New University of Brighton Lecturer and SECP member, Kirsten Jenkins, has gained early funding success for her work on smart technologies and Energy Justice.

Kirsten, who joined the University as a Lecturer in the School of Environment and Technology this March, previously worked on issues of Energy Justice within the Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand, part of the Science and Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex. There, she joined other scholars in the critique of the UK smart meter rollout. Now, her University of Brighton work is to focus on how to make things better.

Kirsten’s Rising Stars award – part of a funding scheme for early career researchers across the University – aims to explore the justice concerns around smart technologies in a household setting, and how might the values associated with these be integrated into future design.

Smart grid systems increase electricity grid flexibility through the use of information and communication technologies. Key to their development is smart metering, which allows the transmission of energy consumption data to distribution system operators in real time. The promised benefits of such a system include their role in the precise monitoring of supply and demand and energy efficiency. Yet public debates illustrate societal concerns with these emerging technologies. This includes apprehensions around data privacy and security, the potential for cyber attack, and fears that energy suppliers will not distribute financial savings to their customers.

Her work takes the view that it is necessary to understand these concerns and the values they represent—privacy, for example—in order to (a) secure their sensitive rollout and (b) ensure that technologies are accepted and used appropriately. Connecting Energy Justice and Responsible Research and Innovation thinking, her research reveals the social justice challenges and values connected to smart energy systems in UK households. Building from these findings, it then explores the role of social justice principles in the design and implementation of such systems, working with academics, technology developers and policy decision-makers to challenge technical innovation and make sure it is truly designed to be part of a fairer world.
Whilst Kirsten’s initial grant will end in July 2019, this is set to become a long-term research focus, with strengthening grant funding and collaborative networks connected to the SECP. Watch this space!