Nick Eyre and Clare Downing
The Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS) was established as part of the UKRI Energy Programme in April 2018 with funding of £19.5M over 5 years from EPSRC and ESRC. Its mission is to make the UK a leader in understanding the changes in energy demand needed for the transition to a secure and affordable, low carbon energy system. We are a team of over 100 people based in 15 UK universities.
The aims of the Centre are:
- to develop and deliver internationally leading research, focusing on energy demand;
- to secure impact for UK energy demand research in businesses and policymaking; and
- to champion the importance of energy demand.
This is CREDS first annual report and covers an 18-month period from April 2018 to September 2019. CREDS was announced on 26th March 2018, with a start date of 1st April 2018. This very short notice inevitably meant that research, administrative and knowledge exchange staff were not all in place on day 1. However, staff from five of the six preceding End Use Energy Demand (EUED) Centres are involved in CREDS, and some of the research themes have benefited from the researchers and activities undertaken by the EUED Centres continuing into CREDS. CREDS was formally launched at a well-attended event in London, jointly designed with EUED Centres to showcase their work on 20th September 2018.
In other research areas, and in the CREDS Core team based in Oxford, our activities began from a standing start. In these areas, recruitment was the major priority in the first six months of the Centre, and therefore the activities reported upon essentially cover a year.
Download the full version CREDS Annual Report: April 2018–September 2019, pdfOpens in a new tab (22 pages, 785 KB) or read on for a summary:
CREDS governance, management and knowledge exchange
The governance systems of the Centre were established quickly. The Collaboration Agreement between the universities was agreed within the first 3 months. The residual issues raised by the funding panel were addressed. The Advisory Board met first in May 2018 and provided valuable guidance on early plans. It has met twice since then and will continue to be involved in the development and implementation of the activities over the life of the programme. The Executive Committee (consisting of the Director, Centre Manager and Theme and Challenge leaders) initially met monthly and now meets every six weeks. We had a Whole Centre Meeting (WCM) of all staff in the consortium three times in the first year and the expectation is that there will be two each year going forward. To date we have had four WCMs – two in Oxford and one in each of London and Leeds.
The CREDS Core Team is all based in the same Oxford office, and consists of the Director, the Centre Manager, two Knowledge Exchange Managers, a Web and Communications Manager and two part-time Centre Administrators. With the oversight of the Executive, it has developed the critical operational processes for the Centre. These include support for the Executive and Advisory Board, the internal communications mechanisms (such as the regular Consortium Update email), the Communications and Engagement plan, and a quarterly reporting system.
Based on the advice of the Panel, we took professional advice to develop a coherent name, vision and brand identity for the Centre, which were used as part of the Centre launch. The website is now fully populated with our people, plans and initial outputs, and increasingly with news, blogs, publications and other material.
Web statistics tell us that use is high and feedback on the website has been very positive. A few highlights include – 16,046 unique users visited the site, the four most popular pages are the homepage, the publication page for the Shifting the focus: energy demand in a net-zero carbon UK report, the people page and 4th was the challenges funding call in November 2018. On the digital marketing side the External newsletter that is produced quarterly has 448 subscribers and is very well received (~50 % open rate (average is ~20%), ~16% of subscribers click a link (average 4%)). CREDS has 871 Twitter followers and our tweets earned 76.7K impressions with an average of 843 impressions per day (impressions are the number of views a tweet receives).
Key stakeholders have been engaged in the policy area and we have regular contact with Department for Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Department for Transport (DfT), Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem), Committee on Climate Change (CCC), British Standards Institute (BSI), and the Scottish Government. As part of our policy engagement work we regularly respond to calls for evidence from Government and Select Committees, and post these responses `on our website. Our evidence to the Science and Technology Committee Inquiry on Technologies for meeting Clean Growth Emissions Reduction Targets was heavily cited in the final report.
We have made strong links with stakeholders in the research area, including other important Energy Programme investments including: UKERC, CESI, Decarbonising Transport Networks and the Supergen Hubs. CREDS has supported the EPSRC EUED Technologies calls. In our role as a hub for the energy demand research community, we brought together the PIs of energy demand research projects in the UK for a network meeting in May. We are now planning a series of other activities for this community throughout the life of CREDS starting with a meeting to discuss How can the research community respond to the climate emergency?. We have excellent links to the CDT in Energy Resilience and the Built Environment, which is based at University College London and Loughborough University. We have already begun to have international impact as described in the impact case study in section 2.3.
We have now completed the Call for two additional Challenges, which will start in 2020. We are mid-way through a process to fund early career researcher-led projects from our Flexible Fund. We will welcome the first international visitors next year. More details on all these initiatives are provided in Section 5.
