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Integrating citizens into Europe’s clean energy transition

Press release

An interdisciplinary project bringing together Leeds researchers on social policy and decarbonisation has secured three years of EU Horizon 2020 research funding to explore how energy “prosumerism” can help to build a more sustainable future.

Dr Mark Davis (School of Sociology and Social Policy) and Dr Stephen Hall (School of Earth and Environment) will be working as Co-Principal Investigators on the PROSEU project, which launches in Lisbon this month. It will form a new consortia across eight countries via €3.1M of EU Horizon 2020 funding. The grant will bring €380k to the University of Leeds and provide investment for a new research fellow post.

The rapidly falling costs of renewable energy technologies, along with advances in battery and other storage mechanisms, is making local and city scale energy systems a realistic alternative to the centralised systems of the past. This means that energy systems across the EU need to incorporate millions of generators as opposed to a few thousand.

Stephen Hall investigates the role of cities and regions in delivering public infrastructures compatible with low carbon futures. He explains: “As we diversify our energy system, we need new technologies for grid management and new ways for citizens to buy and sell energy. This has the dual benefit of opening up new avenues for clean energy in cities, but also reduces our dependence on imported energy.

“Prosumption is about consumers producing their own energy behind the meter and exporting excess into local or national energy markets. How these markets develop, and how communities, towns, and cities can reduce reliance on centralised power, is a critical question for the future of European energy policy.”

Mark Davis, who is leading a number of funded projects evaluating forms of alternative finance, will provide a sociological perspective to the research:  “The work Steve and I are to lead at Leeds will evaluate alternative business models and new forms of finance that have the potential to enhance the role of citizens in deciding where and how their money is invested.

“This is opposed to handing over that responsibility to traditional institutional investors and hoping they will create a sustainable social and economic future.”

A part of the EU’s energy transition policy programme, they hope that their research will have a global influence by allowing the single European energy market to accommodate a diverse group of new energy stakeholders, and to act as a pathfinder example to other world markets for how to integrate citizens into the energy transition.

Image shows Dr Stephen Hall (left) and Dr Mark Davis (right)