable energy transformation, Tyndall researchers in the Energy and Emissions Theme consider a multitude of issues and perspectives: from technologies and economies to behaviours and societies; from micro-scale to systemic; from retrospective to prospective; from mitigation to adaptation. The Energy and Emissions Theme brings together natural and physical scientists, social scientists, engineers and economists to conduct interdisciplinary and policy relevant research. There can be up to 35 researchers associated with the Energy and Emissions Theme at any one time, depending upon the projects in our portfolio. These can range from high level emissions budget analysis across different geographic and temporal scales to detailed case studies of particular low carbon technologies and behaviours in specific contexts. Our research is funded through a diverse range of sources, and we contribute regularly to parliamentary processes, government consultations, and the media, as well as the academic literature.
Tyndall’s Energy and Emissions Theme research can be broadly characterised under various topics: assessment, behaviour, governance, perceptions, scenarios and pathways, transitions, low carbon development, emissions accounting, and geoengineering.
Energy assessments help understand the technical, environmental and economic dimensions of the development and deployment of energy technologies and infrastructure. These range from renewable energy technologies to low carbon building developments to whole sectors such as shipping or aviation.
Energy behaviours research explores the motivations for, influences on, and outcomes of energy-related behaviour, from energy efficient home renovation to active opposition against local wind farms. A particular emphasis is on the embedding of behaviour in a social context, and the importance of the social organisation of individuals in households, communities or firms.
Energy and emissions governance is a broad heading encompassing work on stakeholder engagement in the deliberative appraisal of technology options, climate policy appraisal, and analysis of the role of regulatory, market and other institutions within the energy system. Governance research also looks explicitly at clean development and climate finance.
Energy perceptions tracks the evolving public understandings and perceptions of energy issues and technologies, linked to the changing framing and communication of climate change and energy security.
Energy and emission scenarios and pathways characterise the social and technical changes needed to achieve dramatic emission reductions towards climate stabilisation goals. These include research on emission trajectories, the implications of international climate commitments, and long-term socio-economic scenarios. Also of interest are historical energy trajectories as a basis for informing future developments.
Energy transitions draw on, and contribute to, a growing body of theory on socio-technical transitions, investigating the importance of innovation niches, grassroots or community initiatives, and potential drivers of ‘regime’ changes towards a sustainable energy future.
Low carbon growth and technology transfer research considers the imperative for both developing and deploying low carbon technologies across the world through a combination of local innovation and international collaboration.
Global Carbon Project is a major international research initiative to compile, analyse, report and archive global emission statistics, as well as to identify and monitor CO2 sinks, and reduce levels of uncertainty in emission estimates.
Geoengineering involves deliberate large-scale interventions in the Earth’s climate system in order to moderate anthropogenic climate change. The inadequacy of current efforts to reduce emissions have raised the profile of geoengineering, a topic on which Tyndall research casts a critical eye.
For details of research projects underway in each of these areas, please click on the topic in the Energy and Emissions drop-down menu or see the ‘Read More About’ list below.
Energy Theme Co-ordinators
Examples of Projects Underway
Below are a list of the Energy Theme's recent and ongoing projects, organised under topics, although many projects are cross-cutting. As examples of research currently underway:
Building on the IPCC’s 2007 report, the 2009 Copenhagen scientific conference on climate change made clear both the urgency and radical scale of reductions in greenhouse gases necessary if global society is to avoid the 2°C characterisation of dangerous climate change. The scale and immediacy of the mitigation challenge outlined in Copenhagen leaves no option but for all major sectors to implement measures to stabilise their emissions in the short-term before beginning a steep decline in absolute emissions within the coming decade.
Reinforcing this view, the first report from the UK Government’s Committee on Climate Change in 2008 emphasised the need for global emissions to peak as early as 2016, similar to the 2015 date suggested in the influential Stern report. Against this backdrop, the challenge for shipping, as a fundamental factor in delivering globalisation, is stark.
This proposal tackles the challenge head on: how can global society’s dependence on a rapidly growing shipping industry be reconciled with the scale and rate of mitigation outlined in Copenhagen and more quantitatively described from a UK perspective by the Committee on Climate Change’s carbon budget approach and related pathways? Thus the aim of the project is to apply an interdisciplinary, whole-systems perspective to develop robust methods for determining the emissions arising from UK shipping and to explore potential technological and operational step-changes in international shipping to accelerate progress towards avoiding ‘dangerous climate change’.
Duration: April 2010 to September 2013
Use life cycle assessment (LCA) tools to determine the environmental benefits and feasibility of producing ammonia fertiliser from biomass gasification, compared to using natural gas. Ammonia is used for the production of nitrogen based fertilisers and whilst the fertiliser improves crop yield, the production process is energy intensive and produces 0.93 % of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The biomass system analysed includes energy crop cultivation under typical UK agronomic practice, gasification in a fast internally circulating fluidised bed gasifier to produce syngas, steam reforming to convert the syngas into a H2 rich feedstock and combination with N2 separated from air, to produce ammonia using the Haber-Bosch process. The GWP is quantified using LCA software, along with other notable impacts on biodiversity.
Results are also presented for the net energy balance of the system, which is a significant consideration in determining the most appropriate use of biomass amongst the sometimes competing pathways of heat, electricity or transport fuel production.
Duration: - April 2011
Funder: SuperGen Bioenergy (EPSRC)
New nuclear power plants are being discussed as part of the solution to climate change and energy security problems in the UK. The large, light water reactors being considered for construction can only convert ~35% of the thermal energy generated into electricity, with nearly two thirds lost as waste heat.
This is within the context of a heat supply and demand system that currently accounts for around three quarters of non-transport energy consumption in the UK almost entirely through fossil fuel combustion. This project explores the potential scenarios for heat utilisation at Hartlepool and Oldbury reactor sites. Particular focus is given to non-technical barriers through case study analysis and applying innovation and transition theoretical approaches.
