Digital Society

Our Digital Society work is focused on researching the effects that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) is having have on energy consumption and carbon emissions.

Digital Society is one of the cross-cutting issues we research.

Since the 1970s, ICTs have driven a new industrial revolution that is transforming industrial structures, business strategies, employment patterns, consumer preferences and social practices around the world, but their impact on energy demand remains unclear.

To address this, we are:

Investigating the impact of ICTs on economy-wide energy consumption

While it has been argued that the ICT revolution is energy-saving and can form the basis of a new surge of green growth, this conclusion is contested. Our projects in this area look at the evidence on the impact of ICTs on energy consumption – both historical impacts and potential future impacts.

Exploring the potential for ICTs to deliver end-use services with much lower energy use

New business models are proliferating as entrepreneurs take up the multiple opportunities offered by ICTs and challenge established forms of economic organisation (e.g. taxi services, electricity markets). We are looking at what these potential models are, drawing on ideas from innovation theory.

Investigating how ICT diffusion influences energy-related user practices

Smart meters, automated vehicles, smart homes, and teleworking are some of the areas where the application of ICT might increasingly change user practices such as home working and changing leisure patterns. The UK has an ambitious target to fit all households with smart meters by 2020 – a technology being promoted on the grounds that it can both reduce energy demand enable flexibility in energy use patterns. Automated vehicles (AVs) could represent the most profound technological change in road transport since the rise of mass production, with reductions in energy demand being one of the many anticipated benefits.

Banner photo credit: Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash