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Durham University

Durham Energy Institute

DEI Perspectives

A series of short articles presenting perspectives on new and emerging energy issues from our energy researchers at Durham University and our associates in academia, industry and policy sectors.

Snowed under: the links between fuel poverty, cold homes, and Covid-19

This special issue marks Fuel Poverty Awareness Day (27 November 2020). We hear from National Energy Action – the national fuel poverty charity, working to ensure that everyone in England, Wales and Northern Ireland can live in a warm and safe home. Matthew Scott highlights that this winter, the devastating combination of impacts from the COVID pandemic, rising energy costs, low incomes, and energy inefficient housing is likely to lead to even more households not being able to afford to heat their homes, feed their families, and pay their rent.

Next Generation Novel Solar Cells

In this article we hear about exciting research at Durham University to identify and develop a new material for solar cells which:

  • uses earth-abundant elements,
  • is sustainably produced, and
  • uses a novel mechanism to provide electricity.

Oliver Rigby Department of Physics, Durham University, is undertaking the research for his PhD in the ReNU Centre for Doctoral Training and is supervised by DEI Fellow Dr Budhika Mendis and Dr Michael Hunt.

New DEI Research Briefing:

Temporary Workers in Energy Construction Projects: Exploring Causes and Effects

By Ivana Kostic, Riccardo Mogre, and Kamran Sarmadi

Temporary workers provide a substantial contribution to construction projects in the energy sector. This briefing explores why they are so prevalent and what are the implications of employing temporary workforce for energy projects.

Climate Strategy as we emerge from the pandemic:

A collection of views from across County Durham on what we need to do to make sure we have a green recovery from the Covid pandemic.

In his DEI Perspectives article on Looking to a post-COVID sustainable futureCouncillor John D Clare, Durham County Council Climate Change Champion, discussed the environmental benefits and dangers of the current Covid crisis in his article.

He asked what the Climate Strategy should be in County Durham in the coming months and asked for people to submit their ideas on the following: How do we retain the lessons of lockdown? What do we need to do to make sure the recovery is green? What would a climate-aware recovery leap-forward look like? What might we wish Durham County Council and the DEI (realistically) to be doing?

This document compiles the different contributions and ideas received and provides a summary of some of the key themes.

Tackling Climate Change in the post Covid World - Helen Goodman

In this DEI Perpsectives article, Helen Goodman, former MP for Bishop Auckland, gives her thoughts on the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, both negative and positive, and argues that a focus on decarbonisation and opportunities such as geothermal energy should be prioritised moving forward.

Issue 9

Looking to a post-COVID sustainable future

In this issue of Councillor John D Clare, Durham County Council Climate Change Champion, discusses the environmental benefits and dangers of the current Covid crisis. He asks what we need to do to build a green recovery, how to ensure advances in climate change action are not eroded going forward and what lessons history gives us for moving forward to a post-Covid green recovery?

The article also asked for people to get in contact with their ideas of what can be achieved or trialled now and in the post-COVID future to ensure we succeed in building a sustainable and net-zero future.

Responses to Cllr John Clare's DEI Perspectives article are compiled and summarised in the publicationClimate Strategy as we emerge from the pandemic.

A seven point plan for a socially inclusive Distribution System Operator (DSO) transition

Northern Powergrid lay-out their vision for achieving a fair and accessible energy system through a socially inclusive transition to Distribution System Operator.

The decarbonisation of the energy system offers the prospect of a better future with cleaner air, well-insulated homes, sustainable and affordable mobility solutions, and reduced energy bills. The challenge facing all market players is to manage the transition in a way that is accessible to all.

In this piece Patrick Erwin, Policy and Markets Director, and Anne-Claire Leydier, DSO Transition Manager at Northern Powergrid, share a seven point plan to underpin a socially inclusive transition to DSO.

Passing the sustainability torch via higher education - Durham Energy Institute meets the challenge.

Dr Douglas Halliday, co-director of Durham Energy Institute and chair of the European University Association Energy and Environment Platform, explores the important role of the University sector for solving the global challenges of climate change and sustainability and asks how universities should shape their training and offer to respond to the challenges we face.

North East Energy Catalyst

In this issue we hear from David Lynch, a former postgraduate student at Durham University, who recently took on the new role of Innovation Partnership Manager for the North East Local Enterprise Partnership. David reflects on his first months in the role, finding out about the amazing energy assets, innovations and opportunities across the North East region. Find out how the North East Energy Catalyst and Energy Innovation Challenge Programme, will support the region to bring forward solutions to global energy challenges.

UK Electricity - significant shifts and future imperatives: A Personal View from 30 years in the Electricity Sector

Barbara Vest, special Advisory to EnergyUK and member of DEI Advisory Board looks at the changes in the UK Electricity sector over the past 30 years and asks what needs to be done to move towards a zero carbon future.

Barbara Vest was awarded an OBE in the 2020 New Year’s Honours List for services to the energy industry after nearly 30 years in the power sector. In January 2020 Durham University also awarded Barbara an Honorary Doctor of Science degree for her support to Durham Energy Institute and our students.

Energy Anthropology - a thriving discipline with many insights for the energy sector

by Prof Simone Abram, DEI co-Director, Department of Anthropology, Durham University

Energy Anthropology has a long and creditable history. Relatively unheard of twenty years ago, there is now an impressive range of literature on everything from the lives of Venezuelan oil workers’ to where Norwegians hide their smart meters. This DEI Perspectives gives an overview of the insights provided by this growing area of research.

Thin-film solar cells: a quiet technological revolution

by Dr Budhika Mendis, Department of Physics, Durham University

Solar energy is on the brink of a step-change and thin-film materials are enabling the transformation. This briefing explains why research into ‘thin-film’ solar cells is so important.

Exploring links between Waste, Energy and Soil

by Dr Lynsay Blake and Professor Karen Johnson (Durham University) and Dr Neil Gray (Newcastle University)

Government strategies have started to link agendas of sustainable energy, waste management and soil health, however disconnects and inconsistencies continue which need to be addressed.


In collaboration with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Energy Studies (PGES).

Views from Alan Whitehead MP (Labour), Alan Brown MP (SNP), The Rt Hon Sir Edward Davey MP (LibDem), Ian Liddell-Grainger MP, (Conservatives) and Prof Jon Gluyas (DEI).