Sarah Royston profile
One of a series of profiles of people working in the End Use Energy Demand Centres and associated projects across the country.
Dr Sarah Royston
DEMAND Centre: Invisible Energy Policy project
Tell us about your work
I’m a Research Fellow at the University of Sussex, from October 2015 to October 2017. I’m working with Jan Selby and Elizabeth Shove on an exciting project on “invisible” energy policy. This means understanding how energy demand is shaped by all kinds of policies that aren’t explicitly about energy. We’re focusing on the public sector, specifically Higher Education and the military – both of which are large energy consumers. For example, in the university sector, energy demand is being shaped by changes to funding, how institutions are growing, research policy, and the changing expectations of students. I’m currently interviewing professionals across the sector to explore these changes.
What were your previous roles?
I studied Geography at Cambridge and Sustainable Development at Leeds before moving to the University of York for my PhD. My thesis looked at careers of action of climate change; in other words, how and why people’s engagement with “sustainable” practices changes over the course of their lives. I then worked on the ESRC/EPSRC project “Reducing Energy Consumption through Community Knowledge Networks” which looked at peer-to-peer sharing of knowledge about energy. After that, I spent nearly 3 years at the Association for the Conservation of Energy, doing policy-focused research on a huge range of issues: fuel poverty; smart meters; electricity markets; know-how and adaptive thermal comfort; financing for energy efficiency; area-based initiatives… read about it here!
What do you see as the key important area that needs to be focussed on to reduce energy demand and meet carbon emission reduction targets?
In the UK, I think we need a coherent and consistent policy framework aimed at reducing absolute energy demand. The last five years have seen a lot of back-tracking, chopping and changing on programmes like the Energy Companies Obligation, Green Deal, Display Energy Certificates and updates to Building Regulations, which has created a climate of uncertainty for consumers, energy companies, investors and the energy efficiency industry. Similarly, in the Higher Education sector, there was a drive to establish carbon policies six years ago, when HEFCE set a sector level target of a 43% emissions cut by 2020 (relative to a 2005 baseline). Unfortunately carbon now seems to have slipped down the agenda, and the sector is likely to achieve only a 12% cut by 2020. I hope this project’s findings will promote a more joined-up and effective approach to energy demand reduction in HE and the wider public sector.
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself
I defy anyone to beat me at Twister…
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