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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R002231/1
Title: The use of Whole Energy System Analysis in decision-making across scales
Principal Investigator: Radcliffe, Professor J
Other Investigators:
McDowall, Dr W Taylor, Professor P Bale, Dr CSE
Winskel, Dr M
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Chemical Engineering
Organisation: University of Birmingham
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 01 May 2017 Ends: 31 January 2018 Value (£): 60,440
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
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Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
01 Mar 2017 Energy Systems Catapult Feasibility Studies Call Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Decarbonisation strategies based on whole energy system analysis are critical in the transition to a low carbon economy. Energy system integration is attracting increasing interest across scales, and scenarios show how electricity, heat and transport fuels are likely to become ever more interlinked in sustainable transitions. At the same time, whilst energy policy is largely determined centrally by the UK government, devolved and decentralised energy systems are emerging driven by technology developments and local priorities. However, policies which impact the use and supply of energy (including non-energy policies), and the related infrastructure, are dispersed across government departments and many other organisations at each level of governance, from local to national to transnational. These policies are proving to be critical to driving large-scale public and private sector investment in the energy system, with recent policy changes having been observed to damage investor confidence.

This scoping study will analyse how whole energy system analysis is currently used in decision-making processes across scales, and identify ways in which the research - policy - decision-making relationship could be improved in the future. We will consider the key whole-system models and tools being used, their perceived value and limitations in representing the energy system across scales, the key channels for research-policy linkages, and how the model outputs are actually used in practice.

Fundamentally, we will challenge the assumption that there is simply a 'model deficit' - i.e. that 'better' models would give better evidence, leading to better decisions and outcomes. Rather, we expect a complex interplay between the modelling, supporting research and the decision-making processes - a complexity which is especially acute when considering the multi-scalar landscape of the energy system. We must also reflect that whole energy system models should not only be developed to meet short term policy needs within an existing or anticipated paradigm, but can be tools to explore alternative futures over the longer term.

We propose a novel approach to mapping the science-policy interface of whole energy system analysis across scales. By assessing this complexity in a scoping study we can begin to address the factors that are limiting the value of whole energy system modelling to decision makers across scales, and guide future work to propose ways in which the value can be increased through improvements both to the models and decision-making processes. We will examine:

- processes of collaboration and exchange between actors using the models in the decision-making process, within and between scales. We will conduct preliminary case studies of policy formation and the role of modelling at UK, Scottish and an exemplar city scales (Birmingham and Leeds), covering policy-makers, the modelling community, intermediaries and the role of other stakeholders. This will allow us to describe the complexity that exists in decision making processes and compare/contrast the different case studies.

- how whole systems models at different scales (international, national, local) could be more effectively integrated or reconciled, and what additional insights this would provide. We will identify promising research opportunities that may arise from developing multi-scale tools (and/or linking tools across scales) and representing new technologies that will have an impact on the energy system at different scales.

Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.bham.ac.uk