Duration: Oct 2008-Oct 2011
The overall aim of the project is to develop an integrated decision-support framework for assessing the sustainability of nuclear power relative to other energy options, considering both energy supply and demand. Taking a life cycle approach, the project aims to develop a methodology and multi-criteria decision-support framework for an integrated assessment of the sustainability of nuclear power. The framework brings together technical, environmental, economic, social and governance perspectives to assess the sustainability of nuclear power relative to other energy options within a process of stakeholder engagement. The Tyndall Manchester team is contributing a set of energy scenarios to 2070 describing varying levels of nuclear power within different energy system profiles for the UK.
Spring is a Consortium project, led by the University of Manchester (School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science) in collaboration with City University, London and the University of Southampton.
Duration: February 2008 to January 2011
The Supergen Biomass and Bioenergy consortium aims to provide a recognized focus for UK biomass and bioenergy activities that unites key stakeholders and academia through leading edge research into renewable energy. The consortium studies production of different types of biomass, investigating their behaviour in thermal conversion processes designed to service demands across the heat, electricity, transport fuel and industrial demand sectors.
Tyndall Manchester leads the theme on systems analysis, which evaluates the performance, cost and socio-economic benefits of a wide range of bioenergy chains. These range from use of domestic energy crops for home heating through to imported biomass for large scale electricity supply and consideration of advanced biorefinery concepts.
For each system greenhouse gas balances, environmental life cycle impacts, techno-economic analyses and social assessments are carried out, which inform an overall assessment of sustainability and policy development options.
Duration: 2007 -2011
This project uses whole systems analysis techniques to investigate new technologies to exploit the large amount of unused low grade heat available from UK process industries.
The wider project involves mapping of potentially available heat and consumers, development of technologies such as industrial condensing boilers, evaluation of district heating potential and detailed process modelling. Tyndall Manchester leads the task on environmental and socio-economic issues, which aims to quantify the greenhouse gas and other benefits of different process efficiency options and analyze barriers to their implementation. This involves stakeholder engagement and workshops, focus groups with heat users and detailed life cycle assessment of different process efficiency options.
Duration: 2009 -2011
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This UK study is titled Bio-Cap UK: Air/Oxy Biomass Combustion with CO2 Capture Technology. Converting biomass to electricity with carbon capture and storage (bio-CCS) could facilitate large scale power generation with substantial “negative” CO2 emissions. However, there is very little experience of biomass behaviour under operating conditions in the proposed systems, capital costs are anticipated to be very high and the actual level of greenhouse gas reductions achievable varies significantly across the different technology options. This project aims to accelerate deployment of bio-CCS systems by providing experimental data on biomass thermal behaviour and CO2 capture with a biomass-derived flue gas. This data will be used to inform bio-CCS plant simulation work, which will facilitate a realistic life cycle assessment of the real GHG reduction potential of the bio-CCS systems. This will be combined with techno-economic assessment of key technology options to benchmark the potential cost-effectiveness of bio-CCS compared to other low carbon energy technologies.
Jan 2013 (for 24 months)
EPSRC (SUPERGEN Bioenergy Hub and UK CCS Hub)
Shipping is recognised as the most efficient form of freight transport. For that reason the prominence of shipping emissions may have been overlooked in comparison with other modes of transport. While recent efforts have been focused on assessing emissions at the global level, shipping is also pivotal for bottom up or activity based analyses, particularly in relation to lifecycle and product chain analyses. This project seeks to address potential deficiencies in how shipping is dealt with in such analyses. The impact of differing ship type, size, speed and utilization will determine the emissions allocated to the movement of shipped goods. This will be complemented by emission estimates for subsequent stages in the product chain such as cargo handling and onward transport. Identifying the most important determinants of emissions associated with products carried on ships will assist in future lifecycle and product based analyses and comparisons.
Funder: The Sustainable Consumption Institute (University of Manchester)
Duration: Completion August 2011
Smart Homes are becoming a reality with information and communication technologies increasingly present in our homes. Smart Home technology can provide a range of services including safety, security, comfort, healthcare and energy management, and are seen by companies across the world as a potential new and emerging market. This project - called REFIT - is studying how the development and deployment of Smart Homes can potentially help reduce household energy demand and consumer energy bills.
REFIT is an ambitious, interdisciplinary research project with the long-term aim of creating a step-change in uptake rates of retrofit technology measures in UK homes. The project brings together a diverse research team with internationally renowned expertise in buildings, energy, information and communication technologies, people, and design. REFIT will study the Smart Home concept and its ability to provide personalised, valued, tailored and trustworthy information on building retrofit, energy efficiency and on-site renewable technology options for UK homes.
Charlie Wilson, Richard Hauxwell-Baldwin
May 2012 to April 2015
This project assessed the opportunities and barriers for the UK tidal energy sector from the perspective of a wide range of stakeholders. In addition, it considered competing views on which organisations have the responsibility and ability to facilitate development. Approximately 20 individuals from a range of organisations were interviewed including: trade associations, academic research projects, testing facilities, regional and national government, utilities, funding bodies, regulators, and technology developers. The project identified key areas of consensus and disagreement within the industry around a number of topics, including: the degree of progress, availability and structure of finance, assessing environmental impact, international competition, competition within UK nations and testing facilities.
Funder: Tyndall Centre (EPSRC, NERC and ESRC)
Duration: completed in May 2010
Examples of Projects Underway
Below are a list of the Energy Theme's recent and ongoing projects, organised under topics, although many projects are cross-cutting. As examples of research currently underway:
Personal mobility is widely regarded as a good thing for society and individuals, allowing economic and social mobility, but the private car is responsible for one in every eight tonnes of CO₂ emitted in the UK today and emissions from personal transport are on an upward trend.
