Valuing the wellbeing benefits of reducing energy demand

Blog 9 January, 2024

Reducing the amount of energy we use will be key to cutting emissions and reaching net zero, but energy demand reduction measures also have a range of co-benefits which can help to improve citizens’ wellbeing, such as improved health outcomes and local job creation. Forthcoming research under the Energy Demand Research Centre (EDRC) Governance theme will examine how to assess these co-benefits to inform local and national policy-making, building on work done by EDRC Co-investigators Prof Tim Foxon, Dr Donal Brown, Dr Marie Claire Brisbois and colleagues under the previous Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS). This work explored how actions at a local and regional level can deliver energy demand reduction measures which contribute to the UK’s net zero climate goals, whilst providing economic, social and environmental benefits to improve local people’s wellbeing.

A report resulting from this work, co-authored with the New Economics Foundation (NEF), on Local Green New Deals: A transformative plan for achieving the UK’s climate, social and economic goals locally, was launched at two high profile events towards the end of 2023. The report explores the potential scale of energy demand reduction measures needed to realise transformative changes in relation to four key objectives: 1) Cheaper, warmer, zero carbon homes; 2) Affordable, sustainable public transport; 3) Car-free city centres and active travel; and 4) Expanding green spaces and nature restoration, and makes proposals for policy measures across three domains: new institutions for delivery; new powers; and new funding. Drawing on case studies and in-depth engagement with citizens in two contrasting UK regions, Greater Brighton and North of Tyne, the report provides evidence of high levels of public support for these policies, whilst recognising that how they are implemented matters, including issues of fairness and equity.

 

Credit: University of Sussex: Stuart Robinson

To launch the report, the team of researchers from CREDS and NEF were first joined in Brighton by Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion and Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Green New Deal, and a range of stakeholders from across the city at a Climate:Change think tank open meeting on 30 November 2023. The discussion explored what a Green New Deal might look like in the city of Brighton and Hove, one of the project’s case study cities. A full write-up and photos from the event are available here.

Following this, on Monday 11 December, over 200 academic, NGO, policy and local government representatives attended a webinar to discuss the report’s findings. The report co-authors presented evidence on citizens’ support for local measures that would help to reduce energy demand, and recommendations for policy ideas to implement these measures, followed by responses and a panel discussion with Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Mayor, Sian Berry, Green MP Candidate for Brighton Pavilion, and Ross Lowrie, Principal Manager for Net Zero at the North of Tyne Combined Authority. A detailed write-up of the launch webinar and summary of the report’s key findings is available here.

In her introduction to the webinar and foreword to the report, Caroline Lucas said, ‘if we design it right, climate action is win-win. Local Green New Deals will create jobs, deliver warmer homes and lower energy bills, and make our neighbourhoods more pleasant places to be.’

Within EDRC, we look forward to working with a range of local and national stakeholders to see how these benefits of policy measures to reduce energy demand and help deliver the net zero transition can be realised in practice.

Please get in touch with EDRC Co-investigator, Prof Tim Foxon, if you would like more information at T.J.Foxon@sussex.ac.uk