01. The dilemma for achieving sustainable net zero at the energy-environment nexus

Dr Abhishek Tiwary, De Montfort University

Net-zero policies and control measures enacted to mitigate climate change present both opportunities and threats to the wider environmental sustainability. Using an integrated assessment framework, the combined contributions of mobility and energy sector technologies are evaluated, incorporating some emerging trends in order to ascertain their true sustainability potential. An example assessment, evaluating the pros and cons of co-management (i.e. concerted actions towards climate change and air quality management) through local sustainability initiatives, finds that interventions to reduce carbon emissions from mobility and energy sector can inadvertently impact on the local and regional environment, specifically on air quality, if not thought through. Potential implementation of this framework in evaluating systems-scale interactions of net zero interventions at urban scale (e.g. green mobility, renewable energy and green infrastructure) is discussed. This calls for a step-change through more cohesive, cross-disciplinary policy frameworks at the energy-environment nexus, going beyond the local administrative spheres to maximise the ‘win-win’ potentials for achieving sustainable net zero.

02. Towards net zero: extracting energy from flooded coal mines for heating and cooling applications

Prof Amin Al-Habaibeh, Nottingham Trent University

Coal mining in the UK, as in many countries around the world, was one of the main drives for the industrial revolution and for running the steam engine; and then became the main source of energy for electricity generation to many decades. But many coal mines have since been closed in the UK and Europe. But closed coal mines could still contribute to the economy, and most importantly to Net Zero strategies.  When coal mines are closed, they normally start producing methane, named normally as Coal Mine Methane (CMM), which can be utilized to generate energy for heating or running gas engines. Also with some quality enhancement, be fed into the gas grid.  In most cases in the UK, however, Coal mines overtime will begin to fill with water and the methane will almost entirely disappear. But this water can still be used for sustainable heating and cooling applications.  The presentation will highlight the technology involved and present case studies from the UK and internationally.

03. Research in technologies for sustainability and circular economy

Prof Daizhong Su, Nottingham Trent University

The advanced design and Manufacturing Engineering Centre (ADMEC) has successfully conducted/been conducting number of research projects in sustainability and circular economy supported by various funding sources including EU programmes (H2020, FP7, CIP Eco-innovation, Asia link and Asia ICT, etc), research councils, regional development programmes, industries, and other external funding bodies. After a brief introduction of selected projects with research methods and techniques developed/applied, the major outcome of recent EU H2020 CIRC4Life project www.circ4life.eu will be presented, including three circular economy business models (co-creation of products and services, sustainable consumption and collaborative recycling and reuse), and eco-accounting approach where the eco-costs are used to reflect the products’ impact on the environment and eco-credits are used to reward the consumers for recycling end-of-life products. 

04. The long and winding road of applied sustainable business research: from ‘a blueprint for survival’ to the UK net zero strategy

 Dr Fred Paterson, University of Derby

In this presentation, I will present a very personal learning journey and some of the pitfalls and lessons learned along the way. My interest in sustainability began in the 1970s, when my A level Geography teacher introduced the outrageous idea that human activity was causing existential damage to our planet’s eco-systems. Since then, I have studied and researched in Faculties of Engineering, Education and Business that have all informed my world view.  This long and winding career path has fundamentally informed my approach to applied research into sustainability leadership and enterprise support and supported my work designing and delivering business programmes that support businesses to make the transition to a net zero future. In my talk I will reveal some of the twists and turns of my research career and argue for the importance of a values driven, applied and transdisciplinary approach to Net Zero research. I will also explore some of the lessons learned from inspirational researchers, provocateurs and thought leaders; and how my own research and practice have reflected (or failed to reflect) these shining examples.

05. Compressed air energy storage – a potential technology for long term storage

Prof Jihong Wang, University of Warwick

Energy Storage is a key enabling technology for decarbonising future energy systems and serves as a catalyst to accelerate the realisation of Net Zero goal 2050. Energy storage provides the essential dispatchable energy to maintain the power grid operation stability and reliability. Studies indicate minimum 100-200GWh of storage capacity must be in place for decarbonising the UK power supply, in which grid-scale electrical energy storage with 10-100h duration is crucial to ensure the power supply at all weather conditions. Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) uses compressors to produce pressurised air while excessive power is available; the pressurised air is then stored in air reservoirs and will be released via a turbine to generate electricity when needed. Compared with other energy storage technologies, CAES has some highly attractive features including large scale, long duration, and low cost. The talk will present the recent progress in compressed air energy storage technology.