Dan's research asks how can the UK play its fair part in avoiding ‘dangerous climate change’ if private car travel continues to grow? What changes in travel behaviour are implied if the UK is to play its fair part (assuming the best possible improvements in vehicle and fuel technology with the regulation in place to ensure its development and uptake), and how could such changes be encouraged?
Duration: 3.5 years
Funder: University of Manchester Alumni Fund
Tyndall Workshop on Behaviourally-Realistic Modelling 2nd December 2013, UEA London
Tyndall Centre researchers met for a day of knowledge exchange on the prospects and challenges for incorporating behavioural realism into models used to inform policy and decision making.
The objectives of the workshop were:
(1) To explore ways of improving the behavioural realism of models used to inform environmental policy and practice.
(2) To share ideas, insights and experience on behaviourally-realistic modelling among Tyndall researchers.
(3) To initiate ongoing knowledge exchange and potential collaboration through workshops, working papers, etc.
The workshop discussions covered a wide range of issues, challenges and experiences associated with behaviourally-realistic modelling. Discussions were loosely grouped in three themes. Each theme was introduced by some short talks (available for download below) that also introduced specific modelling approaches. Details of the modelling approaches as well as key points discussed under each theme are included in a workshop report (available for download below).
The key conclusion from the workshop was that there is no ‘grand unified theory’ for behaviourally-realistic modelling. A wide variety of modelling approaches and model designs are available, and should be matched appropriately to specific research questions. Data limitations for parameterisations or historical calibrations are rife, but there are ways of addressing this so model runs are still useful (e.g., simplifying approximations, exploring possibility spaces, identifying critical thresholds). Modellers need to be circumspect about the limitations of their modelling tools, and hence the usefulness and interpretation of their findings. Knowledge exchange activities on this theme are very useful. Possible next steps include a briefing note, a follow-up workshop, or a larger community event.
Download the report from the workshop here.
Presentations available - see attachments at bottom of page.
ADDRESS (Active Distribution network with full integration of Demand and distributed energy RESourceS), funded through the 7th Framework Programme, aims to deliver a comprehensive commercial and technical framework for the development of ‘Active Demand’ (AD) in the smart grids of the future. The project is investigating how to effectively develop the participation of domestic consumers in power system markets through the development of interactive energy distribution networks. Tyndall Manchester’s involvement is in the field-testing phase, specifically focusing on the user acceptance with Active Demand principles and technology through interaction with an electricity ‘demand aggregator’ and smart metering equipment in their homes. An Energy Box will be installed that will interface between the consumer and the demand aggregator to optimise and control loads at the consumer’s premises.
Funder: European Community’s Seventh Framework Program.
Duration: May 2010 – May 2012
VERD is a research project at the University of East Anglia investigating homeowners' decisions to renovate, with a particular emphasis on energy efficiency. 'VERD' stands for Value propositions for Energy efficient Renovation Decisions. The project is a collaboration between researchers from the Norwich Business School and the Tyndall Centre, and is funded by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC).
Background & Objectives of the VERD Project
Energy efficient renovations can lower energy bills, improve comfort by reducing drafts, and even increase a home’s value. So why do homeowners prefer to spend their money on a new kitchen, redecorating, or a DIY project? There are many good reasons. Some homeowners may just not be aware of the potential for efficiency improvements. Others may be put off by the costs or the hassle. Efficiency is also largely invisible. Upgrading a boiler doesn’t earn admiring approval from friends. Renovating for energy efficiency might improve domestic comfort and suggest thrift, but does it also evoke style or entertainment? Ultimately, homes say a lot about their occupants. People are different; so too are their homes.
We want to understand the decisions homeowners make to renovate their homes. We’re interested in energy efficiency, but in all other kinds of renovation too. Here are some of the questions we’re trying to answer: Why do some homeowners renovate and others never do? What initiates or triggers their decisions? How do renovations relate to the routines and identities of a household? What value propositions are attractive to homeowners deciding on renovations? We hope our research will help government design policies to encourage energy saving, and businesses offer better services to homeowners.
Documents for Download:
This report is a summary report of our research findings and recommended actions for service providers and local authorities.
This journal article analyses the different ways in which home renovation decisions are researched and proposes a new, integrative approach. [ERSS].
This journal article analyses data from before and after the Green Deal to look at how homeowners respond to incentives and information about energy-efficient home renovations.
This data archive holds all the survey and choice experiment data on home renovations in the UK collected by the project in 2012 and again in 2013.
This document contains all the talks by the VERD project team at the research briefing for stakeholders event in Westminster in October 2013.
This document summarises all our main findings so far, based mainly on the national homeowner survey and choice experiments we conducted in autumn 2012.
This document is a talk by Charlie Wilson from summer 2013 that links some of our findings to progress so far with the Green Deal.
This document is a talk by George Chryssochoidis from summer 2013 that sets out some of our findings on attractive value propositions for renovating homeowners.
These two documents are a talk and a conference paper by Charlie Wilson from summer 2013 that explain how the background conditions of domestic life help explain why homeowners decide to renovate in the first place.
This document is an interim report with a summary of our initial findings as of winter 2013.
This document is a detailed consultation report in which we set out our conceptual approach to understanding and modelling renovation decisions. This includes detailed 'mappings' of key variables at different stages of the renovation decision.
This document provides some background to the VERD project, and opportunities for interested stakeholders to get involved. Click here to download.
For further details on the VERD project, please contact the research team:
George Chryssochoidis - Choice experiments, surveys, decision modelling
Tel: +44 (0)1603 592694
Charlie Wilson - Energy efficiency policy, renovation decisions, surveys, interviews
Tel: +44 (0)1603 591386
Hazel Pettifor - Survey analysis
Lucy Crane - Interviews
Examples of Projects Underway
Below are a list of the Energy Theme's recent and ongoing projects, organised under topics, although many projects are cross-cutting. As examples of research currently underway:
This scoping study was initiated during the Tyndall transition phase in order to identify key research questions on Biomass Energy with CCS (BECCS) and to position the Tyndall team to establish a presence within BECCS research.
