Dr Colin Nolden

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Research Groups

Dr Colin Nolden

Researcher in the Politics of Energy Demand

Profile

Colin joined the Environmental Change Institute in November 2019 as a Researcher in the Politics of Energy Demand at the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions. Alongside his appointment at the University of Oxford, Colin works as a Vice-Chancellor's Fellow at University of Bristol Law School. Previous academic appointments include a Research Fellowship in Energy Efficiency and Innovation at SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex, and a PhD in Energy Policy at the University of Exeter. Throughout his academic career, Colin has worked for schools of Geography, Politics, Business, Management and Law.

As a consultant, Colin has worked for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (London, UK), the former Department of Energy and Climate Change (London, UK), Climate-KIC (Frankfurt, Germany), Provadis School of International Management and Technology (Frankfurt, Germany), the Centre for Rural Policy Research at the University of Exeter (Exeter, UK), and BEKS EnergieEffizienz GmbH (Bremen, Germany). In between, Colin worked as a steelworker and a mussel farmer. As a director of Community Energy South, Colin is responsible for research and innovation.


Current Research

I mostly research sustainable energy governance at the intersection of communities, demand, mobility and climate change. As a geographer by training, I'm particularly interested in scalar and spatial dimensions. Generally speaking, my research falls under one of the five following themes:

  1. Community engagement in energy systems and transitions to sustainability

    This research seeks to understand the drivers and barriers of democratic control and community leadership in energy systems and the role of communities, cities and regions in socio-ecological transformation towards a zero-carbon society.

  2. Organizational, institutional and legal governance of sustainable energy

    This research analyses how interactions between business models at the organizational level, science and technology policy at the institutional level, and entrenchment at the legal governance level affect the transaction costs of developing and diffusing sustainable energy innovations.

  3. Energy demand reduction, flexibility and demand response

    This research focuses on energy demand reductions as the main driver for carbon emissions reductions, the policy asymmetry between energy supply and demand, and the organizations and institutions capable of shifting emphasis from energy supply to energy demand reduction and performance improvement.

  4. Mobility/energy nexus

    This research is about powering trains with renewable energy and the organizational, institutional and legal governance arrangements necessary to maximise public value and ensure that lineside communities benefit from the diffusion of this innovation.

  5. Positive pricing of carbon emissions reductions

    This research involves the establishment of principles for a holistic governance framework of climate clubs based on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and border carbon adjustments to protect carbon commons in order to assign value to assetized carbon emission reductions.


Current and recent research projects


CREDS (Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions), ESRC and EPSRC funded (2019-2022)

Policy asymmetry and market design

This research project on the Politics of Energy Demand considers the policy paradigm of levelling the playing field by explicitly considering demand side policy as an alternative to supply within a regulatory process. This type of integrated resource planning approach has been common in electricity regulation in the USA, but much less so in Europe. Drawing on international experience, and detailed analysis of the economics and institutes in the UK, we investigate how the principle of the level playing field might be applied and the problems in doing so. We are collaborating with the iGov Fellowship on this project.

Understanding the drivers of policy asymmetry

In this project we consider the underlying causes of asymmetric policies. These potentially include the greater power of supply side actors, accountancy treatment of energy efficiency assets, lower visibility of demand side projects, greater complexity of demand-side evaluation, risk perceptions and the scale of transactions in markets. Their relative importance has never been systematically studied. The work draws on theories in political science including agenda setting and policy windows. Decision making processes are tracked through a combination of process tracing and interviews with the relevant stakeholders.


British Academy: Knowledge Frontiers (2020-2022)

Energy Resilience: Exploring the Cultures, Politics and Practices of Energy Access in Amazonia

This project seeks to forge an approach to 'energy resilience' in off-grid locations through interdisciplinary qualitative and quantitative research working directly with people in Amazon forest communities. The research team brings together knowledge from anthropology, engineering, sociology and geography to develop an analytical and practical approach to everyday resilience through the lens of energy access in light of social, political and cultural realities. In Amazonia, one of the most remote areas of the world, many inhabitants are well-adapted to its topographical and environmental challenges, but it is becoming increasingly evident that barriers to energy access have knock-on effects in areas of healthcare, education, democratic participation and equitable access to rights and services. By focusing on the needs, capacities and understandings of communities, this project seeks to empower local people by facilitating greater involvement in development opportunities that recognise the importance of viewing resilience as a way of life.


Department for Transport and Innovate UK funded (2019)

Riding Sunbeams

This research involved the development of a social impact framework for Riding Sunbeams, a value-led business which succeeded, for the first time ever to power trains directly with solar power. For utility services such as railways, where there is little scope to reduce or flex demand, procuring grid-edge renewable energy at the point of such demand provides a direct means of decarbonizing and securing supply. Rolling out this innovation, however, hinges on the willingness of Network Rail, the UK's railway infrastructure provider, to procure directly-supplied renewable energy. Social and environmental value associated with community and commuter co-ownership, as well as community benefit funds, need to be captured and codified to integrate them into procurement specifications and measurable outcomes.


Climate-KIC (2016-2017)

Transition Cities

This research consultancy consisted of an exploratory market survey of 9 European cities to gain an overview of urban climate innovation initiatives in the areas of mobility, buildings and local energy networks. Using desk research, interviews and a case study approach, I identified local initiatives ('experiments') which pioneer innovation in the selected areas, contextualised business-models, projects and programmes an analysed cities' consequent development and implementation of climate action plans. I placed particular emphasis on the tools, methods and skills that help cities engage in systemic change in line with UNFCCC carbon reduction targets by shifting their emphasis from products and technology towards process and technique.


Department of Energy and Climate Change (2015)

Feed-in Tariff evidence review

This research consultancy involved the gathering of evidence on the performance of the Feed-in Tariff scheme in its first five years of operation between 1 April 2010 and 31 March 2015. The review was prepared for or the periodic review of the Feed-in Tariff in 2015. Its objective was to assess, where information was available, the success of the Feed-in Tariff in achieving its objectives. This involved an analysis of the deployment of <5MW low-carbon electricity generation, empowerment of people to give them a direct stake in the transition to a low-carbon economy, public take-up of carbon reduction measures, behavioural change in energy, and the development of local supply chains to drive down energy costs.


Publications

2020
2019
2018
2017
2016
2015
2013
2012
2010
  • Nolden, C. (2010) Das Prinzip der nachhaltigen Entwicklung und seine Anwendung in der Gemeinde Morbach. In, Kreisverwaltung Bernkastel-Wittlich (ed.) Kreisjahrbuch Bernkastel-Wittlich 2010. Weiss-Druck: Monschau, p. 66-72.