Deadline: 2016-02-04
Value of Scholarship: Exeter
Level Of Study: PhD

ESRC SWDTC Studentship: Living with heat networks: implications for low carbon energy policy

The University of Exeter is pleased to be offering a total of up to 22 ESRC funded 1+3 or +3 studentships, including any collaborative projects, as part of the South West Doctoral Training Centre (SWDTC) for entry in 2016-17. Within the DTC, the College of Life and Environmental Sciences is currently inviting applications for the project entitled: Living with heat networks: implications for low carbon energy policy. This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding. Studentships will be awarded on the basis of merit and strategic fit with the aims of the DTC.

For eligible UK/EU students the full time studentship will cover fees and an annual Research Council stipend of at least £14,057 (2015-16 rate) for up to three years (+3 award) or four years (1+3 award).

For the 1+3 studentships we would require you to register initially on the MRes Critical Human Geographies (Streatham campus). For the +3 studentships we would require you to register on the MPhil/PhD Human Geography (Streatham campus).


Karen Bickerstaff Human Geography (University of Exeter)

Patrick Devine-Wright Human Geography (University of Exeter)

Project Description:

Research concerned with decarbonising the UK energy system has traditionally been focused on the innovation and diffusing of low carbon and energy efficient technologies, with more limited attention given to how people actually live with, adapt to or re-purpose new systems and devices (e.g. Bickerstaff, Devine-Wright and Butler, 2015; Walker et al, 2015).  As such, social science engagement with energy, and specifically heat, transitions, has failed to adequately account for the relations between built form, low carbon technologies and everyday practices of home-living.

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The production and supply of heat is a key element in the UK transition to a low carbon energy system. This project takes as its focus off-grid heat networks (or district heating) – as a critical technology in Government low carbon energy policy (Rudd, 2015).  The research will explore how far living with district heating creates ‘new normals’ (Walker et al, 2015) – around built form, ways of living and practices associated with heat and comfort as well as shared governance responsibilities. In this way, the project seeks to better understand how an analytical focus on everyday living practices can offer insights into the challenges but also possibilities of delivering carbon governance objectives through the roll-out of district heating.

The case study will be Exeter’s Cranbrook residential development.  Cranbrook is widely recognised as a national exemplar of innovation with district heating – both in the scale of the development and the novel public-private sector partnership arrangements. East Devon District Council, Devon County Council, the South West of England Regional Development Agency, and the Homes and Communities Agency worked with a major utility (E.ON) to facilitate the establishment of a CHP district heating system for Cranbrook.  The district heating scheme has been operational since October 2012 and there are 1100 homes currently linked to the network. The plans for Cranbrook are to develop up to 8,000 dwellings over a 15 year period. 

For further information about this project and eligibility please visit:

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