A workshop, organised jointly between the Tyndall Centre and the Scottish Centre for Carbon Storage, was held in Edinburgh to bring together key members of both the academic and stakeholder community with experience in this area.
Informed by the discussions during this workshop and an extensive literature review (including relevant social science literature) a Tyndall Working Paper will identify key options, individuals and perspectives of the potential role for CCS in the UK.
Duration: Tyndall transition phase, extended to September 2010
Funder: Tyndall transition
Although it may be possible to transition to a wholly renewable European power system by 2050, the prospects of achieving this for both heat and power, while also increasingly electrifying transport, are doubtful. This begs the question of how to deal with major on-going carbon emissions from the energy sector. CCS being the key option in this regard, NEARCO2 is a European project focusing on public perceptions of CCS in the UK, Belgium, Holland, Spain and Germany.
Public awareness of CCS in Europe has been low but is increasing – this process is likely to continue as Europe rolls out its CCS demonstration programme and as climate targets increase in urgency. As awareness grows, CCS is increasingly subject to critical attention at a variety of levels – from the policy level (e.g. what role CCS should play in future European energy systems) – to the siting level (particularly local public acceptance of new pipelines and storage sites).
NEARCO2 has reviewed public participation regulations relating to CCS in the five countries concerned and has identified opinion-shaping factors across a number of live CCS and analogous cases. A conceptual model of CCS-related communications and recommendations on participation strategies are to be developed. Focus groups with the public have been held in the five countries, using a DVD developed for the project, which explains the climate change rationale for CCS, provides an overview of the technology, and gives arguments for and against its use. This DVD is multi-lingual and will be publicly available as the project progresses. A large scale internet-based survey of local public opinion relating to potential CCS sites is currently under development.
Until relatively recently, public attitudes to micro-generation has been neglected as a research topic. Yet micro-generation features in UKERC 2050 energy system modeling and its deployment, in conjunction with energy efficient design, will be essential for the achievement of lower carbon buildings.
This project is using both citizens’ panels and a large scale questionnaire survey to examine public attitudes to micro-gen and related demand reduction in the city of Manchester.
Both strands of work are integrated with the European project PEPESEC, which is trialing a Swedish approach to community energy planning across Europe. The citizens’ panels combine the GRIP energy scenarios process, which has a proven ability to take stakeholders through a learning process relating to energy supply and emissions, with a mental models approach to decision-making. The results will provide information on attitudes, understanding and conceptions. Further work using the same methods will allow comparison with different stakeholder types and nationalities.
The large scale, online questionnaire survey will be offered to individuals in the Greater Manchester region who have made a personal pledge to reducing their carbon emissions. The survey will investigate the conditionality of environmental attitudes and values, specifically in relation to micro-generation and demand reduction options.
Diagnostic Seismic toolbox for the Efficient Control of CO2 Storage (DiSECCS) is an interdisciplinary collaborative project focusing on developing monitoring tools and methodologies to identify and characterise injection-induced pressure build-up in storage reservoirs, to predict the onset of mechanical instability, and to verify performance and improve in situ quantification. The focus will be on storage in saline aquifers (comprising the largest potential global storage resource), where considerable amounts of in situ water have to be displaced and pressure effects will have consequences for both storage integrity and storage capacity, but the research will also be relevant to storage in depleted hydrocarbon fields where strong pressure cycling might have affected reservoir and top-seal integrity.
Work at Tyndall Manchester, will focus on social responses to underground CO2 storage. Experience to date demonstrates that underground storage of CO2 is associated with significant levels of concern amongst lay publics. Furthermore, concern about links between CO2 storage and potential induced seismic activity were spontaneously raised by lay participants in focus groups. Gaining a better understanding of these concerns and how they may manifest themselves is a crucial element of establishing a monitoring process that will instil wider public confidence in CO2 storage. In the absence of live storage projects in the UK it can be difficult to accurately gauge the potential public response. This study will draw on analogues, in conjunction with a discursive process involving lay participants, to gain vital insights into how a lay population engages with similar geological processes and how controversies surrounding particular projects develop and evolve.
Sarah Mander, Clair Gough
11 September 2013 to 10 September 2016
Examples of Projects Underway
Recent years have seen a surge in interest and activity in small-scale, sustainable energy projects led by local communities. Examples include solar water heating clubs and insulation clubs, which provide mutual support for system installation; energy awareness and behaviour networks, which provide guidance and reassurance to neighbours on energy matters relevant to them; and co-operatively-owned small-scale renewable energy systems, such as micro-hydro and wind energy.
This research project studies the diffusion of community energy projects in the UK. It explores the extent of networking between projects, and whether this is assisting in the innovation of community energy. We also assess the performance of projects and provide independent advice to policy-makers and energy businesses about the merits and processes for supporting community energy.
We draw upon the findings of our research to develop with practitioners a number of Foresight scenarios for community energy in the UK.
Contacts: Dr Adrian Smith, SPRU, University of Sussex; email@example.com; 01273 9877065.
Dr Gill Seyfang, CSERGE, University of East Anglia; firstname.lastname@example.org; 01603 592956
Duration: October 2010 until September 2013
Recent studies emphasise sustainable innovation processes developing within protective niches. Experimentation in these spaces accumulates experience and improvements, which carries technologies from demonstration and into commercial use. This collaborative project with the Eindhoven Technical University analyses the politics of providing ‘protective space’ for three low carbon innovations in the UK and Netherlands: photovoltaic cells, offshore wind, and carbon capture and storage.
