Driving innovation and transformation in global energy policy within and beyond government
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Exeter
Unit of AssessmentGeography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology
Summary Impact TypeEconomic
Research Subject Area(s)
Economics: Applied Economics
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration
Summary of the impact
Research undertaken on energy policy and sustainability by Prof. Mitchell
and the Energy Policy Group (EPG) within Geography at Exeter, has had a
major influence on the development and reform of UK, EU and global energy
policy. This research has informed policy advice to the UK government on
the fundamental re-setting of electricity market reforms and underpinned a
number of major policy reports e.g., the 2008 `EU's Target for Renewable
Energy' report; the 2010 `Future of Britain's Electricity Networks'
report; the 2011 `Electricity Market Reform' report; the 2012 `Draft
Energy Bill'; and the 2012 DECC Energy Security Strategy Report. Research
by the EPG has also led to numerous engagements with key stakeholders in
the energy industry that have influenced policies, procedures and
practices, and been used to inform public debate on energy
Energy policy in the UK and internationally is a high profile issue, in
part linked to national and international agendas to reduce CO2
emissions, but also because of: (i) rising fossil fuel prices and the
attendant affordability issues, and (ii) a national/EU need to ensure
energy security. Since 2007, research undertaken within the Energy Policy
Group in Geography at Exeter (led by Prof. Mitchell) has focused on energy
policy development and regulatory and market reform, both in the UK and
Europe, to improve energy system sustainability, security, and
affordability. A major research focus since 2007 has been around the
mechanisms and processes necessary to create a sustainable UK energy
economy. This has included work on future technology pathways and the
effectiveness of UK Government policy with respect to energy sector design
and regulation. Mitchell (2010) outlined the barriers to development of a
sustainable energy economy, criticising the existing political paradigm
and governance processes that rely on narrow market and economic analyses
for policy development, and exclusive incentives encouraging incumbent
companies rather than transparent decision-making processes and inclusive
incentives which would encourage innovation. On-going research on this
topic is now being supported through the major EPSRC-funded IGov Project
Research has also emphasised the need for government to recognise the
complexity of the UK energy system and to develop policies which consider
a broader range of economic, political, technological, institutional, and
social factors. The group have argued that transition to a more
sustainable energy system is hindered by the governance system, which
derives from the incentives put in place by the dominant political
paradigm (Mitchell & Woodman, 2010; Kern et al., 2013). Examination of
the potential role of a smart, decentralised energy system demonstrated
the need for evolution of institutions, market design, and infrastructure
to avoid decentralised approaches being `locked out' (Woodman & Baker,
2008; Baker et al., 2010). Mitchell has also been PI on the RCUK research
cluster for energy security in a multipolar world (ESMW, 2009-13), which
works closely with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Department
of Energy and Climate Change. The cluster now numbers 736 members, with
around 1000 attendees at 27 meetings that link the British geopolitical,
supply chain, and low carbon academic and practitioner worlds (Mitchell et
The group have also examined the effects of long-term policies affecting
renewable energy deployment within the UK (Woodman & Mitchell, 2011),
within Europe more broadly (Kitzing et al., 2012); and globally (Mitchell
et al., 2011). Research into the Renewables Obligation demonstrated the
underachievement of this policy between 2002 and 2010 and has highlighted
the significant emphasis placed on `competition' as the key reason for
limited sector development. Research has also identified the implications
of poor performance on the UK's ability to meet EU-wide renewable energy
targets for 2020 and stressed that recent changes to UK policy do not
adequately address `risk', relative to the `standard' Feed-In Tariff
(Woodman & Mitchell, 2011). The reach of work in this area has
extended well beyond UK policy, to include on-going research on EU
renewable energy policy, starting from a proposal for growth in renewable
energy generation across Europe in 2000 through to current plans for post
2020 EU policy through the Smart Energy for Europe Platform (SEFEP;
Jacobsson et al., 2009). The group have also engaged with Carbon Capture
and Storage (CCS) technology research in China. Recognising the immense
growth of the Chinese energy sector, along with its heavy reliance on
coal, research has demonstrated the opportunities for installation of
CCS-ready technology to capture CO2 at a regional level (Li et
Prof. Catherine Mitchell, currently Professor of Energy Policy
Dr Bridget Woodman, currently Lecturer in Energy Policy (2007-present).
References to the research
Evidence of the quality of the research that underpins this case study is
provided through the following IPCC reports, peer-reviewed publications
and related grant funding.
Mitchell, C. et al., 2011, Policy, Financing and Implementation. In: IPCC
Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation
(O. Edenhofer et al., Eds.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United
Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.
Mitchell, C. 2010. The Political Economy of Sustainable Energy,
2nd Edition. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.
Mitchell, C. & Woodman, B. 2010. Towards trust in regulation — moving
to a Public Value Regulation. Energy Policy 38, 2644-2651.
Woodman, B. & Baker, P. 2008. Regulatory frameworks for decentralized
energy. Energy Policy 36, 4527-4531.
Mitchell C, Watson J, & Whiting J. 2013 (Eds) New Challenges in
Energy Security: the UK in a Multipolar World. Basingstoke: Palgrave
Kitzing, L., Morthorst, E., Mitchell, C., 2012, Renewable Energy Policies
in Europe: converging or diverging? Energy Policy 51, 192-201
Woodman, B. & Mitchell, C. 2011. Learning from experience? The
development of the Renewables Obligation in England and Wales 2002-2010. Energy
Policy 39, 14-21.
Jacobsson, S., Bergek, A., Finon, D., Lauber, V., Mitchell, C., Toke, D.,
Verbruggen, A. 2009. EU renewable energy support policy: faith or facts? Energy
Policy 37 (6), 2143-2146.
Key supporting grants
• 2012-2016 Established Career Fellowship for Catherine Mitchell, EPSRC,
Innovation and Governance for a Sustainable Economy (IGov), £1.3 million.
• 2011, Ofgem, Expert Report on Connection and Charging Arrangements for
Transmission Networks to input to Project TransmiT, £16K.
• 2011-2013, UKERC Research Fund, Scenarios for the Development of Smart
• 2010-2012, Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), £100K.
• 2009-2013, Energy Security in a Multipolar World, ESRC/EPSRC Research
• 2009-2013, UK Energy Research Centre, Policy and of Energy Supply Theme
Details of the impact
The research outlined above has: (1) had major impacts relating to the UK
energy sector through the provision of policy advice to the UK
government e.g., through the committees of the House of Commons and the
House of Lords; (2) had global reach as evidenced by the group's
involvement in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (see
Mitchell et al. 2011), the Global Energy Assessment, and the Smart Energy
for Europe Platform; (3) has engaged with key stakeholders in the
energy industry e.g., the Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets
(OFGEM) and The Consumer Association — Which?; and (4) has informed
Evidence of a major impact on UK energy policy is evident through
(1) Mitchell was one of only two academics to give evidence to the House
of Lords European Union Committee (April 21st 2008) as part of
its `The EU's Target for Renewable Energy' report. The Committee's remit
was to critically examine the 2008 European Commission commitment by 2020,
to a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and to deriving 20% of
final energy consumption from renewables. The evidence provided was
influential with Mitchell cited on p. 24, 25, 31 and 34 of the final
report (House of Lords, 2008, Item #1).
(2) Evidence was provided to the House of Commons Energy and Climate
Change Committee (April 2009) as part of its `The Future of Britain's
Electricity Networks' report. The report's remit was to help develop new
approaches to managing Britain's future energy needs. Again, the evidence
provided was influential and is cited on p. 9, 24, 27, 34, 37, 43, 45, 46,
47, 52 and 53 of the final report (House of Commons, 2010, Item #2).
(3) Mitchell et al. (2011) submitted a response to DECC on their
consultation on Electricity Market Reform (Item #3), as well as
contributing to a UKERC submission (Item #4).
(4) In 2011 evidence submitted by the EPG was used by Scottish and
Southern Energy (SSE) to shape policy and then as a basis for SSE's
`Energy White Paper' submission (Item #5).
