In today’s threat of dangerous climate change, it is vital that we decrease our carbon emissions, through both reducing out energy demand and amplifying the usage of low carbon sources of energy. Dr. Yael Parag, a senior lecturer at IDC’s School of Sustainability, is actively seeking means for us to achieve these goals, through applying a socio-techno-economic approach in three interrelated lines of research.
Dr. Parag’s first line of research examines the transition towards low-carbon society through the “middle-out” framework, developed together with Dr. Katy Janda, her colleague from Oxford University. According to the framework, the capability to enable and enhance many aspects of this transition often lies with middle actors that act as agents of change. Middle actors are neither energy suppliers, government nor consumers, but rather actors who lay in between and who influence various aspects of the ways in which energy is produced, delivered or consumed. The group of middle actors includes, for example, community leaders who influence energy consumption norms, building professionals, such as architects, who shape buildings’ infrastructures and determine the efficiency of the building, and financing bodies who allow investments in low carbon technologies. These middle actors facilitate and enable the transition through inducing change in a middle out manner: upstream, on policymakers, downstream on end users, and sideways on other middle actors. Dr. Parag was recently awarded a 3 year grant from the Israel Science Foundation to run a research which uses the middle out strategy to promote pro-environmental change in two Israeli communities with low environmental awareness.
Dr. Parag’s second strand of research looks at the evolution of energy users from consumers to prosumers in the low carbon and decentralized energy system. Prosumers are consumers who can provide various services to the grid, including micro-generation, demand response, demand reduction and energy storage. Integrating prosumers into the energy system is a challenge, and her research focuses on platforms for prosumer integration, on the design of prosumer-oriented markets, and on various socio-techno-economic barriers for integration.
The third element to Dr. Parag’s current research looks at decentralizing the energy system through micro-grid deployment. In this research Dr. Parag and her colleagues, Dr. Nadav Levi from the IDC School of Economics and Elad Shaviv from the Israeli Associations for Smart Energy apply a socio-techno-economic approach to examine barriers and opportunities for the deployment of micro-grids in Israel. The research focuses on technical, regulatory and economic aspects of deployment as well as on the possible positive and negative social implications of decentralized energy system, in terms of the impact on strong versus weak local authorities and poor versus rich population. The research also examines new business models for energy utilities.