We study the strategies followed by advocates of these technologies for attracting public support, and how this political competition affects the innovation process. We analyse the arguments advanced by advocates of each technology, the audiences to whom these arguments are made, and how they are re-presented to different interests.
The networks of actors contributing to the development of protective space will be explored; and how their activities generate different forms of protection, e.g. economic subsidies, public investments, institutional support, valued knowledge, political backing, attaining positive symbolic significance. We will study these protections influence the development of our case study low carbon niches.
Raven, R.P.J.M., Van den Bosch, S. and R. Weterings (2010) Transitions and strategic niche management: towards a competence kit for practitioners International Journal of Technology Management 51, 1: 57-74.
T: 01273 9877065
Duration: October 2010 until September 2013
China is experiencing a sustained period of rapid economic growth, accompanied by large annual increases in energy demand. Coal continues to dominate the Chinese energy system, and accounts for the majority of new power generation capacity. Demand for imported oil is also increasing sharply. The environmental side effects of these trends are serious - both for China and for the international community.
This Tyndall funded project aims to assess alternative energy futures for China, examining the potentials for China to transform to make the transition to a less carbon-intensive, more sustainable energy path. The project will work with Chinese organisations to assess the success of policy initiatives, lessons learned and obstacles faced, paralleled with UK experience. The policy implications of this project will inform China and the UK about future energy policy options, and deployment of energy technology collaboration programmes.
This project builds on previous work on energy and environment in China at the University of Sussex, carried out from 1999-2002.
Project Summary: China's Energy Transition: Strategies to mitigate carbon lock-in
Workshops: Tyndall China Workshop, Beijing 2007
Download the Final Report and the presentations at the report launch event in Beijng on 29th April 2009 by Dr Tao Wang, Dr Jim Watson and Dr Jiang Kejun.
Bioenergy provides a significant proportion of the UK's low carbon energy supply for heat, transport fuel and electricity. There is scope for bioenergy to provide much higher levels of low carbon energy in future, but this requires appropriate development of key enabling technologies and strategic management to make the best use of the valuable, but finite, biomass resource. It must also be acknowledged that there have been significant concerns raised about the long term sustainability of bioenergy systems, including the wider social and economic impacts of biomass production.
The SUPERGEN Bioenergy Hub aims to bring together industry, academia and other stakeholders to focus on the research and knowledge challenges associated with increasing the contribution of UK bioenergy to meet strategic environmental targets in a coherent, sustainable and cost-effective manner. It will do this by taking a "whole systems" approach to bioenergy, so that we focus on the benefits that new technologies can bring within the context of the whole production and utilisation chain. In order to ensure focused research with rapid dissemination and deployment this will be done in close collaboration with industrial partners and other stakeholders, including government agencies. The hub will also take an expressly interdisciplinary approach to bioenergy, ensuring that we address important issues, such as the impacts of land-use change not just as scientific quantification exercises, but taking due account of the social and economic impacts.
The hub will:
Examples of Projects Underway
The overall project aim is to understand what are the most appropriate tools and methods to support/ inform the UK transition to a low carbon economy, to identify gaps in UK climate change mitigation modelling and to make recommendations for modelling improvements. Understanding the methodological and data assumptions behind both UK and international models, who is using which models and for what, appreciating why certain models are used in certain contexts and the application of models to explore the resulting outcomes for policy relevant questions provide the focus of this research.
PhD project, February 2010 to February 2013, funded by the Sustainable Consumption Institute, School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester and the Stockholm Environment Institute, Department of Biology, University of York.
Contact: Kate Scott, email@example.com
In Annex-1 nations, despite Kyoto commitments, the levels of emissions continue to be well in excess of those required to avoid ‘dangerous climate change’. Compounding this is the rapidly growing emission levels of non-Annex-1 nations.
Russia’s emissions are an interesting case in this regard. Despite being an Annex-1 nation, its emissions have fallen rapidly since 1990 due to economic collapse and started growing again in the late 1990s. The project seeks to address Russia’s own greenhouse gas emission targets and budgets within the context of a redeveloping economy and the overarching global climate change objectives.
The modelled pathways and cumulative ranges will take into account the efficiency of targets, fairness of the efforts’ distribution, and various uncertainties (e.g., socioeconomic development paths, energy technology growth, and energy prices). Results of the proposed research can be applied to shaping medium-term to long-term post-Kyoto climate change policies in Russia.
Duration: Oct 2009 – Sept 2013
The full title of this project is - Bioenergy value chains: Whole systems analysis and optimisation. Most energy system studies of the UK indicate a strong role for bioenergy in the coming decades, especially if the UK is to meet its climate change mitigation ambitions. However, there is a need to understand how bioenergy systems can be implemented without negative sustainability-related impacts. There is therefore a need for multi-scale systems analyses to support the understanding of these inter-related issues and to support decision-making around land use, interactions with food production and acceleration of bioenergy technologies, while ensuring that a range of sustainability measures are quantified and that minimum standards can be guaranteed.
This project will build on partners’ bioenergy system models and combine them with other models, including the UK-TIMES model, ecosystem and resource models and international trade models. This toolkit will be used to identify robust and promising options for the UK, including land use, resources and technologies.
The key outcomes will include:
Patricia Thornley, Andrew Welfle
1st June 2013 – 31st May 2017
This project builds upon tried and tested methods for exploring future energy supply and demand to develop scenarios incorporating climate change adaptation for a series of key food-based products. These products will be chosen to explore three major issues of importance:
• Their importance within the UK diet
• Their very high emissions burden either currently or likely in the future
• Their vulnerability to climate change impacts.
