Dr. Christina Francis, Research Associate in Local Energy Systems, School of Engineering, Edinburgh University
1st November 2021
Multi-disciplinary members of the EnergyREV consortium recently joined together to present at the 18th International Conference of Women Engineers and Scientists (ICWES18), providing both a keynote presentation entitled “Managing Stakeholders’ Roles and Interests during the Energy Transition” and a collaborative workshop on “Smart Local Energy Systems (SLESs) - Data for Change for People, Communities and Environment”.
ICWES18 is the flagship event of the International Network of Women Engineers and Scientists (INWES), a global network of organisations of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), reaching over 60 countries worldwide, held every three years. It was held virtually on the 1-3 September 2021 after being postponed from September 2020 due to the challenges of COVID-19. This multi-disciplinary event provides a diverse platform for sharing and discussing research, such as that being carried out in EnergyREV. ICWES events attract up to 300 participants from all over the world and from different professions including planners and policy-makers, gender issue experts, industry partners, researchers, students and supporters. This year’s event was hosted by INWES members of the Warwick University, in the UK, under the theme of Global Humanitarian Challenges. This covered a range of topics such as Climate Change, Global Health, Gender and STEM, Renewable Energy Technologies and Sustainable Cities.
The multi-criteria assessment (MCA) research team from the University of Edinburgh, Christina Francis, Camilla Thomson and David Ingram presented and discussed the ongoing development of a holistic multi-criteria assessment toolkit. This features a standardised, simplified, technology agnostic framework for assessing the benefits and performance of SLES under six themes as shown in the figure below. The framework will provide an opportunity for project developers to benchmark their progress against their own aspirations; provide evidence to build investors’ confidence; and offer transparency in tracking the wide array of benefits and disbenefits for all stakeholders involved including the associated communities and citizens.
Six themes for classifying benefits and performance of SLES
The keynote presentation focussed on one of the primary steps in the design of the MCA tool kit, conducted by Alessa Sierra Costa of the MCA Team at the University Edinburgh: the stakeholder identification mapping and characterisation analysis for SLES. Given the push towards a low carbon energy transition driven by grassroots, bottom-up community energy initiatives and citizen-driven renewable energy projects, it is important that all citizens and stakeholders alike need to be identified, sensitised and constructively engaged from the ground level upwards. This helps to reduce any unintended consequences and achieve successful delivery of an SLES. Stakeholder identification and mapping is an often overlooked activity; however, its proper realisation is closely linked with the success of almost any type of project, and energy systems are not the exception.
The stakeholders for the current UK energy system have been identified by considering the role of the actors and their level of engagement throughout the lifecycle stages of the project. These fall into eight categories: energy business, regulation and control, end consumers, financial support, knowledge advancement, network and advice, influencers, and other support groups. Different roles create different objectives, different expectations, and different success metrics as illustrated below. These can, however, be contradictory, hence the importance of accounting for them, while simultaneously adopting a socio-technical approach to achieve the multiple potential benefits of SLES that may be more acceptable to end-users and deliver greater value for the interested parties.
Different groups of actors identified by roles in the UK energy system
In addition to the keynote presentation, an interactive workshop on SLESs was conducted in collaboration with the cyberphysical advances team, Elena Guara and Nandor Verba from Coventry University. Three themes of the SLES MCA toolkit were explored under the topics: Data for Change and Data Management, People and Communities and the Environment.
As part of the people and communities theme, the benefits such as reduced energy bills and healthier internal environmental conditions and challenges such as skills gap and poor communication with residents experienced by the Welsh whole house energy system deep retrofits were presented and discussed to understand how the lessons learned could be applied to SLES. This information on the Welsh experience was provided by Joanne Patterson of Cardiff University.
Details of the necessary environmental considerations for SLES were discussed within the context of life cycle assessments of energy. Other examples, courtesy of Alona Armstrong and Sam Robinson from Lancaster University, illustrated the opportunities of using techno-ecological synergy approach in improving the biodiversity.
The data for change theme highlighted the importance of data and its visualisations for achieving the change that is required from SLESs and their communities of users. This will involve managing and mining the data from smart devices to enable the outcomes of SLES and benefits to deliver best impact. Likewise a robust digital data infrastructure and digital highways and provision of adequate security layer.
The ICWES18 Conference provided a wide audience to engage untapped minds of interdisciplinary researchers, engineers and scientists from all over the world to better understand and exploit the benefits and resolve the global humanitarian challenges. To get involved and/or know more about the EnergyREV Research please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.