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Sociology of Energy and Sustainable Development

Edinburgh Sociology is playing a key role in shaping the academic and policy debates around a range of energy issues at every scale: from domestic heating and household energy use, to community energy projects, to urban energy governance, and huge offshore wind farms.  We work with practitioners, policy-makers, and a range of academics in cross-cutting interdisciplinary research to provide answers to the key questions about energy, engagement and sustainability.

Current projects

Heat and the city

Our multi-disciplinary research addresses a major gap in UK sustainable energy policy, which is the neglect of energy used for heating and hot water in buildings. The project is funded by the UK Research Councils’ Energy and Communities Programme, and is one of seven projects which place society, environment and economy at the centre of the public debate. More

Local Engagement in Energy Systems Development

This pilot research project, funded by the Energy Technologies Institute, is providing the first systematic overview of local engagement in energy systems development. Early findings show that almost one third (30%) of the UK’s 434 local authorities are actively planning, and investing in, local energy productivity and provision. Most of this activity is on a limited scale with only around 9% of UK authorities showing evidence of significant numbers of energy project investments. The characteristics of these energy leaders indicate multiple routes into engagement, including economic regeneration, investment in housing upgrades and affordable warmth, energy and carbon saving, and energy from waste. We are also finding differential levels of engagement across the UK, with Scottish local authorities over-represented among the more active group. Further details from Jan.Webb@ed.ac.uk

IDEAL (Intelligent Domestic Energy Advice Loop)

IDEAL is an EPSRC funded research project exploring the interaction of domestic energy use (electricity, gas or other heating sources) with digital sensor and feedback systems which provide information to householders on how much energy they are using in their own activities such as showering, cooking and heating, and which suggest ways to reduce their energy costs. The multi-disciplinary team of computer scientists and social scientists are working together to explore the socio-technical feasibility of this type of personalised energy use feedback, and responses to it. The study aims to recruit around 500 households of different sizes, from different socio-economic groups, in the cities of Edinburgh and Milton Keynes. More

TEDDINET (Transforming Energy Demand through Digital Innovation Network)

TEDDINET is an EPSRC funded research network to support the work of 22 UK projects examining the opportunities afforded by ICT to improve energy demand management. The aim is to ensure that the individual projects achieve more than the sum of their parts and leave a strong legacy for industry, government and society. Multidisciplinary teams of researchers are studying the social and the technical configuration of energy demand, and the corresponding potential to reduce energy use and costs through digital innovation. TEDDINET works by initiating, facilitating and nurturing communication and collaboration within this research community, as well as externally between the research community and industry, policy-makers, civil society and other academics, nationally and internationally. More

Community Energy Projects - The Social Factors for Success

This is a study commissioned by the Scottish Government to examine the critical issues around social capital, community, and governance that influence the success of small-scale renewable energy projects.  More

Environment, Impact and Aesthetics - a new EIA for Natural Scotland

This is a project funded by Creative Scotland and Imaging Natural Scotland on developing creative responses to capture a sense of the place, value and meaning that are inherent in landscapes - and translate this into a form which feeds into the EIA and planning processes for wind farms.  More 

TROPOS: Modular Multi-use Deep Water Offshore Platform Harnessing and Servicing Mediterranean, Subtropical and Tropical Marine and Maritime Resources

Partners in an EU FP7 funded project exploring the future of offshore energy platforms.  This is a multi-disciplinary engineering project on which Edinburgh Sociology are contributing the expertise on the key social factors which influence offshore wind developments.  More 

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