Through collaboration with the Stockholm Environment Institute, physical and social science expertise in mitigation and emission accounting from the Tyndall Centre and adaptation-related expertise from the Supergen Consortium and the Satake Centre for Grain Process Engineering involving Manchester University’s schools of SEAES, MACE and CEAS, this project will bring together a range of disciplines to ensure the results are not only quantitatively robust but also qualitatively consistent. The aim of the project is to develop a series of scenarios relevant to the retail sector articulating pathways to alternative futures from both an adaptation and mitigation perspective.
Duration: Feb 2010 to Jan 2012
Policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change have been ‘universal’; aimed either at society as a whole (for example carbon tax, carbon trading), or at specific sectors (e.g. forthcoming EU legislation on gCO2/km for cars).
In this regard, policies and mechanisms for reducing emissions have paid little attention as to whether actual emissions are skewed significantly towards particular groups within society and, if they are, whether ‘tailoring’ polices may provide for a more effective, efficient and equitable delivery of a low carbon society. Provisional evidence within the UK suggests greenhouse gas emissions are highly correlated with particular social groups based on, for example: occupation, residential location, income/wealth, educational background, etc. Similarly skewed distributions are likely to exist in all societies and the general Pareto principle would imply that ~20% of society could be responsible for ~80% of its emissions. However the shape and differentials of such distributions will vary in accordance with the behavioural, political and socio-economic framing of nations.
This proposal will undertake a detailed analysis and comparison of emission profiles within China, the UK, and Sweden. It will use comparisons between these countries to provide guidance on developing low-carbon technologies and policies specifically tailored to the high-emission groups within each case-study nation or region. It will identify the conditions that ensure technological and behavioural measures successfully reduce emissions in high-emitting groups, and integrate high-emitting groups in Tyndall’s Community Integrated Assessment System (CIAS).
Project leaders: Prof Kevin Anderson (Manchester) and TBC (Fudan)
Integrated assessment and energy-economy models are important tools for informing long-term global and regional climate mitigation strategies. Sound policy advice requires improved representations of complex system interactions and thorough validation of model behavior in order to increase confidence in climate policy assessments. With the increasing use and growth in complexity of the models, the demand for improved representations has grown significantly over the past years.
To fill this gap, the ‘ADVANCE’ project aims to trigger the development of a new generation of models. ADVANCE stands for Advanced Model Development and Validation for the Improved Analysis of Costs and Impacts of Mitigation Policies. The project is working on key areas in which model improvements are most needed, including end use and energy service demand, representation of consumer heterogeneity, preferences and behavior, and technical change and uncertainty.
The ADVANCE project is led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, and has 14 institutional partners including the Tyndall Centre. The Tyndall Centre’s research is focused on empirical analysis of the behavioural influences on energy use.
Charlie Wilson, Hazel Pettifor
January 2013 - December 2016
Shipping in Changing Climates is a multi-university, multidisciplinary consortium of leading UK academic institutions focused on addressing the interconnected research questions that arise from considering the shipping sector’s possible response over the next few decades due to changes in: climate (sea level rise, storm frequency), regulatory climate (mitigation and adaptation policy), and macroeconomic climate (increased trade, differing trade patterns, higher energy prices).
Building on RCUK Energy programme's substantial investment in this area already: including support for the High Seas project that was also based in Manchester, this research will provide crucial input into long-term strategic planning (commercial and policy) for shipping, in order to enable the sector to transition the next few decades with minimum disruption of the essential global services (trade, transport, economic growth, food and fuel security) that it provides.
The role of Tyndall Manchester (along with the UCL and the University of Southampton) is to investigate plausible future developments of international trade and resource availability to produce a suite of global scenarios for shipping demand and its drivers. This will be achieved by assessing: a) the direct impacts of climate change and mitigation policies on the shipping system (including polices aimed specifically at ships and ports, or climate impacts on shipping infrastructure); and, b) the equally important indirect impacts, such as the effect of energy system decarbonisation on the trade of fossil fuels, or climate impacts on key trading commodities. These will all be brought together through developing new, coherent, quantitatively and qualitatively derived shipping transport demand scenarios.
Alice Bows-Larkin, Kevin Anderson, Susan Hanson, Paul Gilbert, Sarah Mander, Robert Nichols, Maria Sharmina, Michael Traut, Conor Walsh
01 December 2013 to 31 May 2017
The full title for this project is - Whole System Impacts and Socio-economics of wide scale PV integration (WISE PV). Solar PV has grown rapidly in the UK since the introduction of Feed-in-Tariffs and as a result of falling costs; with 4.5GW installed between 2010 and 2013. There is potential for this rate to continue and for PV to play a significant role in the UK’s future energy mix. However the increasing penetration of a distributed and intermittent generation technology in the electricity mix poses challenges for the grid and raises questions about net environmental, social and economic impacts.
WISE PV is an EPSRC funded research project on the whole system impacts and socio-economics of wide scale PV integration in the UK. The project explores future scenarios with high levels of PV and improved device performance, evaluating the power systems, energy, environmental, economic and social implications of greater PV grid integration. The project is a multi-disciplinary collaboration between the University of Manchester, Loughborough University, University of Sheffield and Oxford Brookes University. Tyndall Manchester is leading the scenario development and life cycle sustainability work packages. This includes stakeholder led whole-system energy scenarios and a novel consequential life cycle assessment of PV in UK with a particular focus on wider system impacts.
Paul Gilbert, Patricia Thornley, Sarah Mander, Chris Jones
1 October 2013 to 30 September 2016
Examples of Projects Underway
Critical realist philosophy is deployed to develop a dialectical conceptualisation of technology and controversy, including a close-range semiotic examination of the relationship between technological objects and their understandings.
This conceptualisation is mobilised in an empirical exploration of biofuel technology and the biofuel controversy in the UK. The insufficient public vocabulary for the wide range of objects collectively referred to as 'biofuel' is found to provide a partial explanation for the emergence of the controversy.
