Energy and People: Futures, complexity and challenges - public registration

Energy and People: Futures, complexity and challenges - public registration

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford

Energy and people:  futures, complexity and challenges

The Lower Carbon Futures research team at the Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University and the UK Energy Research Centre’s Meeting Place will host an international, interdisciplinary conference focusing on the relationship between society and energy use, particularly in the context of the major transition to a low carbon energy system.
Energy enables a wide range of services that allow people and societies to develop and live well, including comfort, convenience, accessibility, communication, health, production and trade. Energy is embedded in all the goods we consume, from the very basic, such as food and water, through to the ever-expanding range of consumer luxuries. 

Energy is produced and consumed in multiple contexts: technological, environmental, political, societal and economic. Energy policies – driven largely by considerations of security, economic growth and, more recently, climate change – emphasise the role of new and improved technologies for energy supply and higher levels of end-use efficiency. But as energy is part of, and embedded in, nearly all human activities, energy practices are emerging and re-emerging not only as a result of top down policy, but also as an outcome of technological change, new infrastructures and social change and end-user practices.

Energy practices in the future will inevitably be different from the ones we are familiar with today.  The implications of decarbonising the energy system and responding to the depletion of low cost hydrocarbon reserves are generally centre stage in energy studies.  But these will run alongside other major changes, for example demographic (ageing population, urbanization and immigration); environmental (biodiversity loss, water shortages and waste management); political  and economic (shift of power from west to east and its implications for trade and consumption); and other socio-technological changes (information, communication and transport).  These changes are still to be explored fully in terms of their energy implications.

Much of the analysis about the pathway to a low carbon and secure energy system, that is consistent with expectations about development and economic growth, neglects these complexities.  A role for ‘behaviour change’ is sometimes, but not always, recognised.  However, the centrality of technical and economic thinking to the analysis generally means that the role of  social change, beyond the individual actor, is neglected.  More fundamental market changes, different institutions and forms of governance may all be important components of long term change.

This international conference focuses on the future and seeks to open up this wider agenda. It aims to provide opportunities for dialogue across disciplines and to explore and better understand some of the likely interactions, complexities and problems which have implications for energy practices. It calls for radical and challenging thinking. We have encouraged papers which explore future trends in energy practices, emphasise the human dimension and which

  1. Challenge the conventional wisdom and suggest alternative ways to approach complexity (e.g. non-market mechanisms; social and governance changes). 
  2. Identify novel methods and approaches for studying pathways to low carbon futures (e.g. research methods such as social modelling, agent-based modelling, and social back casting).

In all cases we are seeking contributions from different disciplines and perspectives: for example, politics, sociology, development studies, international relations, psychology, geography, future studies, technology studies, energy studies, economics and history.

The Conference will be held 20-21 September, 2011 at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University.

Registration for the conference closes on Wednesday 31 August 2011.

Conference Steering Committee

John Barrett, Chair in Sustainability Research, Leeds University
Sylvie Douzou, Programme Leader, EDF, Division of Research and Development, Paris
Nick Eyre, Senior Research Fellow, Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University
Phil Mann, Doctoral Student, Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University
Yael Parag, Senior Researcher, Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University
Gordon Walker, Chair in Environment, Risk and Society, Lancaster University
Harold Wilhite, Research Director, Centre for Development and the Environment, 
University of Oslo
Jennifer Otoadese, Manager, UKERC Meeting Place, Oxford University



Contact Details

Payment Instructions

  • The conference registration fee is £150 and this includes attendance to all the parallel and plenary sessions, lunch over two days, drinks reception and dinner on day 1.
    To pay the conference fee please use the link below (please open using Internet Explorer): 

    Accommodation is not included in the conference fee and can be booked separately using the link below:
    Please enter the promotional code ENERGY at the time of booking.
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