5.2 Dynamics of demand

Rationale: This project integrates results and evidence (especially from Themes 2 and 3) of how energy demand is changed and of how technological innovations (smart grids, electric vehicles, better management and control systems, new methods of organising delivery and logistics) shape and are shaped by innovations in end use practice. Radical reductions in carbon emission will depend on the adaptation, not the total overhauling, of existing systems of provision. We need to know how far such adaptation can go, both socially and in terms of the scope for reconfiguring contemporary systems of energy and mobility provision at different scales. Specific tasks within this project include revealing and comparing visions of future end use practices that are embedded in the diverse strategies and modes of demand management being promoted in plans for decarbonising the energy system. This will allow us evaluate the ‘societal robustness’ of such scenarios and plans, developing new methods for assessing the relative fixity, flexibility, path dependence, fragility and resilience of existing infrastructures and institutions and of the practices that depend on them.

As part of this work (inspired by recent analysis by the IEA) we will examine the capacity to respond to crises in which demand outstrips supply. Here we will consider historical and contemporary evidence of how end use practices change when communities face prolonged shortfalls in supply and explore the relevance of such experience for the design of appropriately radical carbon reduction strategies. We will work with EDF R&D and TfL to apply the results of our research to real-time initiatives in demand management.