Duration: September 2007 - December 2010
The main aim of this PhD project is to investigate the prospects for the implementation of a sustainability ‘omni label’ to support ‘more’ sustainable consumption.
During the first part of the study case studies of existing product information schemes (EU ecolabel, EU energy label, MSC label and Fair Trade label) are used to explore how product information schemes try to shape the production and consumption system and identify processes, factors and especially actors that influence their effective institutionalisation.
In a second step the prospects for a successful institutionalisation of a sustainability ‘omni label’ and its potential affective powers on the production and consumption system are studied through qualitative interviews with actors identified as being essential for an institutionalisation in the first part of the study.
Supervisors: Dr. Paul Dewick and Prof. Kevin Anderson
Duration: September 2008 - August 2012
Funder: PhD project funded by the Sustainable Consumption Institute
Working with a local community hydro energy development, we will apply lessons from academic literature on renewable energy consultation, community energy and siting controversy to work with them to develop and assess strategies for attracting new investors.
An initial desk based study will investigate potential lessons from other UK and international schemes, identifying potential strategies for increasing investor numbers. Various factors such as technology, size, location, return expectations, impact, sense of community, demographics will be considered in addressing the applicability of findings from other contexts. Building on the outcome of this initial stage, interviews or focus groups will explore issues such as: barriers to investment, investor experience and impact on other energy/environmental related behaviour etc.
Carly McLachlan, Feibei Chen
July 2013 to July 2014
Eco Innovation Fund, part of University of Manchester’s Higher Education Funding Council for England’s Innovation Award
This is pilot study exploring the socio-material practices for maintaining electrical services in homes in Lebanon. Power outages are endemic in Lebanon and in the last decades, the unreliability of electricity supply has become an inherent part of Lebanese everyday life, normalizing strategies for maintaining desired levels of convenience and comfort that cut across the social (e.g. changing routines and practices) and the material (e.g. purchasing uninterrupted power supply systems for computers and appliances). This research project will explore the impact of power shortages on everyday life in the city of Beirut, Lebanon, by focusing on the socio-material elements that comprise households’ responses to them.
Networks of actors and artefacts of electricity supply and demand traverse different scales of urban life, where the ‘stuff’ of power cuts which range from local private generator enterprises (PGEs) providing electricity for a monthly subscription, to household items such as rechargeable batteries or candles. These mundane elements are contrasted with the contested political arena that is the provision of reliable power for the country.
The principal aims of the project are to understand the social and material networks that make up everyday power supply for homes in urban Lebanon, examining how these networks have developed and how they differ over time and space. In doing so, the project will generate empirical knowledge about this dimension of daily life in the city and the coping strategies adopted by households in Beirut, as they try to reconcile their ordinary expectations and aspirations with the reality of power shortages in Lebanon.
Dana Abi Ghanem
September 2014 to March 2015
Council for British Research in the Levant
Analysis of which features of the actors, institutions, and policy-making processes involved in clean development are resulting in effective climate action and development benefits, which are not, and why.
The Governance of Clean Development (GCD) project aims to generate insights into the governance aspects of clean development, principally in the area of energy. By employing a combination of research, dissemination and training activities the project seeks to push forward current research and practice on the politics of clean development.
The GCD project is funded through the ESRC Climate Change Leadership Fellowship scheme and is based at the School of International Development at the University of East Anglia.The project is led by Professor Peter Newell working with Jon Phillips, and Lucy Baker.
A full list of GCD publications is available here. For more information, including details of current research in India, South Africa and Argentina, and for opportunities for collaboration visit the GCD project website:
News from the Governance of Clean Development project...
Peter Newell discussed CDM funding for ‘clean coal’ plants in India at a CDM Watch side event at COP17 associated with the release of a short film The Carbon Con: Investigating the True Cost of Offsetting.
Implications of the third GCD Briefing for new technology mechanisms were presented at an official COP17 side event in Durban, South Africa: Innovation and technology transfer for sustainable energy systems in developing countries. See Peter’s presentation, Governing Technology for Clean Development.
Key Conclusions of the GCD research project are presented in the latest policy briefing: Governing Clean Development: What Have We Learnt? The breifing outlines key gaps and weakness in clean energy governance and suggests fundamental reform of the Clean Development Mechanism (December)
Peter Newell and Jon Phillips, with co-author Dustin Mulvaney, have contributed a Research Paper for the UNDP Human Development Report 2011: Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All. Click to download the paper, Pursuing Clean Energy Equitably. (November)
The GCD project hosted a public debate in London on the theme of Carbon Markets for the Poor: A Contradiction in Terms? A summary of the event, associated presentations and press articles are available by following the link.
Browse Governance of Clean Development Project publications...
Amidst insufficient mitigation efforts deliberate large-scale interventions in the Earth’s climate system, known collectively as ‘geoengineering’, have been proposed in order to moderate anthropogenic climate change. Geoengineering proposals can be broadly classified amongst Solar Radiation Management (SRM) and Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) variants.
SRM proposals seek to reflect a proportion of sunlight away from the Earth, whilst CDR proposals seek to remove and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. A diversity of proposals exists within each of these categories and each presents a unique set of technical and social challenges that span the natural, applied and social sciences.
Robert Bellamy, University of East Anglia:
"My research explores the appraisal of climate geoengineering proposals using an innovative and participatory multi-criteria option appraisal process called Deliberative Mapping. The project brings together a small but diverse group of experts, stakeholders and members of the public to engage in appraisal of geoengineering proposals alongside mitigation options and adaptation in order to provide a 360° snapshot of contemporary climate change decision making".
