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HCC_C19 System shock, response, and recovery report

20 October, 2023

HCC_C19 System shock, response, and recovery report

Lai Fong Chiu


Lai Fong Chiu

The HCC_C19 System Shock, Response and Recovery is a sub-project of the Integration Project within the CREDS Centre for Research on Energy Demand Solutions.

The aim of the project has been to explore system shocks and potential recovery strategies with representatives of key system stakeholders and civil society. To this end, we engaged representatives of system stakeholders and communities and held a workshop with each of these two groups.

Building upon insights gained through the CREDS Heat Theme, we explored the concepts of system shocks, for example, Covid-19 as a demand shock and the energy crisis as a supply shock in these two workshops.  This report outlines the concept of shocks and their potential impact on energy transition with specific focus on the critical issues of responses and prospects for recovery.

Between November 2022 to September 2023, we engaged with members of communities and system experts and professionals from multiple organisations. These engagement activities culminated in one on-line meeting presentation, two workshops and two conference presentations:

    1. Our first workshop was entitled: Exploring System Shocks and Recovery.  It was held at the launch event of Warmer Derby and Derbyshire on the 23 March 2023 at the Sahahra Community Centre, Derby.
    2. An on-line presentation was given to UCLH Green Champions Meeting on the 5 June 2023.
    3. The second workshop was entitled Sustainability: understanding system shocks, vulnerabilities, and resilience.  It was held in collaboration with the NHS University College London Hospital as part of the NHS Green Learning Week, 30 June 2023 at Wates House, UCL Bloomsbury Campus, London.
    4. We collected conversations during the above workshops and subsequent email responses and feedback from the participants to support our analysis.
    5. We presented the preliminary results of the project as two plenary keynotes at the annual AECB conference on the 28-29 September, at Todmorden Community College, West Yorkshire.

Presentation 1: Scarcity and substitution in energy transition


This presentation covers the relationship between energy, population and the economy, the Hubbert Curve, evidence for declining EROEI for fossil fuels, the logistic nature of energy system transitions, practical limits to energy substitutability and the problem of negotiating multiple constraints on energy, economic and geopolitical development through the 21st Century.

Presentation 2: The impacts of the pandemic and energy crisis responses on health and energy systems


From a system perspective, we analyse system shocks, responses and recovery to reveal what factors that make systems vulnerable or resilient. Using current and past quantitative and qualitative data, we investigate the responses of the Covid-19 pandemic and the current energy crisis between 2019 and present. It is clear that the health, energy and economic systems are intertwined and inseparable from planetary ecological and climate systems that sustain us. The pandemic has not only put our biological health at risk, but the responses appear likely to trigger a deep economic recession, impacting on both material and human resources in ways that could impede an energy system transition.


Conversations with participants at all the above events have yielded rich results. We have come to realise that system shocks and the fragilities and vulnerabilities of the systems are felt at all levels. The lived experience of the disadvantaged communities surviving Covid-19, the impacts of food and energy price rises leading to anxiety about energy accessibility and affordability, and of personal loss, were vividly recounted.

Participants from UCLH and other organisations offered us insights into how they themselves and their organisations must negotiate a complex web of information in their attempts to achieve their organisation’s net-zero objectives. Anxiety as to whether their efforts would be enough to meet targets was very real. Tackling Climate Anxiety was a subject that the UCLH Green Champions asked us to address at their monthly meeting. The blog, Tackling climate anxiety, was written to honour all the participants in our workshops and conference presentations.

Publication details

Chiu, L.F. 2023. HCC_C19 System shock, response, and recovery report. CREDS Brief 029. Oxford, UK: Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions.

Banner photo credit: Alireza Attari on Unsplash