UKERC allocates £1.3m to research on incumbents and equity

07 Dec 2015

UKERC is pleased to announce funding for four new research projects from its flexible Research Fund.

The projects will focus on the role of incumbent energy systems, and on questions of equity and justice.

UKERC Director, Professor Jim Watson, said:

‘I am delighted that UKERC is announcing our first tranche of commissioned research projects today. They focus on crucial aspects of energy systems that are under-represented in current research. Whilst a lot of research focuses on the new technologies, practices and institutions that are needed for the transition to low carbon energy systems, there is much less attention to the potential impact of incumbents. In addition, there is a need for a greater understanding of the implications of this transition for equity and justice.’

The successful projects were selected following a competitive process that was overseen by UKERC’s independent Research Committee. The successful projects on incumbent energy systems and infrastructures will be led by Dr Bridget Woodman at the University of Exeter and Dr Gavin Killip at the University of Oxford. The successful projects on equity and justice will be led by Professor Catherine Waddams at UEA and Dr Carolyn Snell at the University of York.

Heat, Incumbency and Transformations (HIT), led by Dr Woodman, will investigate the social and political power of the incumbent heating industry, focusing on gas and heat infrastructure, appliance manufacturers, heat suppliers and major industrial heat users. The project will also explore the impact of these incumbents on UK heat policies and governmance, and the implications for a sustainable heat transformation.


Governance of Low-carbon Innovation for Domestic Energy Retrofits (GLIDER), led by Dr Killip, will explore the institutional context and patterns of decision-making among construction firms and organisations in the market for Repair, Maintenance and Improvement (RMI) of homes. The project will investigate their role as ‘middle actors’ in influencing technology adoption processes and decisions on projects as well as seeking to shape policy through lobbying.


Equity and Justice in Energy Markets, led by Professor Waddams, will investigate the interactions between retail energy markets and their distributional impacts, focusing on groups which are both particularly vulnerable and previously under researched. Particular emphasis will be placed on SMEs and households in social housing.


Policy Pathways to Justice in Energy Efficiency, led by Dr Snell, will explore some of the key gaps in knowledge regarding justice in energy efficiency policy in the UK. The focus will be on the effect of energy efficiency policies on disabled people and low income families with children. The project will investigate how energy efficiency policies actually affect these groups, and whether policy outcomes are consistent across the UK.

All the new projects are expected to formally commence in early 2016.

Further details of the UKERC Research Fund can be found here: