inside the machine

It is all very well discussing transitions, but how well do you really know what it means in real terms? During a week spent considering how we can make sense of energy issues, the group took a trip to see a power station in action. With a capacity of nearly 4,000MW, Drax is the largest single power station in the UK. Opened in 1973 and later extended, it was built as a coal-fired power station next to the Selby coalfields, at a time when the Central Electricity Generating Board was building up its network of large and larger central power generating units.

Visiting Drax power station 2018

Drax became notorious as the most polluting coal-fired plant in the UK, and was therefore the first to install desulfurisation equipment, becoming then the cleanest plant. It improved its efficiency in 2012 with a major turbine upgrade. However, with the UK commitment to phase out coal-fired generation, the board then decided to convert two of its 6 generating units to biomass generation.

According to our guide, Drax currently takes up some 60% of the world’s production of sawdust-pellets. Beyond this, the market for pellets or other biomass products takes the price of pellets beyond a rate that would enable the plant to produce at a viable cost. Drax therefore continues to use both coal and biomass to generate electricity, but will have to phase out coal before 2025 to accord with UK climate commitments.

Coal ‘field’

For our group, seeing the scale of the power station was itself a significant experience. On a brisk windy day, with snow whirling round our bus as we left Durham, we arrived to find Drax generating from several of its units, and steam swirling around the cooling towers.

The turbine Hall

Christopher reminded us that this one plant could produce more than three times the whole of the generating capacity in Panama, and the scale of the plant impressed itself on us as we toured the plant in a little electric bus with tarpaulin doors. We were free to photograph all but the control room, where one of the controllers explained his duties. Seeing the huge turbine hall, the biomass stores, the mammoth storeroom for collecting gypsum from the coal-boiler-residue, and the fields of coal stretching away reminded us of what is meant by ‘sunk costs’, ‘path dependency’, and ‘life-cycle analysis’. This side of everyday energy practices was made evident in contrast to the usual use of energy services that we too often take for granted.

Thank you to Drax for giving us so much time and for your hospitality.

in the visitor centre

on the bus


Intensive Teaching Week

6th – 10th November 2017

This year Dr Abram put together another fantastic intensive teaching week comprised of 12 lectures covering a wide range of disciplines as well as the annual ‘coal-tour of Durham’! This year the ‘Contexts & Challenges in Energy & Society’ class were joined by a variety of people with different backgrounds and experience. We were particularly delighted to have been joined by 3 students from the Pan-African University in Algeria!

And now to give a brief insight into what we got up to:

The session began on Monday in Alington House where we were given a brief welcome and introduction from Simone Abrams. We then moved swiftly on to our first lecture of the week conducted by Jon Gluyas, director of the Durham Energy Institute (DEI). This talk looked at the DEI and focused in particular at the recent energy history (past 100 years or so) of the UK. Kamal Badreshany took the second talk of the day ‘The Development of Energy Intensive Ancient Technologies: Considering Social and Environmental Impacts’ during which time we were given a fascinating insight into ancient energy use. The last talk of the day switched focus to Natural Resource Management. Here Robert Layton talked about the energy uses of hunter-gatherer communities, using the case of Aboriginal tribes in Australia as an excellent example.

On Tuesday the focus switched to coal, more specifically in Britain. The day began with an enlightening lecture by Sandra Bell, ‘Carboniferous Capitalism and the North-East of England – a socio-technical perspective’. This lecture outlined the history of coal in Britain and the way in which the social and technical perspectives surrounding coal intertwine. Toward the end of the lecture focus shifted to coal in the North East, which led nicely onto our student-led coal seminar and the coal-tour of Durham that was led by Sandra Bell later that afternoon. Unfortunately due to the rain this tour was shorter than usual, however, we were lucky enough to visit the Durham Miners Hall where we were given a brief talk by an ex-miner.

Lectures resumed as normal on the Wednesday, kicking off with a talk by Gavin Bridge on ‘Gas’. Similarly to the lecture on coal we were given a brief history of gas. However, we also learnt about the ways in which gas is transported to the UK though methods such as producing liquefied natural gas (LNG). This was followed by another fascinating lecture ‘Fracking & Unconventional Hydrocarbons” conducted by Andy Aplin. Here we learnt all about unconventional oils and the fracking operation. I was particularly surprised to learn that 75% of the world’s oil (conventional and unconventional) is located in Orinoco and Alberta, having expected the majority to be located in the Middle East. After lunch we were treated to yet another captivating lecture, this time by John Bothwell on ‘Biofuels’. This talk looked at the pros and cons of using biofuels, as well as the different types and their relative efficiencies. Neal Wade talked about ‘Power Systems Engineering’ in the fourth session of the day. In this session the class was given a brief insight into the aging National Grid system and the balance of energy systems that go into running it.