(5) Mitchell was one of only three UK academics to give oral evidence to
the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee (June 19th
2012) as part of the pre-legislative scrutiny of the `Draft Energy Bill'
report (Item #6). Subsequent supporting written evidence (Ev.221)
was provided on July 20th 2012, with the oral and written
evidence provided again influential and cited on p. 9, 17, 21, 39 and 60
of the final report (House of Commons, 2012) (Item #7). Mitchell
was also one of only two academics who gave oral evidence to the Scrutiny
Committee for the Energy Bill in January 2013 (House of Commons 2013) (Item
(6) The Energy Policy Group were one of three UK academic groups
commissioned by OFGEM to review UK transmission charging arrangements (Item
In addition to shaping government policy, Mitchell and Woodman have
engaged with key stakeholders in the UK energy industries to influence
policies, procedures and practices. Which? commissioned reports from
2 academics, Mitchell being one of them (Hoggett et al., 2011, to provide
background to their ongoing campaign about the affordability of energy to
society. Research reports have also been written for Greenpeace (Woodman,
2009) and Chatham House (Froggatt et al. 2012), whilst third sector
organisations have used EPG research in their policy briefings (Burke et
al., 2012; No2NuclearPower, 2009; see Items #10).
Finally, research has been directly used to inform and affect public
debate. This has occurred through engagement with high-quality UK
national media. Most notably, EPG research has been cited by: BBC website
(22/05/2012); The Daily Telegraph (12/07/2011) with the latter article
generating 249 comments; on Radio 4's `What the Papers Say'; the New
Statesman Centenary Issue (with Mitchell being the only energy academic to
critique the last 100 years of energy, and society's fitness for the next
100 years); and in The Daily Telegraph (21/01/2011), generating 70
comments (Items #11). Additionally, Mitchell has her own Guardian
Online web-page (http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/catherine-mitchell) and
has had articles published in The Guardian: 03/05/2012 (22 comments);
28/02/2012 (68 comments); 11/03/2011 (110 comments); 13/12/2010 (57
comments); 08/10/2009 (62 comments); 27/02/2009 (46 comments) (Items
#12). Both EPG and IGov have blog sites (the hits for IGov in 2013
being: March 934, April 419, May 571, with blogs widely re-blogged).
Sources to corroborate the impact
#1. House of Lords (2008) The EU's target for renewable energy:
20% by 2020. European Union Committee: 27th Report of 2007-08 Volume 1.
#2. House of Commons (2010) The Future of Britain's Electricity
Networks. Energy and Climate Change Committee: Second Report of Session
2009-10 Volume 1. [Available at:
#3. Mitchell, C. et al (2011) Response to the Department of Energy
and Climate Change's Electricity Market Reform Consultation: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/electricity-market-reform
#4. Skea, J. et al. (2011) UKERC Response to the 2011 DECC
Electricity Market Reform:
#5. SSE (2011) An Energy White Paper. SSE: Perth. [Available at:
#6. House of Commons (2012) Draft Energy Bill: Pre-legislative
Scrutiny. Energy and Climate Change Committee: First Report. [Available
#7. Written Evidence by Mitchell and Woodman to Pre-Legislative
Scrutiny by House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee, July
#8. House of Commons (2013) The House of Commons Public Bill
Committee on the Energy Bill oral evidence from Tuesday 15 January 2013.
#9. Baker, P et al (2011) Project TransmiT Academic Review of
Transmission Charging Arrangements. A report produced on behalf of the Gas
and Electricity Markets Authority (OFGEM). April 2011 https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/ofgem-publications/54331/pdf-baker-et-al.pdf
#10. (a) Hoggett, R. et al (2011) The Key Energy Policy Issues
for Energy Security in the UK, report for Which?; (b)
Woodman, B. (2009) Connecting the future: the UK's renewable energy
strategy. Greenpeace: London; (c) Froggatt, A. et al (2012)
Reset or Restart? The Impact of Fukushima on the Japanese and German
Energy Sectors. Chatham House Briefing Paper; (d) Burke et
al (2012) Subsidising the Nuclear Industry
#11. Examples of media coverage
BBC (2012) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18146940;
The Telegraph 2011.
Mitchell, C. (2013) http://www.newstatesman.com/century;
Daily Telegraph (2011) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthcomment/geoffrey-lean/8274914/Wadebridge-Britains-first-solar-powered-town.html
#12. Examples of Guardian articles generating broad public
Japanese energy policy stands at a crossroads. 3 May 2012
Who is in charge of Britain's energy policy? 28 February 2012
Nuclear power is the reason for the new energy regulations. 11 March 2011.
UK must shake off the dominance of the energy giants. 13 December 2010.
Without Kingsnorth, we have an energy opportunity. 8 October 2009.
These fossil fools. 27 February 2009.