Recruitment: PhD on the energy-economy relationship

11 Mar 2015

Supervisors: Dr Timothy Foxon and Professor John Barrett

Application deadline: 30 April 2015

Fully-funded PhD as part of the UK Energy Research Centre. UK and EU candidates only are eligible to apply. The scholarship will pay tuition fees (£4,100 for 2015/16) and stipend (£14,057 for 2015/16) for up to 3 years, as well as research costs.  You will be expected to submit a full research proposal with your on-line study application.  The expected PhD start date would be 1 October 2015.

You will join the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC), a £17m investment by the Research Councils UK Energy Programme in interdisciplinary energy research spanning 15 universities. UKERC is the UK’s flagship centre undertaking whole systems energy research, with a strong history of policy impact with the UK Government. It also acts as the gateway between the UK and the international energy research communities. 

The University of Leeds forms one of the core partners for the third five year phase of the Centre and heads one of the four themes. The theme is entitled “Energy, Economy and Society” and is led by Professor John Barrett. It focuses on interactions between the UK energy system and the UK economy and examines the potential implications for policies, markets and prices, and affordability. The theme addresses fundamental questions relevant to energy policy in the UK, such as our ability to achieve a low carbon society in a growing economy where past trends show no absolute decoupling between energy demand and growth. To make informed decisions on energy and climate policy, a detailed understanding of the relationship between energy, the economy, business and innovation, and society as a whole is required. Without this understanding, policy could be developed in a vacuum with a poor appreciation of the underlying drivers of energy demand, the relationship between innovation and finance and the distributional effects of energy policy on society. 

This PhD will contribute to the work on ‘Understanding the energy-economy relationship’ under ‘Theme 4: Energy, the Economy and Society’ of the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) Phase 3. It will explore in depth the relationships between economic growth, energy demand and carbon emissions, which will be crucial for understanding the feasibility and acceptability of a transition to a low-carbon economy. Neo-classical economics neglects the role of energy as a factor of production in macroeconomic analyses and so provides little insight in to these relationships. Work in ecological economics has argued that increases in energy inputs to the economy, and improvements in the efficiency of conversion of these to useful work outputs, have been key drivers of economics growth in industrialised countries (Ayres and Warr, 2009, The Economic Growth Engine: How Energy and Work Drive Material Prosperity, Edward Elgar). Recent work at Leeds has examined trends in these conversion efficiencies, and argued that, in some cases, structural shifts to lower efficiency forms of energy consumption, such as air-conditioning, may outweigh device-level efficiency gains (Brockway et al., 2014, Environmental Science and Technology 48, 9874−9881). 

This PhD will further examine these issues. This could involve empirical analysis of trends in energy end-use demands and efficiency improvements, scenario analysis of future pathways of energy demands and economic growth under different macroeconomic conditions and framings, or economic modelling of the feedbacks (rebound effects) between changes in energy demand and efficiencies and economic growth. This analysis will contribute to understanding of the implications for economic growth of future low carbon energy transition pathways.

You should apply via the University of Leeds.