UCL Energy Institute


How does energy research have to change during a climate emergency?

23 April 2020

A new working paper from UCL Energy Institute staff explores how energy research must adapt to facilitate the transition to a net-zero future.

Photo shows silhouette of wind turbines against a pink sunset

All over the world, national and local governments, higher education institutes, industry bodies and other organizations have declared a climate emergency. 

In the UK, the Government is now committed to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To reach such a target, everything will have to change – and this includes how we do energy research. Yet, so far, we are doing research as usual. 

In a new working paper, ‘How does energy research have to change during a climate emergency?’, Prof Tadj Oreszczyn, Dr Gesche Huebner, and Prof David Shipworth discuss how energy research needs to change in order to support achieving net-zero by 2050. 

They suggest that energy research needs to become faster, more ambitious, more applied and impact-orientated, more robust, and more focused on collaboration than competition. This means amongst other things that they see a greater focus on socio-technical research, that funding decisions need to be made more quickly, and that less focus needs to be put on traditional metrics of success and instead more on impact and deployment. It also means that researchers need to examine their own research portfolio and ideas critically to see if they are delivering real and rapid impact. Read the paper online.

In addition, Dr Gesche Huebner gave a presentation based on this paper at the recent meeting of the Energy Demand Research Network (EDRN), organized by the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS UK).

Considering the impact of COVID-19, Prof Tadj Oreszczyn says:

The scientific response to COVID-19 will undoubtedly teach us important lessons regarding our response to the climate emergency. Although time scales and impacts are different, energy researchers will need to develop new ways of supporting governments tackling the climate emergency."