Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

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Other energy research themes



We can use energy flows through practices as straightforward as sitting in the sun or using a wind-pump to raise water from a well. However, modern energy systems usually function through more complex combinations of human activity, social priorities, technologies, knowledge and rules. This theme includes projects that aim to analyse what takes place in human and technical terms in the working of energy systems, what actions, decisions and interactions are involved in the development of ‘smart’ systems, and what the implications are for energy transition policy.

Current Projects

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash


In many parts of Europe, centralised energy systems are in decline while more distributed, diverse, low-carbon and participatory systems are emerging. How are community-based energy projects creating value for their members and society in general? This EU-funded project will work with communities at the forefront of developing new business models, to analyse the contexts from which they emerge and how they engage citizens, create value and share learning. It will also assess their potential to scale up.

The Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions
  • Funding: EPSRC/ESRC
  • 2018 - 2023
  • Programme Lead: Professor Nick Eyre

The Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions

A new research centre established in 2018 with a vision to make the UK a leader in understanding the changes in energy demand needed for the transition to a secure and affordable, low carbon energy system.

Sufficiency doughnut
  • Funding:ECEEE (European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy); KR Foundation; UKERC
  • 2017 - 2019
  • Programme Lead: Dr Sarah Darby

Sufficiency and energy services

As part of a wider European project, Dr Sarah Darby and Dr Tina Fawcett have been commissioned to write a think piece on the concept of sufficiency in relation to energy and energy services.

  • Funding: EPSRC
  • 2002-2019
  • Programme Lead: Dr Christian Brand

UK Energy Research Centre Decision Making Programme

ECI lead a theme in the third phase of the UKERC looking at challenges in energy decision making, including governance, actor decision making and systemic interactions. ECI are involved in two projects within the theme:(1) Relating energy practices to energy services, and (2) Decision-making on short timescales through demand response.

  • Funding: Oxford Martin School
  • 2015-2019
  • People: Professor Nick Eyre (Co-Director), Dr Sarah Darby (Lead Researcher), Dr Rebecca Ford (Programme Manager), Eoghan McKenna (Oxford Martin Fellow), Dr Phil Grünewald (Associate), Dr Sarah Higginson (Associate)

Oxford Martin Programme for Integrating Renewable Energy

The Oxford Martin Programme on Integrating Renewable Energy aims to deliver a framework for understanding technical, market and policy requirements for integrating renewables across scales, resource types and contexts. The work includes tasks on ‘Governance of and engagement with the demand side’, in which we aim to analyse shifts towards ‘active’ demand and the potential for more flexible demand at different scales. Partners at the Oxford University: Departments of Engineering, Materials, Law and Mathematic, the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, and the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.

Recent Projects

Storage heater

Realising Value from Electricity Markets with Local Smart Electric Thermal Storage Technology (RealValue)

This project combines trials of electric storage heating and water heating in Ireland, Germany and Latvia with modelling, with the aim of assessing how local small-scale energy storage with advanced ICT could bring benefits to all participants in European energy markets. Project partners: Glen Dimplex (lead), Intel, The Energy Research Centre at University College Dublin, DIW Berlin, Riga Technical University, VTT (Finnish Technical Research Institute, ESB Networks, EirGrid, SSE Airtricity and MVV Energie.

Household picture

User Practices, Technologies and Residential Energy Consumption (UserTEC)

A multidisciplinary research project to improve understanding of user practices and interaction with new technologies,and to analyse and enhance communication about household energy use between residents, designers, engineers and architects as well as energy companies and utilities. Partners at the Universities of Aalborg (lead), Cambridge and Linköping, Delft Technical University and the Technical University of Denmark.

Photo via Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0 Dark Dwarf

Energy Publics: mapping public participation in Bristol's energy transition

This project aims to map energy participation in the West of England, between 2015-2017 and then analysing the results using a whole systems approach.

Household picture
  • Funding: ESRC
  • 2014-2018
  • People: Sarah Darby, Marina Topouzi

Collecting New Time Use Resources (CNTUR Energy-24)

This is part of a programme based at the Centre for Time Use Research in the Oxford University Department of Sociology, producing time diary resources for use by the social science, public health, environmental and other research communities. The project combines diaries and instrumentation (accelerometers, body cameras, high-resolution energy meters) to contribute to understanding of how energy use relates to daily activities and to develop applications for diary data.

Westmill Community Wind Farm

Community Energy Generation, Aggregation and Demand Shaping (CEGADS)

This project aims to enable communities to work together to pool locally-owned generation and match it with local demand to reduce bills and carbon emissions. Partners: Energy Local Ltd., De Montfort University, Exergy Devices Ltd., Moixa Technology, Westmill Sustainable Energy Trust, Energise Sussex Coast and Cooperative Energy Ltd

  • Funding: ESRC
  • 2013 - 2014
  • Led by: Dr Kersty Hobson

Monitoring and Evaluation for Sustainable Communities

Monitoring and Evaluation for Sustainable Communities' was a 12-month Knowledge Exchange project, which brought together researchers from the University of Oxford, members of UK low carbon community groups, Transition Research Network, and Low Carbon Communities Network, to co-produce and trial monitoring and evaluation tools for use across the Low Carbon Communities movement to evaluate collective impact.

Advanced Dynamic Energy Pricing and Tariff (ADEPT)

This project addressed the research question "How complicated can, or should, a dynamic electricity tariff be?", such that could be accepted by the public and would offer clear enhancements and incentives for reduction in energy demand. It looked at how the information potentially available from smart meters could be exploited to the advantage of both the distribution network operator and the customer.

SuperGen HiDEF (Highly Distributed Energy Future)

This programme of work aimed to identify the most effective conceptual design for the realisation of a highly distributed power system. A consortium researched whether network support functions should be provided by co-ordination of the multitude of low cost distributed sources or whether these functions should be concentrated in larger dedicated items of equipment.

SMEasure: energy monitoring tool

The Environmental Change Institute developed an easy-to-use building energy management system for small and medium businesses to measure, benchmark and target the energy use of buildings simply by entering regular gas and electricity meter readings.

Metrics for Smart Grids

The aim of this work was to create a methodology to measure the potential for energy savings and GHG emissions reductions from Smart Grids in an EU context. The project sought to identify functionalities that would be necessary to enable energy and GHG benefits to be realised from the implementation of Smart Grids.

Metering, Billing and Displays

Most householders have only a vague idea of how much energy they are using for different purposes. There has been a lot of interest in improved ('smart') metering, more informative billing and direct display panels. This review considered what is known about the effectiveness of different types of feedback, with a focus on how people change their behaviour.

  • Funding: EU Altener Programme
  • 2003
  • Led by: Jane Palmer

Carbon Consciousness, Consumer Choice and Electricity (4CE)

This project worked towards the development of an electricity disclosure label to provide customers with details of the source of their electricity supply, and its resulting environmental implications, enabling them to make informed choices about the electricity tariff they wish to use.

Projects Archive

Full list of archived energy projects.