Thursday continued along the same thread, beginning with a talk by Chris Stokes on ‘Climate Change & the Cyrosphere’, which focused on the melting of the ice caps and rising sea level. This was followed by Douglas Halliday, who talked about ‘Solar Futures’, an engaging talk on the potential of solar power. On Thursday afternoon the class met to discuss the study and critical analysis of literature in the energy field.

On Friday, the final day of the intensive teaching week, we had 2 final lectures. The first of these was by Christopher Crabtree on ‘Wind Energy & Wind Turbines’, where it was fascinating to see the rapid developments in wind turbine technology that have occurred in recent years. Tristan Loloum took the final talk of the week on ‘The Cultural Politics of Energy’, providing a more social perspective on energy use and how it is portrayed to the public. With this final talk the week came to a close.

We had a fantastic week and would like to thank all the wonderful speakers who came to visit us, as well as Dr Abrams for organising yet another wonderful event!

Introducing the ‘Energy and Society’ class of 2018!

Welcome to any new and returning readers! Dr Abram’s new cohort has settled in and we would like to take a brief moment to introduce ourselves individually. This year’s class, as in previous years, comes from across the world and have had varying experiences and backgrounds in industry and education.

The photo below shows us after our first site visit of the year – to the hydroelectric turbine at Freeman’s Reach, which has now been operational for just over a year.

As in previous years, we are keen to engage our growing audience, with news of events and experiences the class has had, as well as the inclusion of individual features. In a field that is growing rapidly, we hope to provide new and personal insights into the world of Energy and Society.


Alastair Bingham11850673_10205107576837768_1409954063603731921_o

Alastair is from Maidenhead (Berkshire) and studied at Durham University for his undergraduate degree, having graduated earlier this year with a BSc in Geology. He has a keen interest in the different mechanisms by which energy can be acquired as well as current attempts to implement renewable alternatives in today’s society. Alastair is particularly keen on broadening his knowledge to include the sociological view on energy having had a background in physical science at undergraduate level. He is also the editor of this year’s blog! Outside of Energy and Society Alastair is a keen swimmer; having swum at regional and national level and as the current holder of 4 individual university records.



Christopher Cano-FernandezChris

Christopher comes from Panama having worked for the transmission utility as an electrical engineer for almost 3 years before joining the course. He did a BSc in electrical and electronics engineering from the Technological University of Panama and also completed an M.Eng. in Engineering Management from the University of Louisville. He has a particular interest in electricity markets and the impacts distributed generation are having on energy economics. The reason for choosing Durham University for further studies came from the interdisciplinary nature of the master degree course, the optional modules available for election and the research that is being done at the Durham Energy Institute.


James Daviesdsc06229.jpg

James lives in Newcastle but is originally from Chorley in Lancashire. He is studying part-time whilst continuing to work at the North East LEP as Programme Manager for the Innovation Programme and Enterprise Zone sites. With a background in policy development, research and economic development James is particularly interested in understanding the potential for innovation in energy systems and networks to support sustainable and inclusive approaches to economic growth. Outside of the course interests in hill-walking, architecture and history fill up the remaining time.



Kurtulus Degerphoto1.jpg

Kurtulus is a Civil Engineer, holding an MSc degree in Energy Engineering, and is pursuing a PhD degree in Energy Systems Engineering in Turkey. In his early career, he worked for three years at General Directorate of Renewable Energy of Turkey on several renewable energy projects and served as an expert at an EU Agency; the Agriculture and Rural Development Support Institute for nearly ten years on sustainable development issues. Kurtulus was awarded a Chevening Scholarship for 2017/2018 to carry out his studies at Durham University as an MSc Energy and Society student. His fields of interest are renewable energy, climate change, sustainability, energy transition, energy scenarios, energy policy and security, decentralised energy systems, urban transition, energy storage, exergy, hybrid energy systems and wind power.





Luke Lobo

Luke is entering his 9th year at Durham University. Originally joining the university in 2009, he fell in love with the city whilst studying an MSci Maths and Physics. Luke then worked in performance sport for 4 years, managing postgraduate sport at Durham. He has a long-standing interest in the energy sector, and is pursuing the MSc Energy and Society due to its unique socio-technical approach. His research interests include privacy and ethics associated with energy and energy forecasting. Away from academia Luke is passionate about sport, technology and photography.

Farah Naureen Samuel

Farah from Pakistan, a nature enthusiast and a development practitioner, brings a long 6 years of professional experience in the fields of environment, energy and education. She studied her undergrad in Environmental Sciences in Pakistan and is now studying Energy and Society at Durham. Farah is keen on learning the relationship dynamics between low-cost innovative energy solutions and entrepreneurship and aims at developing a sound understanding of the social aspect of energy projects especially within rural settings. Farah wants to work with the corporates in Pakistan to introduce efficient energy consumption schemes and to reduce carbon footprint via sustainable energy practices.