Cross-theme activity has been encouraged and is successful, through both the WCMs and by working together on projects. The first of these was a project reviewing how best to deliver and develop the energy demand aspects of the Government’s Clean Growth Strategy. This project published a report entitled Shifting the Focus: energy demand in a net zero carbon UK in July 2019, attracting much media and stakeholder attention. The work is described in the impacts case study in Section 2.1.
The Centre has an active working group to develop and implement its plan for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.
In the 18-month period, CREDS staff have authored over 40 publications, including from work commenced with support from the previous EUED Centres, and these outputs are listed in Annex 2. These include papers that already have high impact, including through reports which gained global media coverage, and a paper cited in the IPCC Report on Global Warming at 1.5 degrees.
The Buildings Theme has made significant progress, developing some of the research activities established in the Centre for Energy Epidemiology (CEE). Research on co-benefits has already published several interesting papers, including one on radon and energy efficiency that finds a positive association between air tightness and radon levels. Research on comfort and control is examining the empirical evidence for energy savings from improved controls. Research on the performance gap has led to a paper on Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) and is analysing data from monitored homes. The London Building Stock Model (LSBM) is now complete and will soon be launched as a tool for the Greater London Authority plan for the decarbonisation of the building stock in London.
The Theme has made considerable policy impact, responding to several calls for evidence, arranging policy briefings for BEIS, and had an early career researcher providing oral evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee. The theme makes a key input to the globally influential Lancet Countdown on climate change and health, and it has participated in the Government’s Mission Innovation initiative.
The Buildings research team has successfully raised funding from a wide range of other sources (Mexican Government, Greater London Authority (GLA), UKRI, and BEIS) which adds resource and value to the CREDS research theme.
Transport and Mobility
The Transport and Mobility theme has assembled a high quality team of Research Fellows. Four research projects are underway and making very good progress. Two more will begin by January 2020. The project plans have been discussed at an early stage with key stakeholders, notably the CCC, DfT and some transport operators through invitation to workshops, delivering seminars and a bespoke training event (potentially to be repeated bi-annually) to DfT junior officials.
The research is continuing the work of the EUED Centre DEMAND on the Commission on Travel Demand. Four inquiry sessions on Shared Mobility have been held, with very good engagement from local and national policy makers, non-governmental organisation (NGOs) and transport operators. The final report was launched at the Smart Transport conference in September 2019. (See impact case study 2.2)
Transport and mobility research in CREDS has a high visibility and impact. There was significant media coverage of the Shifting the Focus report (see Section 2.1) relating to elements of the transport chapter, particularly the need for demand reduction alongside electrification. This led to an invitation to meet a DfT Minister in November 2019 (now changed to a meeting with senior officials due to the General Election). Work on fairness and tackling ‘excess’ travel and energy demand is being used to underpin advice to the UK Climate Citizens Assembly and the Greater Cambridge Citizen’s Assembly.
The Scottish Government is incorporating advice on travel demand reduction from CREDs Mobility theme work into its pending climate change strategy. The team made a submission using evidence from CREDS research on aviation and long-distance transport to Environmental Audit Committee Inquiry on Sustainable Tourism. There is ongoing engagement with the Government’s Electric Vehicles and Energy Taskforce with invited inclusion as a ‘critical friend’ in the new parallel Road Automotive Power Infrastructure Review. There has been a great deal of attention to the theme leader’s presentation on Rearranging elephants on the Titanic.
Materials and Products
All parts of the research of the Material and Products theme are underway. The research covers identifying remaining energy efficiency opportunities in UK industry, exploring how use of materials and products throughout the supply chain can deliver a reduction in industrial energy use and analysis of the relationship between industrial strategy and future industrial energy demand. A number of key deliverables are due in the next few months including the final report with Aether Consulting on ‘A Data Strategy to Support the Clean Growth of UK Industries’ and an academic paper on the role of energy efficiency in delivering net zero emissions in the steel and cement sector.
There has been extensive early engagement with BEIS, Defra and the CCC, including through interviews, a workshop and a regular three-weekly conference call with a multi-departmental government group to guide, support and disseminate the research.
The research team plays a key role in the analysis of consumption-based emissions for UK Government. It provides support to the CCC, including for its Net Zero report and the Progress Report to Parliament. It has provided support to Defra on its Resources and Waste Strategy, and has briefed the shadow Treasury team.
An initiative by the researchers in the themes is developing a major a cross-theme collaboration in CREDS to develop low energy demand scenarios for the UK.
The Theme is progressing according to plan with active projects on Flexibility: past, present and future and Conceptualising Flexibility. It has already held workshops on ‘Flexibility’ in September 2018 and ‘Time and Flexibility’ in September 2019, as well as interviewing other themes on flexibility and time.
