UCL Energy Institute


Islands & Coastal Research Lab

The UCL Islands & Coastal Research Lab (ICR) works with academics, governments, local authorities, and industry globally to provide critical insights in the development of strategies for islands nations and coastal areas to respond to the challenges of climate change and transition to a green-blue economy. Our models capitalise on large-scale ‘islands and coastal’ data sets and a diverse range of methods (dynamic models, agent based, game theory, optimization, and simulation) to capture the complex system of interactions. 

Researchers from different disciplines (engineering, computer science, mathematics, economics, environmental law, architecture, anthropology) merge their powers to deliver cutting-edge research regarding the technology, the data, the business models, and policies. Our expertise focus in three key areas: (i) Energy and Climate Change (renewable energy systems, low carbon technologies and infrastructure, interconnected islands, and interconnections with the mainland); (ii) Environment and Resource use (trade-offs between energy, water, land, food, materials); (iii) Industry and economy (land-sea interaction, finance and business models, regulations). By applying our tools to case studies, with stakeholder’ engagement processes, we co-develop knowledge taking a inter and multi- disciplinary approach towards how island nations and coastal areas can advance adaptive capacity, risk reduction, and equitable resilience governance to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Since 2013 we have analysed more than 326 research case studies for islands and since 2020 we expanded/applied our methods to coastal cities as well. We are creating a global directory of analysis for islands and coastal cities for energy and resource use, giving their geographical, economic, environmental, and social characteristics.

Our research interests

We undertake pioneering research work in:

  • Modelling Energy demand and supply for islands nations: ISLA model
  • Dynamic simulation of the trade-offs between energy, water, land, materials, food: IDA3/5 nexus model
  • Development of Integrated toolboxes. Re-Energize DR3 toolbox addressing the simultaneous interactions between climate-related disasters and development for effective disaster risk management, 
  • Innovative solutions to channel actions and change towards transition to a sustainable blue-green economy: The Blue-Green IC Toolbox 
  • Harmonisation of multimodal data, and big data handling
  • Legal principles of environmental law, energy and climate justice, governance recommendations

Energy demand and supply modelling for islands nations: ISLA model

Aerial view of island and ocean
ISLA is a simulation model developed to analyse the future energy supply and demand scenarios based on changes in policies, regulations, historical trends, technology costs and performance. It includes all energy source streams and all demand sectors (residential, industry, services, and transport). The primary purpose is the techno-economic analysis of possible scenarios, assessing the impact of increased use of renewable energy, low carbon technologies, application of energy efficiency measures. The model has been applied to date for more than 300 islands case studies.

Integrated dynamic assessment of the trade-offs between energy, water, land, materials, food: IDA3/5 model

Wind turbines along coast line
Developing sustainable future islands depends on optimal integration of resources in a synergistic way. A nexus approach could help planners to understand potential trade-offs between resources. IDA3/5 model calculates the energy requirement for water-related activities, the water requirement for power generation, the land requirement for power generation and food grow. Different scenarios account for different technology composition and climate change scenarios. The study area of the model can be divided into sub-areas using a pyramid structure, and analysis can be done at different levels.


Development of Integrated toolboxes. Re-Energize DR3 toolbox


Aerial view of island and ocean
We developed the Re-Energize DR3 toolbox that combines quantitative methods  (artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing, resource nexus modelling, climate modelling) and qualitative methods (stakeholder selection and processes) with a deontological approach (values and principles of environmental justice) all interconnected, in which decision makers could adopt and operate hypothetical possibilities to the extent that decisions lead to anticipated reduction in causalities, increase in response and support to vulnerable groups, decrease in finance losses as a result of improved response and prevention measures.

Innovative solutions to channel actions and change towards transition to a sustainable blue-green economy: The Blue-Green IC Toolbox

Coast line and ocean
The number of challenges our societies must address on land and ocean is often overwhelming (climate change, sea level rise). As nearly 40% of the world’ population depends on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods, a blue-green wide approach needs to be adopted to address the resilience and adaptation to climate change, improve human well-being. The ocean space could bring new opportunities for harvesting renewable energy and growing food. We research innovative solutions such as amphibious homes designed to float when the water level rise, floating modular interconnected systems to support a green economy, cargo ships which could act as floating microgrids to power islands and coastal areas for disaster preparedness and recovery. 

Harmonisation of multimodal data, and big data handling

Coastal city in Mexico
Our researchers collected large amount of data for islands and coastal cities, for different sectors and much more. For example, we calculate the residential demand profiles for Greek Islands following an extensive bottom-up demand-driven analyses based on data from household surveys, while the regional demand growth is configured through a top-down approach using projections on regional demographics and economic growth indicators. For services sector demand calculations includes statistics related to electricity consumption and the building stock.

Legal principles of environmental law, energy and climate justice, governance recommendations

Aerial view of island and ocean
Analysis of policies, laws and regulation relevant to energy transition, sustainable resources, disaster risk reduction, equitable resilience, circular economy, and disruptive technologies, combined with qualitative methods (survey design, interviews, metrics, elicitation methods, Policy Delphi and Q-methods) to support the development of stakeholders’ engagement processes. Our approach inform the development of quantitative models, and decision makers to what to prioritise to support a blue-green economy.

