The Transport Studies Unit participates in this research theme lead by the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, with sectoral input from University of Bath (industry), University College London (buildings) and the University of Aberdeen (transport).

The demand for energy is the driver of the whole energy system, influencing not only the total amount of energy used, but also the location, type of fuel and characteristics of the end use technology.

Studying energy demand is therefore inherently interdisciplinary - it requires an understanding of:

  • the lifestyle and social drivers of the demand for energy services;
  • the changing technologies at the point of energy use;
  • the institutional and policies frameworks within which technical and social decisions are made; and
  • the interactions between all of these.

Energy systems face increasing pressures from many directions, most notably for a rapid transition to a secure, low carbon energy system. Understanding the role of energy demand in these changes is therefore an increasing priority.

The objectives of the theme are to research how socio-economic and technical change affect energy demand in the UK, and to apply this to the need for more radical change to respond to climate and energy security challenges.

The overarching theoretical framework for this theme will be the analysis of energy demand as part of broader energy socio-technical systems. We will consider transitions in energy demand through modelling and research into linked changes in three broad areas:

  1. New Technologies: Technical innovation to both increase the ways in which energy is used and secure efficiency improvements, using inputs from disciplines such as thermodynamics, engineering science, building science, life-cycle analysis and innovation theory;
  2. Social and Behavioural Change: Understanding the influence of social change on energy demand, using inputs from disciplines such as psychology, sociology and economics (including behavioural and institutional economics); and
  3. Energy Markets, Governance and Policy: Standard tools for policy design are cost benefit and cost effectiveness analysis. In the context of potential systemic change, we will also use other approaches drawn from political ecology, public policy and market transformation theories.

The research topics relevant to transport include:

  • How will changing patterns of transport affect energy demand?
  • How can we update, maintain and improve transport energy demand and low carbon technology choice models?
  • How can we improve our existing consumer vehicle technology choice models to address issues of electrification and alternative low carbon technology pathways?


Further Information

For more information and output from this research project, please see the UKERC Energy Demand Theme website or contact Dr Christian Brand.