06. The role of carbon negative technologies for achieving net zero

Dr Jon McKechnie, University of Nottingham

07. A net-positive approach towards future industrial sustainability

Prof Shahin Rahimifard, Loughborough University

In today’s consumer driven society, manufacturers can exert unparalleled environmental, economic and societal influence, either for good or bad. The recent uncontrolled industrial growth within both developed and developing countries has resulted in significant damage to the environment in an attempt to sustain economic growth at any cost. In response, global sustainability initiatives, due to inherent and inevitable economic barriers, have often adopted a ‘Less Bad’ approach, which is based on meeting the demands of regional and national legislation and incremental efficiency measures. The benefits of such initiatives are now perceived as too small and too slow to tackle the needs of tomorrow. In this context, when ‘Less Bad is Not Good Enough!’, what should our aspirations and goals be beyond the scope of current sustainability strategies, methods, tools and technologies? At the heart of a paradigm shift through ‘Net Positive Manufacturing’ is the ability of manufacturing businesses to adopt a restoring, self-healing, and regenerative approach and simply to put back more into society and the environment than what they take out. This radically novel vision for future industrial development presents a number of methodical, organisational, technological, as well as social and ethical research challenges which are explored in my presentation.

08. Integration of environmental and energy policies towards net zero

Dr Rosa Fernandez, University of Warwick

One of the main reasons for the implementation of a European Emissions Trading System was the rejection that the alternative, a carbon tax, sparked amongst sectors affected (polluters) and policymakers alike. Carbon trading has proved insufficient to reduce greenhouse gases at the necessary pace, and other instruments, including carbon taxes, are now common ground across many parts of the world. In the fight against climate change and the road to net zero, all sectors of society need to be involved and committed, however across time it has become apparent that the current governance system requires change. More progress has been achieved in those countries where environmental and energy policies have been integrated in a way in which their aims are not contradictory. It has also become apparent that traditional energy companies have exerted their lobby power to limit the extent in which governments enact stringent regulations forcing them to take an action to reduce their GHG emissions. A more sustainable future where net zero is possible, requires a more balanced governance system, where bottom-up initiatives and the voices of citizens enjoy a levelled playing field, and where policy integration towards low carbon economies becomes the rule and not the exception.

09. Decarbonising cities

Prof Lucelia Rodrigues, University of Nottingham

As humans need oxygen, cities need carbon to stay alive. Therefore, decarbonising cities is a seriously wicked problem. Our research response to this challenge can be organised under three headings: rationalisation, electrification and smartification. We work on reducing carbon emissions from the built environment by increasing the energy efficiency of our buildings. We embed future climate scenarios in today’s designs, future proving our cities. We address the much needed electrification of heating, ensuring this can be met by a decarbonised grid. We develop solutions that work across the transport, energy and built environment nexus. We collect, analyse and illustrate data that can inform the optimisation of these systems, as well as business cases that would make economic sense. And throughout we remain focused on the user experience as people are the heart of a decarbonised city.

10. My research journey into different topics and yet one theme

Dr Amal Abuzeinab, De Montfort University

Research journeys can be characterised by 3Cs: curiosity, creativity and collaboration.  In this presentation, I will reflect on my own personal journey so far and how the 3Cs have impacted my topic selection starting from my PhD completion in 2015. I will share: what worked well for me and what are the skills that I developed during this journey. I will also share: how I evolved from 1 focus to limited varieties at my work patterns to enhance my performance.  I will conclude my presentation by sharing some work-in-progress and future development goals.

11. “I bomme, as a bombyll bee dothe”: an (un)random research journey

Dr Garrath Wilson, Loughborough University

Net Zero sits uncomfortably within my lexicon. As a descriptor it proposes a harmonious state for people and planet that belies the complexity, urgency, and scale of the transition required. To me, it’s a statement of the destination without acknowledging the necessary and transformative pilgrimage required by both citizen and society. But it is exactly within this journey of challenge and change – moving from the extractive and exploitive towards positive ecological and social value – that design practice and knowledge becomes necessary.

Historically, sustainable design is concerned with planetary resource remediation, but more recent movements – such as designing for sustainment – also recognise and seek to propagate the radical social change required to drive action. Designers in this sense are still frame creators and generative providers, but the skills required to deal with the complex and dynamic issues faced are now engaged with a broader creative and intellectual palette of physical, digital, cultural, and political material towards future systemic change.

In this presentation I will reflect honestly upon my own journey, from early career design researcher through to Principal Investigator of the Perpetual Plastic for Food to Go project, and how this journey has been shaped by both global and personal challenges. I will also discuss the value of allowing oneself as an early career researcher the freedom to pivot context and collaborators and to recognise that sometimes a bit of randomness is a positive thing. I conclude this presentation with a speculative vision of my retirement.