Kate Porter, University of East Anglia:
"My PhD project explores the underlying ecological worldviews – signalled by ontological, epistemological and axiological assumptions – that people drawn on when engaging with the idea of climate control and when reaching normative conclusions about its desirability and feasibility. Using discourse analysis, I am exploring this through two case studies: 1) the metaphorical ‘Geoclique’ and 2) residents of Haida Gwaii and employees of the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation. Both case studies are sights of visible controversy about the desirability of geoengineering interventions, which will enable me to disentangle diverse reactions to geoengineering while ‘opening up’ (Stirling, 2005) the debate to diverse ontological perspectives".
One of the central tenets of any international effort to mitigate future emissions from rapidly developing economies is to foster low carbon economic growth. Such growth requires the development and deployment of a range of low carbon technologies through a combination of indigenous innovation and international technology collaboration and transfer. As a result, low carbon technology transfer will play a key role in negotiations leading up to Copenhagen and a post-2012 deal.
There is wide recognition of the fact that to date efforts under the auspices of the UNFCCC to facilitate low carbon technology transfer to developing countries have largely failed. Despite the high profile and controversial nature of technology transfer within international negotiations, inadequate empirical evidence exists across the board upon which to base policy. The different stages of development of low carbon technologies, from R&D through to commercial diffusion, introduce new and unique barriers, opportunities and policy challenges which are not yet properly understood. These are made more urgent by the need to achieve rapid diffusion of low carbon technologies to avoid dangerous climate change.
Current Tyndall research is playing a key role in helping to plug the gap in the evidence base on low carbon innovation in developing countries, and the role of technology transfer. It is currently being taken forward via the following three projects below:
Rice is the staple food crop in Asia, where 91% of it is grown and consumed. For every 4 tonnes of rice grain, 6 tonnes of straw is produced, which in Asia amounts to about 550 million tonnes of straw and 110 million tonnes of husks each year. The husks go to the mills with the rice grains, where they are separated and are often used for energy purposes, but rice straw has become a significant waste problem across the continent. In most agricultural systems, crop residues can be returned to the soil beneficially, but not in the intensive flooded rice systems that predominate in Asia since 2 or 3 crops are grown each year, with insufficient time for residues to break down and their incorporation would hinder soil preparation and the development of the next crop and long term trials show soil carbon levels can be maintained without needing to return straw to the soil.
Therefore rice straw is often burnt in the fields, resulting in airborne emissions hazardous to human and ecosystem health. This project brings together bioenergy researchers from the SUPERGEN Bioenergy Hub in the UK with rice straw experts from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines to assess alternative options for utilizing rice straw to produce clean energy. The project is structured around 4 work packages:
1. FEEDSTOCK/LOGISTICAL. Since rice straw is a bulky, low-value material that is left in the fields, the costs of handling and transportation to a processing plant are high in terms of labour, energy and money.
2. TECHNOLOGICAL. Even if an efficient straw collection system were devised, it is a very difficult material to use for energy purposes, because of its physical and chemical properties. Little is known about which technologies can practically be used to convert rice straw into modern energy services in the field, but one promising option is anaerobic digestion and the project incorporates AD trials on rice straw.
3. SOCIAL & INSTITUTIONAL. It is important to understand the social context within which the straw is produced and the energy demanded. Focus groups are being held to assess the priorities, preferences and responses of rice farmers, energy users and others in the local communities.
4. DISSEMINATION. It is important to disseminate to and engage with users and local communities as well as the international scientific community
Patricia Thornley, Mirjam Roeder
1 September 2013 to 31 August 2016
EPSRC and DFID
The project’s full title is “Pro-poor, low carbon development: Improving low carbon energy access and development benefits in Least Developed Countries”. The project is a partnership between the African Technology Policy Studies Network in Kenya and the University of Sussex in the UK (including the STEPS Centre, Sussex Energy Group and Tyndall Centre). The project aims to inform the development of Climate Innovation Centres in various developing countries by analysing the history of, and actors involved in, the adoption of solar home systems in Kenya. The objective is to improve the ability of policy to facilitate the transfer and uptake of low carbon technologies in developing countries, and to do so in ways that can assist in their economic development. Especially challenging but of critical importance to this economic development, the project aims to identify ways in which low carbon technologies can benefit poor people by improving access to modern energy services.
The project brings to bear innovative theory which builds on the STEPS Centre’s Pathways Approach to bridge relevant insights from academic literature in the fields of both innovation studies and socio-technical transitions. Further details and all associated briefing notes, peer-reviewed working papers, presentations, and so on, can be found on the project web page (see below for details).
David Ockwell (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Rob Byrne (email@example.com)
April 2012 to March 2014
Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), an initiative that in turn is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).
Project web page: http://steps-centre.org/project/low_carbon_development/
Tyndall researchers at the University of Sussex are involved in a number of strategic policy reviews relating to the role of innovative capabilities in underpinning low carbon development trajectories in developing countries. This has included conducting reviews of available evidence for the UNDP Human Development Report, OECD Environment Directorate, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Government of Chile.
The Sussex Energy Group within Tyndall Sussex is working with the Laboratory for Low Carbon Energy, Tsinghua University on a collaborative project to investigate low carbon innovation in China.This project has a key focus on the role of technology transfer in fostering innovation - and builds on a similar UK-India collaboration between the Sussex Energy Group and The Energy Resources Institute, India (2006-2009).
As with the UK-India collaboration, the UK-China project will draw on case studies of specific low carbon technologies: energy efficiency in the cement industry, highly efficient coal-fired power generation, electric vehicles, and offshore wind power.
The project results will provide much needed empirical evidence to inform policy debates in the UK, China and internationally. More specifically, the project's results will feed into the UK government's negotiating position for the next UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Mexico in late 2010.
Duration: Feb 2010 - Jan 2011
Collaborative study between Tyndall researchers at the University of Sussex, TERI (The Energy Research Institute) in Delhi, India, the Institute for Development Studies, UK and Margaree Consultants, Canada. Funded by the DECC (the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change).