Spotlight on....Charlie Wilson

Spotlight on....Charlie Wilson

Charlie Wilson, Professor of Energy and Climate Change in the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia

23rd June 2021

What is your current role at your Institution?

I’m a Professor of Energy and Climate Change in the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia. I’m also the co-lead of the ‘Accelerating Social Transitions’ research theme of the Tyndall Centre which brings together researchers across the Universities of Manchester, Newcastle, Cardiff and East Anglia. In these roles, I lead and participate in a variety of research projects at the intersection between people, innovation, and public policy, but all with a view to reducing greenhouse gas emissions towards net-zero.

How does this role build on previous work?

I came relatively late to academic life, starting my PhD in my mid-30s after brief careers working in renewable energy finance and before that in climate policy. These roles in financial institutions and consultancies gave me a good grounding on the practicalities and constraints of decision making and action ‘in the real world’. I hope this makes my own research work more empirically grounded and reflecting of real-world conditions - both opportunities and constraints. 

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

Taken as a whole, I hope my research has helped challenge the common perception that tackling climate change is primarily about large-scale energy supply and industrial infrastructure. My research has shown the critical role that people at all levels of society and the economy have to play, as well as the first importance of demand-side strategies for decarbonisation using small-scale, highly distributed technologies and services. Recent examples of outputs associated with my research include:

- C. Wilson, A. Grubler, N. Bento, S. Healey, S. De Stercke and C. Zimm (2020). "Granular technologies to accelerate decarbonization." Science 368(6486): 36-39.

- C. Wilson, L. Kerr, F. Sprei, E. Vrain and M. Wilson (2020). "Potential climate benefits of digital consumer innovations." Annual Review of Environment and Resources 45: 113-144.

What skills and perspectives are you bringing to EnergyREV?

I am an empirical social scientist who collects and analyses data to understand social and behavioural phenomena relevant for climate change mitigation. I have a particular interest in using this understanding to better inform public policy, and to help develop simulation modelling tools such as global integrated assessment models. This experience is directly relevant for my role in EnergyREV where I am involved in work looking at the new wave of energy systems within a whole systems context. This work involves translating historical observations of local energy system projects in the UK into robust modelling analysis of how local energy can scale up into national systems.