Oxford to launch multi-disciplinary ZERO Institute

Oxford University launches the ZERO Institute (Zero-carbon Energy Research Oxford), aiming to address the challenges of a zero-carbon energy transition.

Bringing together academics from different disciplines, the ZERO Institute will work to answer questions about carbon-free energy systems and their implementation.

Currently, more than 70 percent of the greenhouse gases responsible for climate change come from energy conversion and use. Many potential components of a decarbonised energy system, such as demand reduction, renewable energy conversion, energy storage and nuclear power, have been explored over many decades.

However, the concept of a zero-carbon system without fossil fuels has only really gained traction among policymakers since the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015.

“International and national assessments agree that practical solutions to the climate crisis involve greater use of renewable energies, storing the energy effectively and using it efficiently,” said Oxford pro-vice chancellor Professor Patrick Grant (research).

“Only by doing this can we provide everyone in the world with the energy services they need to live well and stop climate change. The university is addressing the challenge of zero-carbon energy systems by investing in the ZERO Institute to help coordinate and extend the reach of our ever-expanding zero-carbon energy research.”

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ZERO will build on the university’s energy research activities, which span over 20 departments and 200 researchers. It aims to establish Oxford as a center of excellence in research and leadership on a global and equitable carbon-free transition, and has secured a £3.25 million investment from the University’s Strategic Research Fund (SRF).

Professor Nick Eyre, Institute for Environmental Change, said: “The history of energy system change shows it is closely linked to social change, and the timeline for the zero-carbon transition is closely aligned with that for achieving the UN’s goals for sustainable development.

“The carbon-free transition will therefore need to ensure global delivery of basic energy services and radical changes in energy use practices worldwide.”

He added that this poses major challenges for governance, particularly with regard to fairness, which are closely related to the engineering challenges – therefore research must be interdisciplinary and take a system-wide approach.

Academic leadership includes associate professor Robert Weatherup of the Department of Materials, associate professor Radhika Khosla of the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment, and the Convenor for Oxford Energy Robin Morris.

Abhishek Maheswari
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