Spotlight on….Alexandra Schneiders

Spotlight on….Alexandra Schneiders

By Alexandra Schneiders, University College London Energy Institute

  • What is your current role at your Institution?

I am a Research Associate at the University College London Energy Institute, researching topics of policy and regulation around local energy trading including peer-to-peer and community self-consumption. I am leading the work of UCL as Operating Agent of the Global Observatory on Peer-to-Peer, Community Self-Consumption (CSC) and Transactive Energy (TE) Models (GO-P2P), which launched in September 2019.

GO-P2P is an Annex of the User-Centred Energy Systems Technology Collaboration Programme by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The Observatory’s aim will be to study P2P/TE/CSC pilots across the world, including the United Kingdom, in the coming three years. It will be technology-neutral, and its main aims are to produce outputs that promote evidence-based policymaking nationally and internationally, as well as form an international community of researchers working in this field.

  • How does this role build on previous work?

I was previously a policy and legal consultant in Brussels, advising energy companies and the European Commission on energy and financial services policy. In these roles I participated in policymaking processes from an industry and policymaker perspective.

In my current role as a researcher and Operating Agent, I am working closely with international/national policymakers and industry while scrutinising policy from an academic perspective. Thanks to my previous experience, I am able to understand the interplay between industry, government and academic influences on policymaking processes. Additionally, adopting the lens of my previous roles, I find it important to make my research accessible and comprehensive to policymakers and industry stakeholders (i.e. non-academic stakeholders). 

  • What is the most exciting thing about the research that you have done to date?

I find the topic of regulatory sandboxes, a new phenomenon whereby regulators provide regulatory exemptions to organisations for the testing of new business models, fascinating. I have been researching sandboxes throughout this past year and talking to and advising energy policymakers and regulators at European and national level on this topic. It has become clear to me that there is a fragmentation between countries on what the best approach is when it comes to regulating new business models that are shaking up the energy sector.

Regulation clearly cannot keep up with the speed at which innovation is moving, so what is the best way to make sure the transition towards a decentralised energy system is regulated in a way that makes sure all involved parties are treated fairly? These are the kinds of questions that energy policymakers are currently grappling with, and which will be closely investigated by the Global Observatory.

  • What skills and perspectives are you bringing to EnergyREV and how do you think being involved in EnergyREV will help going forwards?

I would describe myself as a ‘global citizen’, having lived in many countries and worked internationally. My international background is useful when working with policymakers and academics from all over the world as Operating Agent of the Global Observatory.

The International Energy Agency is an ideal organisation to provide international leverage to the research of UK-based academics working on smart local energy systems and peer-to-peer models within EnergyREV. Furthermore, the insights gathered from trials at international level through the Observatory will help inform EnergyREV’s work in the UK.

In the likely event of the UK leaving the EU, the UK, including the Industrial Strategy Challenges, will need to find ways to engage beyond Europe to maximise learning from, and impact to, potential new UK trading partners. The work of the Observatory provides an opportunity to understand how smart local energy systems develop in areas outside the EU, and mechanisms for leading UK researchers in EnergyREV and beyond to provide evidence to inform how these markets develop in these countries.