Join the EPG: PhD on Democratisation, Data and Algorithms

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on Nov 30, 17 • posted by

Join the EPG: PhD on Democratisation, Data and Algorithms

The EPG is looking for a PhD student to study:  Democratisation, Data and Algorithms – mutually exclusive, or helpful for GHG reduction?

GB has an energy policy goal of reducing greenhouse gases from 1990 levels by 80% by 2050.  This will require a complete change in the way GB uses energy, and people will have to become more connected to their energy use for multiple reasons, not least because they will have to be prepared pay for energy system transformation.

The energy system is already beginning to change as a result of policies to cut GHG, and the availability of cheaper, energy supply technologies (such as solar) and IT technologies. Energy system  momentum is to decarbonise, decentralise, digitalise and (less definitely) democratise.  Together, this ‘D4’ is moving the heart of the energy system from a top-down, linear framework to one which is bottom-up, non-linear and reliant on data to understand the value of different services at different places and times in the energy system. Access to, retention and reordering of data has therefore become a central enabler of energy system operation and trade.

Democratisation is where people are more involved in their energy use – this can be through (for example) owning their own generation or production (for example, a solar electric panel or a solar water heating panel) ; through signing up to a new tariff to allow a distribution network to alter the voltage marginally in their own homes; or buying local generation.

Simple algorithms have always been used in energy – in models and in trading for example. An algorithm at its simplest says:  if X happens, then do Y. However, with computers and more complex system operation, the algorithms within the energy system have became more complex. And as we move towards D4, these algorithms – which are unregulated – are becoming more prevalent. Data is created every time that algorithm is used. The creators of the algorithm and the company which uses it with a customer is able to hold that energy use information.

More data about energy system operation and demand is also becoming available with the roll-out of half hourly meters.

The question is, in the long term, is data, and its manipulation,  going to be helpful or a hindrance for the move to a sustainable energy system, or for democratisation of energy? What wider implications does this have?

The Energy Policy Group takes the view that energy system data should be transparently available for the public interest, as an enabler of innovation. The Energy Policy Group also views democratisation of energy as a defining characteristic of an energy system – although we are unsure quite what its importance is and are keen to explore this within the PhD.

We are looking for a PhD student who is capable of understanding the technical nature of algorithms (and models), and their use in trading, tariffs etc. This is a political science / sociology / policy PhD which is exploring the importance of democratisation of energy, and the degree to which data ownership and algorithms are undermining or helping that to occur. We need a PhD student who is capable of thinking about solutions and recommendations for regulation of data and algorithms. We do not want someone who views this as a mathematical or technical issue.

Entry Requirements
The majority of the studentships are available for applicants who are ordinarily resident in the UK and are classed as UK/EU for tuition fee purposes.  If you have not resided in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship, you are not eligible for a maintenance allowance so you would need an alternative source of funding for living costs. To be eligible for fees-only funding you must be ordinarily resident in a member state of the EU.  For information on EPSRC residency criteria click here.

The PhD will be supervised by Catherine Mitchell and Iain Soutar.

Applications by 10th January 2018.

For more details and to apply, see here.

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