12. Carbon dynamics in ecosystems: a global perspective

Dr Lan Qie, University of Lincoln

Terrestrial ecosystems are absorbing nearly one-third of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, representing crucial carbon sinks distributed among the world’s vegetation and soil biomes. Among these, the tropical forests carbon sink is one of the largest, but also one of the most at risk, facing a number of challenges due to anthropogenic land use changes and increasing extreme weather events such as droughts due to climate change. Around the world, there are encouraging trends of accelerating tree planting and habitat restoration efforts aimed at enhancing carbon sequestration in the ecosystems. These also provide a range of co-benefits and are increasingly being funded through the growing carbon market. Whilst things are moving in the right direction, it is key to be able to quantify carbon sequestration in a given context, and understand the possible trade-offs. This talk will provide an overview of the ecosystem carbon dynamics, drawing on my long-term research in the tropical forests, and some perspectives on carbon sequestration in woodland and soils in the UK context.

13. Reimagining responsible business & sustainable development: the net-zero emissions transition experience

Dr Nana Osei Bonsu, University of Birmingham

Countries and businesses worldwide are stepping up their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030. This presentation draws on my journey as a practitioner and researcher in business practices and the transition to net-zero emissions. It pulls on research from both the global south and north and the significant challenges to keeping 1.5 alive, not least the scale of innovative social, technological, economic, ethical, environmental and political transformation that a meaningful and plausible net-zero transition would entail or look like. The presentation will reveal some insights into how net-zero emission technologies’ systemic adoption creates a significant shift in demand for natural resources, causing value chain and many cross-boundary sustainability issues. In reimagining the net-zero emission transition toward a sustainable future, this presentation addresses the importance of multi-stakeholder participatory future-oriented thinking and policies harmonising the co-benefits of the UN sustainable development goals vis-à-vis the potential benefits to the well-being of society, the environment and the economy.

14. Improving the sustainability of photovoltaic materials

Dr Patrick Isherwood, Loughborough University 

Photovoltaics are a key renewable energy technology, and an elegant and increasingly cost-effective means for directly converting solar energy into electricity.  The widespread nature and relative global abundance of the solar resource also means that the use of photovoltaics for energy production is an effective method for improving energy security.  Although conceptually relatively simple, solar cells are typically both complex and energy-intensive to produce.  The current dominant technology is silicon-based, and whilst silicon is a very common and widely available element, its extraction, purification and use in the construction of solar cells is nonetheless energy-intensive.  As the number of panels reaching their end-of-life increases, the question of recycling will also become increasingly important.  Using my initial interest in solar energy and my unusually convoluted route into the field for context, this presentation will discuss a range of potential options for development of cheaper, less energy-intensive and more sustainable photovoltaic materials as well as some of the more plausible options for recycling and materials re-use.  Finally, it will examine some of the most promising options and opportunities for further research.

15. Managing carbon reduction: every action makes a difference

Rosemary Horry, University of Derby

We hear the data on the challenge of carbon reduction and what is required to make the required changes and it all seems such a huge task. Where do you start? But that is the key, you just start with one simple action. If everyone and every organisation started with one simple action imagine the impact that would have. It is all too easy to go on doing the same old things because that is what we have always done. Change requires thought, planning and action. It is difficult compared to just doing what we have always done. But doing what we have always done has brought us to this point. This is why it is so great to be working on the DE-carbonisation project because we are working with companies who want to make those changes. They just need someone to help them, either to confirm the best action to take or to discuss with them what the options are. They are ready to change. Are you ready to change?

16. Towards a zero-emission food cold chain

Dr Xinfang Wang, University of Birmingham

Globally, the food system accounted for about 30% of total energy consumption and 20% of GHG emissions in 2011 (FAO, 2016). The supply chain, especially cold chain (temperature-controlled supply chain, including fridge, freezer, refrigerated truck/van, cold box, etc.) is a key player in ensuring food quality and safety. However, temperature-controlled processing, distribution and storage, often based on inefficient equipment and protocols, have a significant environmental impact. Conventional food cold chains are energy intensive and often use high-GWP (Global Warming Potential) refrigerants. To limit the global temperature rise to well below 1.5 degrees C, the food supply chain including cooling needs to be decarbonised. How the decarbonisation will be achieved has significant implication for the economy, food and drink industry, social wellbeing, food security and energy system. It is essential to combine techno-economic, environmental, social and policy aspects in an integrated approach for the design and evaluation of decarbonisation solutions for the food cold chain from farm to fork.

17. Energy-efficient buildings with thermal energy storage

Dr Yuan Tian, De Montfort University

50% of an average UK household’s energy consumption is for heating and cooling. Buildings can be made more energy-efficient by incorporating thermal energy storage. The presentation will cover Phase Change Material Wallboards and their performance in energy savings and moderating daily temperature fluctuations.