The Organisational Dynamics of Energy Demand Reduction: Working with Local Authorities - Geography - EPSRC DTP funded PhD Studentship Ref: 2957

About the award

This project is one of a number funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Doctoral Training Partnership to commence in September 2018. This project is in direct competition with others for funding; the projects which receive the best applicants will be awarded the funding.

The studentships will provide funding for a stipend which is currently £14,553 per annum for 2017-2018. It will provide research costs and UK/EU tuition fees at Research Council UK rates for 42 months (3.5 years) for full-time students, pro rata for part-time students.

Please note that of the total number of projects within the competition, up to 15 studentships will be filled.

Karen Bickerstaff
Dr Catherine Butler

Location Streatham Campus, Exeter 

Project description

Non-domestic buildings currently account for around 10% of UK carbon emissions (CCC, 2017) making workplaces a critical focus for energy efficiency and low carbon initiatives. Over the last three decades significant attention has been directed at understanding energy use and reducing demand in domestic settings.  However, workplace contexts have received far less empirical scrutiny – yet they are very different sites of energy consumption (Staddon et al, 2016). With regard to domestic and workplace settings, efforts to reduce demand have historically deployed strategies of behavioural change or energy efficiency  (e.g.  Gandhi and Brager, 2016; Hargreaves, 2008). However, there are important critiques of these twin approaches, centring on matters of agency and choice, materiality and the performance of technology as well as the rhythms of everyday life (Spaargaren 2011; Shove, 2010; Darby, 2010; Shipworth et al, 2010; Strengers et al, 2014).   Taking these issues seriously, and drawing on recent work that has stressed the cultural and organisational aspects of energy demand (see Royston 2017 on the higher education sector; Barnes et al 2017 on the local authority sector) this project seeks to i) explore how energy demand is organised and managed in the local authority sector and with what consequences for consumption, workplace environment and productivity, and ii) collaborate with LA partners and employees to develop, implement  and study novel  experiments with office demand reduction in up to three local authorities in the south of England.

The project will be based around in-depth case study research  (building on an existing research collaboration with Devon County Council).   The research will primarily utilise interview and survey methods, to understand how energy is managed within LA office contexts, what this means for workplace routines and satisfaction, and ultimately where opportunities for change may lie.  Interdisciplinary supervision will specifically enable exploration of novel ways of using technology (e.g. energy monitoring and feedback) to address questions of demand reduction in ways that are not explicitly oriented around behaviour change. The research will provide insights into the evolution of workplace energy demand and how large organisations – specifically local authorities – might reassess dominant models for promoting ‘internal’ demand reduction.

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.

Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are NOT eligible for funding. International students interested in studying at the University of Exeter should search our funding database for alternative options.


Application deadline:10th January 2018
Value:3.5 year studentship: UK/EU tuition fees and an annual maintenance allowance at current Research Council rate. Current rate of £14,553 per year.
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Doctoral

How to apply

You will be required to upload the following documents:
•       CV
•       Letter of application outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to
        undertake the project.
•       Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained.  This should be an interim
        transcript if you are still studying.
•       If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your current
        proficiency in English.  For further details of the University’s English language requirements please see

The closing date for applications is midnight (GMT) on Wednesday 10 January 2018.  Interviews will be held at the University of Exeter in late February 2018.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email:
Project-specific queries should be directed to the supervisor.

During the application process, the University may need to make certain disclosures of your personal data to third parties to be able to administer your application, carry out interviews and select candidates.  These are not limited to, but may include disclosures to:

• the selection panel and/or management board or equivalent of the relevant programme, which is likely to include staff from one or more other HEIs;
• administrative staff at one or more other HEIs participating in the relevant programme.

Such disclosures will always be kept to the minimum amount of personal data required for the specific purpose. Your sensitive personal data (relating to disability and race/ethnicity) will not be disclosed without your explicit consent.