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The University of Southampton

Research Group: Energy and Climate Change

Currently Active: 

The Energy and Climate Change Group is part of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Southampton. It comprises the Sustainable Energy Research Group (SERG) and the Coastal and Climate Research Group. Our work supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with fundamental and applied research across our six research themes: Renewable Energy, Energy Access, Cities & Infrastructure, Buildings & Communities, Behaviour & Modelling and Climate & Emissions.

Our research is mainly within the spheres of two University-wide centres: the Sustainable Energy Research Group and the Centre for Coastal Processes, Offshore and Coastal Hydrodynamics, and includes staff from the National Oceanography Centre Southampton. We use state-of-the-art research facilities and contribute to relevant education programmes.

Renewable Energy

Engineering solutions for reliable, affordable and sustainable energy stemming from renewable resources. The research includes:

  • Solar photovoltaics (PV): Solar photovoltaics (PV) convert sunlight to electricity and is now the most utilised renewable energy technology globally. PV research focuses on ways to optimise power output from solar systems in real world situations. It covers fundamental understanding of solar PV, focusing more on applications in buildings, cities, villages, refrigeration and energy access.  
  • Marine energy: Research focusses on wave and tidal energy, encompassing resource characterisation, device fundamentals & array planning. it also addresses device interactions & array siting for optimised energy yields.  on wave and tidal energy encompasses development of new knowledge which contributes to our understanding of the conversion of wave energy and the kinetic energy flows in the sea. This includes fundamental understanding of the resource, conversion device and energy yields from arrays.
  • Wind energy: Research in wind energy is undertaken at various scales – urban, onshore and offshore. The first addresses UK field trails with turbine capacities >5kW (micro wind turbines), the 2nd aims to identify factors that may influence the planning acceptance of onshore wind, whilst the latter maps offshore wind energy resources and energy yields in the Middle East region. 

Energy Access

Globally there are around 800 million people without access to electricity with around 600 million living in Sub Saharan Africa. The Energy for Development (e4D) programme was created in 2010 to address this challenge for initiating seminal studies in electricity access for hard-to-reach poor areas in Sub Shahan Africa and beyond. At its core is fundamental research coupled with implementation of exemplar rural electrification projects as learning entities to support energy (electricity) access. The aims of e4D are underpinned by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targeting the improvement of living standards of the poor in rural communities whilst providing pathways for growth and development. The e4D research and development programme is underpinned by field studies on the implemented six mini grids with the main focus in Kenya and Uganda. Both countries are planning to install over 400 mini grids to support county wide electricity access and the e4D programme is informing and influencing such roll out. The research includes:

  • Mini grids, operations and networks: Mini grids consist of a power plant linked to a local mainly isolated network to distribute power to consumers. Mini grids, driven by renewable energy systems (some with hybridisation) offer the best economic approach to deliver electricity access in rural areas since national grid expansion is very expensive to provide such a service. Our work in such rural, off-grid areas focuses on sustainable electrification and socio-economic studies where we have implemented six solar photovoltaic powered mini grids in Kenya, Uganda and Cameroon. Some of these mini grids are now being used to test their networks to enhance resilience. This is undertaken by studying network operational performances, as lone grids, connected together and connected to the national grid. In addition, research is also being undertaken on DC mini grids where the footprint consumption area is limited in size.
  • Solar home systems (SHS): SHS are small PV power units ranging from 10 – 200 Watt based on one or two solar modules, battery storage and balance of system. SHS are a widely used solution for off-grid electrification at the household level – for lighting and other appliances, depending on requirements. It is estimated that about 180million solar PV SHS units are currently in use in off-grid communities. Our e4D research focuses on ‘how SHS can be optimised coupled with efficient appliances’ geared to reduce cost making them more affordable to end users.
  • Productive use of electricity and efficient appliances: Both mini grids and SHS offer the possibility to unlock services (education, health, clean water) provisions, entrepreneurships, employment, and development. The e4D programme under both mini grids and SHS projects provides pathways to productive use of energy for small enterprises within village centres. Coupling productive use of electricity with appliances efficiency results in better utilisation of the available electrical power, providing savings for the users and their customers. In essence, e4D research, supports SDG7 as the key catalyser for other SDGs by continuously focusing on inclusive growth in the societies its projects serve, at the individual entrepreneur and larger productive users of electricity.
  • Capacity building: Developing capacity in electricity access is important to support national programmes in providing electricity to rural communities. The e4D programme led by the ECCD team have provided such capacity building in Africa, Asia and the Middle East covering the above research areas as well as energy efficiency in buildings. Both are geared to transition energy use to low carbon.

Cities & Infrastructure

Engineering solutions for sustainable, resilient and inclusive cities. The research includes: 

  • Energy studies in cities: Research encompasses engineering analysis, developing evidence and providing advice to  a number of city and district councils. The work includes citywide analysis of building stock performance, providing evidence on required investment for building refurbishment as well as potential solar PV power production from all buildings.
  • Demand modelling and infrastructure resilience: Demand for networked services such as energy and water vary with changes in household and dwelling characteristics and can be inferred using spatial data. ECCD has developed tools for estimating aggregate demand for services across heterogenous geographical areas or populations providing enhanced planning capabilities for resilient future infrastructure. 
  • Master planning and environmental impact: This research considers the opportunities for change that exist within urban, city-scale infrastructure. It is concerned with future  pathways to address negative conditions such as sound and air pollution, fragmentation, ghettoization and impoverished areas.

Buildings & Communities

Evaluating indoor and outdoor environments for healthier human settlements. The research includes:

  • Energy studies in buildings: Reducing energy demand in dwellings is an important component of meeting carbon reduction targets. The research shows that a human – centric approach, understanding the drivers of occupant behaviour is required to achieve energy savings without compromising people’s health and well-being. 
  • Liveable spaces and communities: Research develops evidence to inform regeneration strategies for city planners and local authorities to create liveable spaces within cities, ensuring areas meet the needs of inhabitants on a micro and macro scale. 
  • Thermal comfort and indoor environments: Heating, is the main component of energy demand in UK dwellings and is often associated with thermal comfort.  Our research investigates how domestic buildings and their occupants use energy and how they interact with building systems in order to adjust their comfort.

Behaviour & Modelling

Understanding individual and community perceptions and behaviours to advance adoption of sustainable energy and energy efficiency. The research includes:

  • Energy demand and behavioural change: Our research focuses on the monitoring of user’s energy related behaviour to establish patterns, motivations and constraints to inform energy efficiency strategies in all forms of housing and commercial buildings. 
  • Future provision of energy services: Research into how behaviour, attitudes and personality traits impact upon the provision, marketing and targeting of innovative energy products and services to residential customers. 
  • Sensing to support independent living: Research incorporating background environmental sensing has been conducted to help detect changes in health conditions. Findings have shown that continuous evaluation of the occupancy behaviour, or thermal conditions can provide insight to informal care networks and provide evidence for additional support. 

Climate & Emissions

Supporting cities to achieve net zero and research into coastal engineering and management. The research includes:

  • Regional and City Emission Studies: In 2008 the UK was the first major economy to pass a Climate Change Act committing the Government to 80% reduction in emissions from 1990 levels by 2050, which was augmented in 2019 to net zero emissions by the same date. ECCD are researching regional and city emission foot printing across the Solent to develop engineering solutions to city-level emissions considering the practicality and costs of various methods and approaches.
  • Coasts and Climate Change Studies: Our work investigates costal engineering, management and vulnerability developing solutions for the current state and future conditions determining regions that are vulnerable to change. Our research provides evidence to governments and non-government organisations to understand how to manage and implement sustainable interventions while managing the competing interests at the local and national scale. 

Contact us

The Energy and Climate Change Division is part of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences and is located in Building 178 on the Boldrewood Innovation Campus, University of Southampton.

Sustainable Energy Research Group / Coastal and Climate Change Research Group
Energy and Climate Change Division
Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences
University of Southampton
SO17 1BJ, UK

Telephone: +44 (0)23 8059 2051


Twitter: @EnergySoton



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