Spotlight on a Student: Angela Rojas
Modelling socio-technical configurations to explore energy transition pathways
What is your research about?
Alternative energy system configurations. That means alternative technologies, such as renewable energies and microgrids, but also alternative ways of organising how energy meets demand, like through innovative business models, or cooperatives. The energy transition is well underway and it may bring solutions to pressing challenges for humanity, including the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There may be negatives too however, think of energy poverty, when not everyone has affordable access to energy. In other words, it is important to understand how alternative energy system configurations work, or would work. If done well, they may make societies more resilient and sustainable, if done badly, not so.
There are many things we don’t understand well about alternative systems. For instance, there are technological issues on grid stability from distributed energy production, but also, new actors in the energy landscape and existing actors take on new roles. All of this happening across different scales, ranging from individual households, through neighbourhood and suburban scales all the way to the national grid. Moreover, the organisational and institutional structures, including legislation seems to be lagging behind the possibilities.
We assume that the coming changes will shift the balance between producers and consumers and this will force us to ask difficult questions of ownership – who owns what? This does not only concern generation assets but also data. And how do these new ownership models impact GHG emissions, electricity prices and urban resilience in the long run?
Therefore, my research studies potential transition pathways in urban areas with different socio-technical configurations. To explore this, I developed an analytical framework to represent the societal (actors, organisations, ownership and management roles) and technical (physical infrastructure) across different urban scales -from household to metropolis.
This framework is the base for a modelling and simulation tool under development to explore the effects of different scenarios on greenhouse gas emissions or urban resilience when moving to any alternative electricity provision system. Or, conversely, the societal requirements to enable a transition to a low carbon and resilient mix of technologies and organisation forms.
Who are your supervisors?
I have a highly supportive team of supervisors. They are A/Prof. Lu Aye, Dr Fjalar de Haan, Dr Seona Candy and E/Prof. Greg Foliente.
Lu Aye and Greg Foliente are from the Department of Infrastructure Engineering. Both contribute their expertise and interests on energy systems and sustainability. Fjalar de Haan is a lecturer from the Melbourne School of Design and a transitionist. Fjalar develops theory, models and other tools for understanding sustainability transitions and societal transformations.Seona Candy currently holds an Endeavour Research Fellowship at the University of Helsinki.
What do you want to do next?
I have almost a year to complete my PhD. My research in the energy sector is highly topical as the sector is undergoing significant transformation. I am certain the knowledge obtained during my PhD will be applicable in many working environments. I'm going to explore how to contribute towards positive societal change during this energy transition. This can be achieved not only in academia, but also working with industry or governmental institutions, just to name a few.
Funding & Awards
This research is funded by the CRC for Low Carbon Living Node of Excellence: Low carbon resilient future cities scholarship. Angela received a travel grant from the Lord Mayor's Charitable foundation in 2017. She also won the Best Poster Award from the CRC for Low Carbon Living Annual Forum Nov 2017. The title of her winning poster was: "Effects on GHG Emissions from Alternative Infrastructures for Service Provision in Urban Areas".
Angela and her supervisors warmly welcome any enquiries about her research. You can email her at email@example.com, A/Prof. Lu Aye at firstname.lastname@example.org, Dr Fjalar de Haan at email@example.com, Dr Seona Candy at firstname.lastname@example.org and E/Prof. Greg Foliente at email@example.com