Jingmeng Wangphoto (1)

Jingmeng comes from China and is twenty-three. She majored in Energy Economics during her undergraduate years Jingmeng is interested in natural gas and wants to learn more about renewable energy resources, which explains her desire to be on this course in Durham. Outside of Energy and Society she loves travelling and watching football.





Stay tuned for updates and individual features throughout the year…


Energy insights atop Mount Diablo, California

Student Mike Westrom finds new perspectives in the Bay Area of California:

Mike enjoys the view at Mount Diabolo

After finishing my MSc in Energy & Society Programme at Durham, I decided to stop by the Bay Area of California to visit some family before returning to my hometown in Chicago. We drove up to the top of Mount Diablo to take in its breathtaking views. I saw something on the top of that mountain that I wouldn’t have seen a year before. The surrounding energy infrastructure, usually hidden away and unnoticed, was—for me—in the foreground of this stunning view. My camera lens was not wide enough, nor am I a skilled enough photographer, to capture all three sites in one picture, so I’ve included two. In the first, you see the remains of a mineral extraction site.

a mineral extraction site in the Bay Area of California

This sits to the left of a gas power plant on the water (in the second photo), which sits directly across a huge wind farm that appears to be on an island or peninsula. Wow. Can you imagine a better combination of structures that would annoy liberals and conservatives, alike? While the lefties shake their head at the skeletons of our resource and fossil fuel intensive lifestyles, those to the right scuff at those noisy, ugly, money sucking wind turbines. All this disappointment in one view! Aside from these emotionally charged interpretations of which types of infrastructures destroy the landscape, lead to economic development, and resemble American values and which don’t, some very important questions arise from this vantage point. For me, these questions are about control, something way beyond what I can see on top of Mount Diablo.

a gas power plant is dwarfed by the turbine array seen from Mount Diablo

However, we can use this holistic view to start to formulate the sort of questions we need to ask when thinking about how energy arrangements reflect and engender different forms of control. The Park Ranger told me that back in the day, people used the vantage point on Mount Diablo to survey that area of California. Today, standing on that same mountain, connections become a bit clearer when you zoom out of neighborhoods, expressways, and wind farms and follow the electric wires that link these places, organizations, policies, resources, and ideas together. Studying this kind of stuff at Durham for the past year gives me a starting point, at least. For instance, let’s stop using the word, ‘they’. ‘They put up those wind turbines, they use gas to power that plant, and they closed the extraction site awhile back’… In each case, ‘they’ are very different collections of people, at different levels, with very different interests. We should start out, instead, by asking ‘who?’. Who owns these different sites and under what arrangements? Do organizations lease land, from whom, and what does that empower owners and government organizations to do? Why were these particular sites selected? Why, on the outskirts of one of the most expensive areas in the US, is there a wind farm? From this view, I wonder how these infrastructures are connected, if at all? Most importantly, I learned from my MSc program that answering these questions is not an easy task and takes a lot of time and digging. At the very least, I’ve learned to see energy infrastructures not as merely technical pursuits or symbols for political values, but mechanisms of political control that enable different people to exert different forms of influence tied to sources of energy provision.

An overview of accommodation options in Durham

Coming to Durham next year? Or at least considering it? You’re probably wondering what are the options accommodation wise in the city so I’ve put together this introductory piece on what exactly is on offer in the city… It should be said straight away there is genuinely a great choice of accommodation in Durham and something to fit everyone’s budget and needs.

College accommodation. There are 14 colleges in Durham, 9 of which are catered during term time and 7 which are self catered. If you’re looking for the most immersive year at Durham and keen to grow strong bonds with your college living in is probably the best option for this. It’s worth looking at the Durham University colleges website to see how the postgraduate make-up varies from college to college as it does vary widely, as too does the feel of the college itself with some large, some small, some old, some less so and so on. You can also see online how the rooms on offer vary as well; if you’re certain you want your own bathroom for example you’ll have to exclude some colleges from your search as not all of them have en-suite rooms available… Cost wise for the 2017/2018 year it’s £7,171 for a standard single room with a shared bathroom in a catered college or £5,019 in a non-catered college. For a standard room with en-suite this rises to £7,616 in a catered college and is £5,464 in non-catered colleges. The Anthropology Department, if you’re new to Durham, is itself is located on the ‘Science Site’ right next to the main university library; the majority of colleges are within a 10 minute walk of here – Durham is a small city really so even the farthest college from the Anthropology Department; Hild Bede is only a 20 minute or so walk away.


