Sussex Energy Group Communications and Engagement Officer, Nora Blascsok, interviews Mari Martiskainen about her work in our Digital Society and FAIR themes.
Could you tell me a bit about your research?
I am a social scientist with a specific interest in people as we transition to a low-carbon energy system. My research focuses on issues such as how can we ensure that this transition is just and equal to everyone, and how people behave in that transition. Within CREDS, I am working on two projects: one on smart homes and another on fuel and transport poverty.
What would you consider a smart home to be?
I think a home itself will never be smart on its own, as it depends on how people living in the home use it. We face a huge challenge in ‘smartening’ the UK’s housing stock – I always give an example of my Victorian era home which is far from smart. However, we can do a lot of things with smart home technologies, like keep on track of our energy consumption with smart meters, and help those who may have specific needs to live better in their homes. I also think that new building techniques and materials can make future homes better and, together with good design, can create homes that are fit for our net-zero objectives.
You mentioned the importance of equity and justice in the energy transition, could you tell me a bit more about that?
As we move towards a more interconnected and electrified energy system, we are also likely to see more links between energy and transport. I feel very passionate about the need to eradicate fuel poverty in the UK (and elsewhere) and also examine how that may be linked to transport poverty. We need to design our net-zero societies so that no one is left behind in that transition. This means recognising those who may be, or may become, vulnerable, and addressing any causes to that vulnerability. I would like our net-zero societies to be ‘clean’ not only in emissions sense, but also in social justice sense.
If you could change one thing to make our energy system more efficient, what would it be?
We need to reduce consumption. There is a lot of waste in our daily life and some of us are accustomed to consuming a lot more than we need. Once we start to reduce that, we will also have implications on the system as a whole. This goes for any type of consumption, be it home heating, that extra holiday flight or a new pair of jeans. My motto is that if you don’t need it, don’t buy it – it’s goes back to that classic reduce, reuse, recycle argument. I co-edited a book on this topic recently.
If you had to advise the secretary of state to do one thing to tackle carbon what would it be?
It is welcome that we have a net-zero by 2050 objective in the UK, but if you look at the urgency of climate change and the devastating effects we are already witnessing, we need to act much quicker than that. We should make climate change the underpinning driver for all policy making across all sectors.
Banner photo credit: Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash