Low carbon and resilient communities
Research under the 'Low carbon and resilient communities' theme examines the role of communities in sustainable energy futures. DEI supports community energy initiatives across the world, from local projects based here in Durham to projects as far afield as Uganda with student involvement a key part of our initiatives.
Gilesgate Energy Initiative
The Gilesgate Project builds on long-standing community involvement in this part of Durham, particularly amongst community and social work staff in the School of Applied Social Sciences. The focus is on responding to community identified needs. These responses remain and include those of bringing residents, particularly young people, into the academy and providing important activities that encourage residents to follow their dreams in creating a better life for themselves, whatever the field they choose - sports, drama, music or science. However, a recent initiative has moved this Project in new and exciting directions, namely using scientific knowledge about energy and climate change to deal with pressing community problems like unemployment, fuel inequalities and marginalisation.
As a result of various discussions, residents on the Sherburn Road Estate have become involved in what has become known as the Gilesgate Energy Initiative. This has included several exhibitions where they could examine the relevance of renewable energy sources in reducing fuel poverty and providing job opportunities on the Estate. The free distribution of low-energy light bulbs, provision of energy audits for private homes, the creation of employment opportunities through the production of inflector blinds are amongst the activities being generated by this initiative. Its ultimate aim is to create investment in renewable energy sources that will, over time, enable the community to become self-sustaining in energy and thus enable a local action to contribute to solving a global social problem - the reduction of human reliance on fossil fuels and the contribution these make to climate change.
The Gilesgate Project involves a range of stakeholders in meeting these objectives. Alongside the local residents and community workers, these include representatives from private industry with GoSustainable taking a key role, housing associations owning properties in the local area, especially Three Rivers Housing Association, social and physical scientists from SASS, IHRR, and the Durham Energy Institute. The Project has been warmly welcomed by the Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, Professor Chris Higgins, the local MP, Roberta Blackman-Woods and employees of the Durham County Council.
- Professor Lena Dominelli (School of Applied Social Sciences)
Assessing the potential for socially just low carbon communities
Across a range of government, private, and civil society actors the imperative of developing 'low carbon communities' has gained increasing momentum within the UK. More or less implicitly, emphasis on community responses to climate change has been couched in a discourse of contributing to a just low carbon transition. However, the extent to which such community based approaches to addressing climate change can live up to these expectations of delivering a more just transition have yet to be fully explored.
This project, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation under their 'Climate Change and Social Justice' programme, has two aims. First, to review and analyse the social justice implications of the development of 'low carbon communities' in achieving a low carbon transition. Second, to develop a typology of 'just' low carbon community models in order to inform policy makers and practitioners about the key factors that might contribute to a socially just low carbon economy and society.
Beacon for Public Engagement- Energy and Environment theme
The Beacon for Public Engagement initiative is a UK-wide scheme to pilot public participation in university research. Beacon North East is one of six UK Beacons for Public Engagement - a four year pilot programme which runs from January 2008 to December 2011. Beacon North East is a partnership between Newcastle and Durham universities together with the Centre for Life. The Beacon aims to improve the quality of research by bringing together academic experts with 'experts by experience' from outside the academic world; work with local communities on research which solves real problems and makes a difference to people in the North East and beyond and support and promote public engagement at Durham and Newcastle universities.
The Energy and Environment theme of the Beacon encourages debate on energy production and use, environmental quality and social well-being. These areas are critical to delivering innovative research that is socially relevant and promotes fairer energy policy and decision-making.
- Dr Tom Henfrey (Department of Anthropology)
InCluESEV Work Package 4: Scenarios of future energy vulnerability and resilience under climate change
To date, our understanding of energy vulnerability has assumed that the environmental context within which we use energy - and in particular the climate system - is a given. However, predictions of climate change over the next 20- 50 years suggest that the environmental factors that shape our energy use decisions (in particular concerning demands for warmth and cooling) may change considerably. These changes are likely to be experienced differently by different vulnerable groups, given that they will be mediated by a range of social, cultural, economic and political factors. At the same time, the potential for new forms of built environment and new systems of energy provision at the local scale, will also impact on the nature of future energy demands and practices.
As part of the ESRC-EPSRC Interdisciplinary Cluster on Energy Systems, Equity and Vulnerability (InCluESEV), the purpose of this work package is to generate insights into how these different factors will shape future patterns and experiences of energy vulnerability and resilience in the home. Drawing on the initial findings from other work packages in InCluESEV as well as ongoing and new research on the likely impacts of climate change on the domestic sector in the UK, it will seek to develop a scenario based approach to examining the implications of climate change for the nature, distribution and intensity of energy vulnerabilities and the ways in which these might evolve under different future environmental, social and economic conditions (e.g. increased demand for summer cooling).
EWB Durham Kirima project
Durham University Engineers Without Borders (EWB) are joining up with CHIFCOD, a small NGO based in the rural community of Kirima in south-western Uganda, to provide electricity for a newly built high school. A selection of small projects has been conducted in this area over the last few years in an attempt to bring development to the region. The programme started in 1994 when a group of parents in North London set up the Kirima Parents Primary School for children in the village of Kirima. The project has expanded to three more primary schools, a high school and a college which is hoping to become a University. So far it has been an enormous success and has helped transform the lives of people in the area.
Our group in Durham wants to build a hydro generator for the high school. This will power the school in a sustainable way, and hopefully produce a surplus of energy that can be sold on to the local community. We propose to do this by sending a small group of students out to the area in June 2010 to survey the site and speak to local engineers who will be involved in the design and maintenance of the project. The team will return the following year to build the system, with designs researched as part of their degree programs. The cost of the project has been estimated at £25 000, including the student travel expenses, which needs to be raised over the next two years. You can follow the group's blog at http://durhamkanungu.blogspot.com/.
For more information on the four primary schools, high school, college, health project, gap year project, microloan finance and youth enterprise scheme being run in the area, see www.volunteeruganda.org