How can we reduce energy demand to reach net zero in a way that works for everyone?

Our Energy Futures
Energy meter in front of a pan on a burning hob
Lancaster University
Dec 2023 – March 2026

As a nation we need to use less energy, to meet our climate targets, increase energy security, and save households money. How can we do this in ways that work for everyone?

The UK government has committed to eliminating our contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Reductions in carbon emissions to date have largely been achieved through technological solutions. However to meet our climate targets, as a nation we must also reduce our overall energy demand. A transition to a low energy future has the potential to enhance people’s quality of life, save people money,  and generate a range of benefits, but it will mean changes to how people live their lives – how we work, shop, travel, eat, and heat our homes. 

The Energy Demand Research Centre is a partnership between 12 UK universities to investigate energy demand reduction solutions that lead to a more sustainable and equitable future. The centre will use modelling to develop and test different options for what a low energy future may look like,  and what changes would be required at a societal level to achieve that.

Involve has been commissioned to run a Citizens’ Panel to support the work of the Energy Demand Research Centre. The panel will bring together 40 members of the public who reflect the UK population to give their views on various low energy future options, including what this means for their everyday life and what wider societal conditions are needed to support a low energy future that works for everyone.

Crucially, this panel will seek to bridge the gap between deliberative public engagement and technical modelling. Technical models  are hugely influential in policy-making, but are rarely informed by robust social intelligence. The panel will use the Positive Low Energy Futures model as a springboard for discussion, which shows that through a combination of technological and social changes, the UK could reduce its energy demand by 50% by 2050. Participants will explore the assumptions and conditions underpinning this scenario, to help us understand the social mandate for making reductions in UK energy demand, and the conditions which would be required to deliver them. In turn, the outputs from the panel’s discussions will be used to inform iterations of the model, to produce a technical model that is strongly directed by a public deliberation.

The panel will meet in eight blocks over two years where they will explore a range of different themes such as travel, food, and home energy, creating an ongoing dialogue between panel participants and technical analysts. Each block includes both online and in person meetings and panel members will receive an honorarium to reimburse them for their time.

This panel will add unique insights to the topic of future energy use. By acknowledging and exploring the impacts of energy demand reduction on everyday life, and integrating public deliberation with technical modelling,  the Energy Demand ResearchCentre will be able to better advise governments and other decision makers on realistic ways to reach net zero and the conditions and support that are needed to achieve it.

Keep an eye on our newsletter and social media for more updates from the project. 

Photo by Appolinary Kalashnikova on Unsplash