Energy Futures Lab’s research strategy for 2021-24 is to develop and support research that is of societal benefit and which enables the transition to a sustainable and low-carbon energy system.
The UK Government has legislated for a net-zero economy by 2050 and adopted the Climate Change Committee’s central recommendation in its Sixth Carbon Budget of a 78% reduction in GHG emissions (from 1990 levels) by 2035. There is now an even greater urgency in deploying existing technologies and rapidly progressing emerging technology.
Therefore, the dual goals of achieving net-zero emissions across all energy sectors and sustainability of energy systems form two of the foundations of Energy Futures Lab’s research strategy. The third foundation of our strategy is the digitalisation of energy systems, which we view as a key enabler in the drive for net zero and sustainability.
Here we concentrate our efforts on decarbonisation of the energy system and the transition to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions of the whole economy by 2050. Significant progress has been made in areas such as the electricity system, where the penetration of renewables has been steadily increasing in recent years. However, we need to include all parts of our energy systems and consider the impact of increasing complexity, including the role of consumers and society at large to achieve substantial decarbonisation. The emphasis now must be on the difficult-to-decarbonise sectors, but also on the whole-system view of holistic solutions for several sectors.
Sustainability in energy technologies and systems must be central to a transition to zero emissions in order to deliver a just transition that avoids any unwanted shifts in environmental impacts. This means the sustainable use of resources, i.e. materials for energy applications, and the creation and synthesis of sustainable fuels, with emphasis placed on a holistic view of resources and environment.
Energy Futures Lab’s third area of focus is on digitalisation and data science and looks at cross-cutting research to support the advanced technologies that underpin the energy transition. It reflects the increasing importance of data science techniques and the power of data to support decision making in complex systems. As such, we include energy digitalisation as a core part of our forward strategy in that it can be woven through the other avenues of research, either (i) in the sense of using advanced data science techniques to further the research and make advances that would not otherwise be possible, or (ii) represent the deployment of digital technologies to further the decarbonisation and sustainability agendas.