Research with impact


Traffic warning sign engulfed by flood

Leading international collaboration and developing a toolbox for inclusive decision making

We are leading international collaboration in our work to co-develop a toolbox with quantitative and qualitative methods with stakeholders on disasters risk reduction and resilience for sustainable development for islands and coastal cities in the Global South. The project, funded by Belmont, brings together researchers from four continents and seven countries, working collaboratively on the comprehensive and uniquely structure toolbox developed by the Lab which includes Artificial intelligence for digital responses, RADaR model for disruptions or failures of services, a  Balanced scorecard with 455 DR3 indicators to support the planning and monitoring of Equitable DR3, a process for stakeholders’ engagement in islands and coastal cities including surveys with fifteen islands, workshops with stakeholders in six locations. In these workshops we interacted with 120 stakeholders, who recognised the usefulness of our tool and our approach to monitor and advance planning for disaster risk reduction, adaptability, and equitable resilience.

Photo shows a row of wind turbines

Smart energy systems innovation

The Energy Open Piazza consortium saw us working together with a consortium of nine organisations to deliver high-quality research that explores the cutting edge of smart grid innovation. The project was funded by the Power Forward Challenge, a joint initiative organized by Natural Resources Canada and the UK Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. Energy Open Piazza established open processed for energy data exchange with respect to medium scale-built environment installations to assess where investments should be made and where new technologies are aligned with performance expectations. Our researchers contributed to the project's software platform by providing energy market modelling algorithms, machine learning algorithms for data analysis, analysis of regulations.

Renewable energy

Transforming islands into sustainable circular energy resource hubs

We need to rethink how we consume around the world, using products and resources responsibly. This research project is taken an interdisciplinary approach to analyse trade-offs associated with waste to energy into a well interconnected system considering circular economy principles. The Scottish Government has set several goals towards developing a circular economy, as described by its Zero Waste Plan. This is transformed into action by the strategy document Making Things Last: A Circular Economy Strategy for Scotland, which discusses commitment to principles of reuse, reduce, recycling. We investigate the impact of geographic diversity and renewables on the interconnected power system for Scottish islands and scenarios assessment of the collection, facility configuration and generation of energy from biowaste.

Recent projects

We work with governments, local authorities, NGOs and other research groups to develop detailed understanding of adaptation and resilience for islands and coastal areas. We develop novel methods and processes to provide a holistic understanding on complex problems to allow policy makers to make informed choices and direct consultancy for local authorities to identify strategies for action.

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Islands & Coastal Research Lab in teaching

Student in an energy modelling lecture
We play a key role in supporting teaching across the Bartlett School of Environment Energy and Resources and UCL including:
  • Supervision of MSc dissertations across a range of programmes
  • Delivery of core and optional modules for MSc Business and Sustainability and MSc Sustainable Resources: Economics, Policy and Transitions (SREPT) 
  • Delivery module for the UCL Summer School

Sustainable Resources: Economics, Policy and Transitions MSc

In the face of global environmental challenges, societies, businesses and policymakers alike need to rethink how we can use our natural resources sustainably. UCL's Sustainable Resources: Economics, Policy and Transitions MSc investigates the circular economy, resource efficiency and sustainable resource management. You will be equipped with the skills and knowledge to drive change and become the sustainability leaders of tomorrow.

Metrics, Modelling and Visualisation of the Resource Nexus

View Sustainable Resources: Economics, Policy and Transitions MSc in the prospectus ►

Business and Sustainability MSc

Becoming environmentally, socially and economically sustainable is an imperative for businesses of all shapes and sizes. UCL’s Business and Sustainability MSc explores how businesses can turn sustainability challenges into new opportunities and avenues for growth. You will participate in research-led, applied teaching on sustainability science, policy and business practice, empowering you to be sustainability leaders making informed decisions and taking responsible actions for people, planet and profit, now and in the future.

Measuring, Reporting and Facilitating a Sustainable Future

View Business and Sustainability MSc in the prospectus ►


Doctoral Research (PhD)

We support research conducted by PhD students, which is integral to the development of the lab. PhD students play an active role, attending and presenting at meetings and organising some of the labs activities. Their work is an important contribution to the development of our research, and our novel models provide a rich resource for their studies. This symbiotic relationship is further enhanced through internships which offer our students an opportunity to step fully into the work of the lab.

Doctoral research relating to Islands & Coastal Research Lab:

Daisy de Selliers
Galila Khougali
Chris Matthew
Selman Sevindik
Mustafa Saglam
Stacey Wells-Moultrie

UCL Summer School

Every year, UCL welcomes students from universities around the world to study for 3 or 6 weeks in June, July and August. In summer 2022 students of over 50 nationalities, from over 250 universities around the world, making the UCL Summer School a truly international experience in the heart of one of the world's most dynamic cities.

Climate Change and Sustainability in Practice

Find out about UCL Summer School ►

Our researchers

Collaboration and partnerships are fundamental to the Lab. We work closely with researchers around the globe.

For more information on past and current internal and external researchers and collaborators please see our website:
Islands & Coastal Research Lab team ►

IRIS Research Group Widget Placeholder1622


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Catalina Spataru
Director of UCL Energy Institute
Professor in Global Energy and Resources
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Priscila Carvalho
Research Fellow in Environmental Law and Sustainability
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Nadia Ameli
Senior Research Associate
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Teresa Domenech
Associate Professor
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Jane Holder
Professor of Environmental Law
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Ilan Kelman
Professor of Disasters and Health
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Neil Strachan
Director of The Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources
Professor in Energy Economics and Modelling
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Mark Barrett
Professor of Energy and Environmental Systems Modelling
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Priti Parikh
Professor of Infrastructure Engineering and International Development
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Alvaro Calzadilla Rivera
Associate Professor in Macro-economic Modelling for a Green Economy
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