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Stories of Change: The Past, Present and Future of Energy

The Stories of Change project aims to help to support lively public and political conversations about energy by looking in a fresh way at its past, present and future.

The project draws on history, literature, social and policy research and the arts to encourage a more imaginative approach to current and future energy choices. The project is shaped around the cross-party commitments to decarbonisation that sit at the heart of the UK Government’s Climate Change Act of 2008, and has been further energised by the UN Paris Agreement of 2015. Research has shown that many people feel disengaged, disempowered or actively hostile to the changes to the UK’s energy system required to meet the targets embedded in the Act. At the same time it shows wide acceptance that actions will be required to reduce demand and cope with future environmental hazards. However new developments and measures to manage or reduce demand can generate dispute. Our project seeks to make space to work through areas of concern and explore elements of a collective vision.

We are working with stories because they offer a popular and engaging route into thinking about the past and present and imagining possible futures, and also because stories, narratives and narration are concepts that everybody can gather around. History, digital storytelling, fictional narratives, and scenarios of the future all communicate different ideas about the consequences of change for everyday life, and explain different perspectives and attitudes towards change.

Stories of Change is supported by a grant from the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, as part of the Connected Communities theme.

Project Team includes: Joe Smith (PI Director Royal Geographical Society), Renata Tyszczuk, (Sheffield School of Architecture), Axel Goodbody (University of Bath) and Nicola Whyte (Exeter).

Select publications:
Whyte, N. and Goodbody, A. ‘Pandaemonium : Narratives of energy-system change in historical and literary perspective’, Resilience. A Journal of the Environmental Humanities 6:2-3 (2019), 26-52.

Smith, J, Butler, R, Day, R, Fyfe, H, Goodbody, A, Llewellyn, D, Rohse, M, Smith, B, Tyszczuk, R, Udall, J & Whyte, N, 'Gathering around stories: Interdisciplinary experiments in support of energy system transitions', Energy Research and Social Science, 31, (2017), 284-294.

Further information: