Interdisciplinary Knowledge Synthesis

Why is Interdisciplinary Knowledge Synthesis important for Smart Local Energy Systems?

Making smart local energy systems (SLES) work most effectively will need knowledge from many different disciplines and fields. As reflected in the structure of the EnergyREV consortium, research is needed on users, business models, technological integration, skills requirements and much more. EnergyREV’s interdisciplinary knowledge synthesis work will consider how these different areas overlap and interact with each other. Our work will help SLES stakeholders think holistically about their plans, ensuring they don’t overlook important areas, interactions, and recommendations. Our work is bringing different components of EnergyREV together to think about how their work could draw on, or complement, that of others in the consortium.

What are the EnergyREV team doing in this area?

Our work, so far, has had a number of main strands. First, we did extensive review work to understand the characteristics of SLES and get the “lay of the land” on what is already known about them. We have used this to start to develop an understanding of expectations around the conditions needed to deliver a successful SLES. This, together with input from our highly multidisciplinary consortium, is helping to establish a ‘Theory of Change’ which brings together the components of an SLES and how they fit together. Alongside this we have conducted more focused, albeit still cross-cutting, reviews, including one on privacy and data sharing in SLES, and one on the emerging themes from EnergyREV work so far. We also led on a report considering the role of SLES in post-pandemic green economic recovery. Future work will continue to develop the Theory of Change, and further reviews including focussing on SLES and flexibility.

How is EnergyREV exploring these issues?

Most of our work uses a systematic evidence review approach. That is, we use rigorous methods to identify existing research publications relevant to the topic(s) under investigation, and draw on these to provide an overview of what is known about that topic.

We are employing a “realist” synthesis approach, which means we are not just interested in “what works” in relation to SLES, but how it works, for whom, and in what circumstances. A large part of our work also involves using ‘Theory of Change’ approaches, which use participatory methods to surface our expectations about how exactly the outcomes of complex interventions, in this case SLES, might come about. Having done this, we can then see if our expectations are supported by the findings which are emerging across EnergyREV.

What are the emerging insights?

So far, we have produced principles and recommendations for how SLES providers can appropriately address privacy and data sharing concerns. We have also co-developed a “SLES lens” to illustrate the different ways in which SLES can help deliver post-pandemic green economic recovery. The facets of the lens are local knowledge, engagement and trust, coordinated planning, economic strategy, unlocking co-benefits, and scaling up.

The interactive EnergyREV Theory of Change that we are developing is constantly evolving and is a handy way to see how findings across EnergyREV fit into the picture of how SLES can deliver desired outcomes. We are populating the SLES ‘Theory of Change‘ with key policy/governance considerations and recommended metrics for tracking SLES progress.