Two members of the theme edited a book on ‘Energy fables: challenging ideas in the energy sector’, based on ideas generated as part of the DEMAND EUED Centre. Theme members have presented at a number of high-profile events, including the International Energy Agency Demand Side Management Day, a World Bank conference on evidence-based policy-making, an Ofgem seminar series, the industry conference Solar & Storage Live, and the Citizens Advice annual Energy Conference. The theme led the CREDS response to the BEIS/Ofgem consultation on ‘Flexible and responsive energy retail markets: putting consumers at the centre of a smart, low carbon energy system’.
Research has informed advice to Ofgem on various issues, including the Impact Assessment of the price control (RIIO-2), the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) price transparency remedy, the reform of black start restoration, distributional impacts and the Demand Side Response literature. Policy advice has also been provided to the British Standards Institute, as part of the new Energy Smart Appliances Strategic Advisory Group, and BEIS with regards to storage as a separate asset class.
Five projects are underway in the Digital Society theme, namely: a) reviewing the evidence on ICTs and energy consumption; b) estimating historical impacts of ICTs on energy consumption; c) business models in the digital economy; d) expectations for automated vehicles; and e) user acceptance of smart homes. Each of these projects is on track and two will complete in October 2019. We will shortly launch two further projects – on the diffusion of smart meters and digital platforms for the sharing economy – with a third project on the future impacts of ICTs beginning in early 2020.
The review of the evidence on ICTs and energy consumption has led to three papers – on e-materialisation, e-working and e-sharing respectively – which will be published in a special issue of Environmental Research Letters on demand-side solutions for climate change. The papers in this special edition will also feed into the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report. The econometric analysis of historical impacts of ICTs on energy consumption is complete and a paper is in preparation. A household survey on smart homes is also complete and we are collaborating with the Energy Systems Catapult to analyse a broader data set on user behaviour in smart homes.
The research programme has been informed by interactions with external stakeholders, including the Ofgem Innovation Link team and the Energy Systems Catapult Living Lab on smart homes. We hosted a conceptual workshop on business models in February 2019, a meeting of the Greater Brighton Energy Strategy Working Group in September 2019, and a successful Responsive Innovation Forum in October 2019.
Policy and Governance
There has been good progress on the projects on refurbishment policies, devolved governance and distributed ledger technologies in energy retail markets. In the first of these, the research team has gained additional complementary funding. Work on deep refurbishment has produced journal articles on both the role of manufacturers and merchants, and SME energy efficiency policy, as well as two conference papers at Sustainable Built Environment 2019. Work on multi-level governance has produced an article on laggards and leaders among UK local authorities, and a conference paper to the International Social Innovation Research Conference. The research on peer-to-peer (P2P) trading has generated a number of outputs ranging from a board game to an article on the meaning of P2P trading. More publications are expected in the next two quarters. Members of the theme made several contributions at the leading European energy efficiency conference (ECEEE) and more details are available in impact case study in section 2.3.
There are high levels of engagement with policy makers, including through contributing to several calls for evidence, meetings with Ofgem and government, and as speakers and panellists at conferences and workshops, as well as expert input to the BEIS review on heat networks. One team member sits as a Commissioner on Scotland’s Infrastructure Commission.
Decarbonisation of Heat
The Decarbonisation of Heat Challenge focuses on the system architecture of decarbonised heat rather than specific technologies. To do this, it is reviewing proposals for how heat can be decarbonised; analysing and further developing existing whole energy system models, and evaluating potential social, regulatory and governance implications of findings. An initial review of the way in which energy system modelling has supported energy and decarbonisation policy over the last 15 years is almost complete and is likely to lead to two journal articles in early 2020. These will shed light on the co-evolution of models, modelling and policy since the publication of the 2003 Energy White Paper, and help to identify a set of concepts and analytical tools, which will both structure future energy system modelling work and support the critical interpretation and communication of model outputs.
The work of the Challenge has been supported by a series of Learning Events, which aim to deepen the team’s understanding of key issues and technologies. There is good collaboration with modellers and their policy users, with links to other relevant activities, notably in BEIS and the Energy Systems Catapult. A presentation has been made to BEIS on system architecture, and a workshop is planned for early 2020. The initial thinking on social and regulatory issues has been presented to the ERSS-2019 conference.
Collaboration with the Buildings Theme, led by Challenge leader Lowe, has led to the publication of a paper on ‘Possible future impacts of elevated levels of atmospheric CO2 on human cognitive performance and on the design and operation of ventilation systems in buildings’, which was awarded the CIBSE Napier Shaw Bronze Medal for best paper published in CIBSE’s research journal in 2018.
Eyre, N and Downing, C. 2019. CREDS Annual Report: April 2018–September 2019. Environmental Change Institute, Oxford.
Banner photo credit: Alireza Attari on Unsplash