Oxford to launch multi-disciplinary ZERO Institute

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

Oxford ZERO Institute

Bringing together academics from a range of disciplines, the ZERO Institute will work to address questions surrounding zero-carbon energy systems and their implementation.

Currently, more than 70 per cent of the greenhouse gases responsible for climate change come from converting and using energy. Many potential components of a zero-carbon energy system, such as demand reduction, renewable energy conversion, energy storage and nuclear power, have been researched over many decades.

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

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

“Only by doing this can we supply everyone in the world with the energy services needed to live well and to stop climate change. The university is rising to the challenge of zero-carbon energy systems by investing in the ZERO Institute to help coordinate and increase the reach of our ever growing zero-carbon energy research.”

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ZERO will build on the University’s energy research activities, which span more than 20 departments and 200 researchers. It aims to establish Oxford as a centre of research excellence and thought leadership on a global and equitable zero-carbon transition, and has secured a £3.25m investment from the University’s Strategic Research Fund (SRF).

Professor Nick Eyre, environmental change institute, said: “The history of energy system change shows it is closely associated with social change, and the timeframe for the zero-carbon transition closely matches that for delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“The zero-carbon transition will therefore need to ensure delivery of basic energy services globally, and radical changes in energy using practices worldwide.”

He added that this implies major challenges for governance, particularly related to equity, which are closely linked to the technical challenges — therefore research must be inter-disciplinary and take a whole system approach.

Academic leadership will include Associate Professor Robert Weatherup from the Department of Materials, Associate Professor Radhika Khosla from the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment, and the Convenor for Oxford Energy Robin Morris.