UCL Anthropology


REGeneration: An Ethnographic Study of Energy, Data and Social Change in Net-Zero Britain

This research sets out to explore how energy is being rethought and understood in the context of local energy transitions. Through a 2.5 year ethnographic study of community and municipal energy projects in the UK, the research aims to understand how experiments with new technologies and practices of energy generation, distribution, conservation, supply and visualisation, are shifting understandings of what energy is and how it should be addressed as a tool of social reproduction.

The research will focus specifically on the emergence of community and municipal energy projects oriented to local processes of social change and economic regeneration and to the digital and data technologies used within these projects to make energy knowable. It will seek to understand how local energy futures are being pursued by taking as a starting point two geographical areas - one in the North of England and one in London - where energy transformations are taking place. Taking these concrete locations as a starting point, the research will aim to understand how people are experimenting with and rethinking energy as an infrastructure of social reproduction. It will investigate what kinds of understandings of energy are emerging in these projects, the role of different kinds of technologies in positioning energy as a method of social and economic transformation and the possibilities and barriers that this reveals for broader energy transitions in the UK and beyond.

The research aims to contribute both to academic research on the relationship between energy and social life, and to policy, community energy and business by outlining the social possibilities and conceptual barriers to an effective energy transition.