UCL Energy Institute


UCL is a team member of major UKRI / EPSRC / ESRC-funded Energy Demand Research Centre

12 July 2023

Major UK research funders give £15 million for new collaborative energy research centre in a bid to reach Net Zero

Power plant chimney stacks

Reducing energy use could help meet half of the required emissions reductions we need to reach net zero emissions by 2050

Fundamental changes are needed in society to enable a deep energy demand reduction and wide use of low-carbon technologies. Energy demand reduction will improve energy security, reduce household energy bills and address climate change. Reducing energy use could help meet half of the required emissions reductions we need to become a Net Zero society by 2050.

The investment by UKRI of £53 million in the creation of six new research centres will boost knowledge, create innovative green technologies and reduce demand for energy to achieve greener, cleaner domestic, industrial and transport energy systems, drive forward change in the energy system and help to meet the UK’s net zero target. UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has awarded:  

  • £15 million for a new Energy Demand Research Centre (EDRC) that will provide solutions for energy demand reduction, understand the impact on consumers, and enable equitable policy decision-making.  
  • £17.5 million investment in three Supergen research hubs that will boost innovation in energy distribution, both nationally and internationally, and propel discoveries in renewable energy into impactful new technologies.
  • £20 million in two hubs that deliver options to integrate clean and sustainable hydrogen into the domestic, industrial and transport energy systems.

The Energy Demand Research Centre (EDRC) will build an evidence base for understanding the impact of energy demand reduction, from the perspectives of what low energy demand futures may be like, how energy demand could become more flexible, what place-based solutions, skills and policies are needed, how energy demand can be embedded in governance.

Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive of UKRI noted:

The government has set a target of reaching net zero emissions by 2050, requiring rapid decarbonisation of our energy systems. UKRI is leveraging its ability to work across disciplines to support this ambition through a major portfolio of investments that will catalyse innovation and new green energy systems. The funding announced today will support researchers and innovators to develop game changing ideas to improve domestic, industrial and transport energy systems.

The EDRC will build an evidence base for understanding consumer behaviour, assessing the impact of socio-technical energy demand reduction measures, and research mechanisms to improve energy efficiency. The centre, based at the universities of Sussex and Newcastle, will investigate how domestic, industrial and transport energy demand reduction can be delivered on a local and national level across the UK. The centre will be led by Professor Mari Martiskainen (University of Sussex) and Professor Sara Walker, (University of Newcastle). The partner universities are Cardiff, Edinburgh, Imperial, Lancaster, University College London, Leeds, Manchester, Reading, Strathclyde and Surrey.

The UCL Bartlett School of Energy, Environment and Resources plays a major role in the creation and operation of the five-year project, focusing on providing solutions for energy demand reduction, trying to understand the impact on consumers and enable equitable policy decision-making. Gesche Huebner is leading UCL’s involvement in the bid; her work is focussed on identifying equity implications of energy demand reduction and trialling innovative solutions to mitigate distributional impacts of the transition to net-zero. Co-Investigator Steve Pye together with James Price and Oliver Broad will conduct modelling work around the feasibility of low energy demand futures, including their social and political acceptability. Mike Fell is part of the Flexibility theme in EDRC, looking at how access to the benefits of being able to shift electricity demand in time can be maximised across the population. 

Gesche Huebner of the UCL team noted:

We are really excited to be part of this interdisciplinary centre, at a time when new insights on how energy demand can be effectively reduced and shifted are needed more urgently than ever.



Image credit: pexels.com