Cities and urban energy use

Across the globe, cities are both the key sites of energy production and consumption whilst also representing the main sites of social, economic and technological change. A body of research expertise at the University of Manchester investigates the relationship between human beings, energy, infrastructures, buildings and technical devices within the context of cities.

This expertise is distributed across several schools and research centres such as the Centre for Urban Resilience and Energy (CURE), Manchester Architecture Research Centre, Manchester Business School,  Manchester Institute of Innovation and the Centre for Research on Innovation and Competition.

These scholars represent a broad range of disciplines such as architecture, engineering, urban planning,  science and technology studies, geography and environmental psychology. Despite this diversity, we share an understanding of the socio-technical nature of our cities and the challenges facing them. We agree that patterns of energy consumption are dependent upon the interplay between technologies and a range of factors such as their social status, aesthetics, usability,  implied user configuration, maintenance requirements and price.

This is an inherently “socio-technical” approach and researchers in Manchester are at the forefront of adapting and applying it to the issue of energy consumption in cities. The theoretical framework behind it is inspired, for example, by Actor-Network Theory (ANT), the social construction of technology (SCOT), green “nudges”, co-evolution of social and technical change, environmental psychology, affordances, dishabituation and experiential design, innovation studies or systems and transition management.

In terms of substantive issues, our expertise extends to areas such as sustainable urban development, ecological modernization, energy use and comfort in buildings, the facilitation of sustainable behaviours through certain material settings, low carbon design, public engagement with community energy projects, building regulations and their implementation, uptake of alternative energy strategies, integration of networked and autonomous energy technologies, upgrade of energy networks, fuel poverty or heat wave vulnerability.

I think a game changer would be a broad, society-wide appreciation of the benefits that using energy more wisely in the operation of our homes can yield for ourselves, and Earth’s numerous life support systems upon which we all depend.

Alastiar Moore, PhD
Informing fuel poverty policies

Researchers are investigating the drivers behind fuel poverty across Europe in order to inform national and international policy.

EVAULATE project highlight

Collective action tackles fuel poverty

A Manchester project is looking at how strategic approaches by social housing landlords could cut fuel bills and raise living standards

ChARisMA project highlight

▲ Up to the top