A room in St. Aidan’s College

2nd option; private halls. Durham University currently has two sites; one in Durham city and another in Stockton-on-Tees known as the Queens Campus where subjects such as Pharmacy, Medicine, Finance and Psychology are currently based. This second campus though is gradually being closed and the departments moving back to Durham city with the exception of Medicine moving to Newcastle. The two Durham colleges based in Stockton (John Snow and Stephenson College) are also moving back to Durham this coming academic year (’17-’18). As a result of this transition of all departments back to Durham from the Queens Campus between 2016 and 2019 the council has granted planning permission for a number of private halls to be built in the city with the hope of lessening the drive for owner occupied homes in the city to be turned into student lets. As a result of this there are now a good number of new or nearly new private halls in Durham, all of which it should be mentioned are self-catered. Unite have ‘Elvet Studios’ with 112 studio rooms all with kitchen and en-suites for £171/week (£8,892/year). Fresh Student Living have studios at ‘Chapel Heights’ ranging from £150/week up to £199/week on 51 week contracts (£7,650 – £10,149) with access to some really nice facilities on site including a gym. Chapel Heights though is a good walk from the Anthropology Department; being located near the ‘Gilesgate Roundabout’ found at the top of Claypath it’s probably a 25 minute walk from Anthropology – or 5 minutes further up the hill from Hild Bede. At about the same distance, maybe a touch closer to the Anthropology Department and also closer to the centre of town is a brand new private halls only opening this September called ‘The Clink’ who are offering double bed, en-suite rooms for £137.50 per week on 51 week contracts (coming out at £6,763/year) with the use of a shared kitchen. They are also offering studios with a kitchen for £155/week. There are other halls are out there to consider too; CRM students have ‘St Giles Studios’ from £122/week in Gilesgate and there’s also ‘The Village’ in the Viaduct, perhaps the cheapest option of the private halls in Durham with rooms advertised as being available from £111.5/week again on a 51 week tenancy.


Thanks Yumeng for the tour – A room in Unite’s very nice ‘Elvet Studios’


Renting a room. Lastly you can of course rent a room in a private house; as with all cities you can buddy up with friends and rent a whole property, rent one room in a house let out room by room to students or thirdly rent a spare room in an owner occupied property. The latter two are probably more likely for prospective masters students so I’ll focus on these two. First off – renting a spare room in somebody’s home… This can be the cheapest way to live in Durham; I was offered a room for an amazing £100 a month, bills included, in a village just outside Durham during my search for somewhere to live at the beginning of the year. If you are on a shoestring budget, are looking for accommodation in Durham and are open minded about where exactly you end up living a careful look through the adverts on is definitely a good place to start. Perhaps the most popular accommodation option of all in Durham for its good mixture of convenience and value for money is renting a room in a student house; this year over half of us on the Energy and Society course opted for this option, with four more living in college and one in private halls. There are some areas in Durham that are now very dominated by student houses, perhaps the most saturated being The Viaduct (the area of Durham just underneath the railway Viaduct, not far from the centre of town) and the southern end of Church Street and the roads off it; prized for their location just a few hundred metres from the science site and university library!


Victorian houses opposite the Science Site – a 100m walk to the Anthropology department… Very popular with students but often snapped up quickly.

These victorian terraced houses are usually snapped up in early summer, if not before, often by groups of 1st year undergraduates looking to rent a house with their friends. Masters students as a result, often looking for somewhere to live a little later and often without existing groups of friends tend to end up renting a room in other parts of town; this year most of us ended up living in Gilesgate, which although further from the Science Site brings with it a suite of benefits of its own. First and foremost, houses in Gilesgate tend to be better value. Itzell, Rick and Amit ended up renting on a room by room basis but living together in a house in Gilesgate this year that cost just £220/month plus bills, which they say came out at around £30/month (or in total about £3,000 for the year, equivalent to £58/week). This was a really good find by the three of them and great value for money but it shows there are rooms out there at this price point. A more typical price slightly closer to the centre of town tends to hover around the £110/week, or a little more with bills included. You find that also, many properties in Gilesgate are a bit more spacious than the victorian terraces popular in the centre of town and also have the benefit of being close to Gilesgate’s big Tesco and Aldi – the downside of Gilesgate is that it is a fair way into university and easily a 30 minute+ walk from parts of it. After a long search myself I ended up opting for a double room in a recently built house on a quiet road adjacent to the Gilesgate roundabout. This costs me £95/week, including bills and is on a ten month contract – coming out at a total of £4,110 for the year, I can cycle to the Anthropology Department in less than 10 minutes and having previously been an undergraduate student in London it seems to me like an absolute castle – it’s a good quality, spacious and modern house! It’s great!

IMG_20170711_150435 (1)

Lots of properties are now let… But don’t worry; there are plenty still available!

In summary then; whatever type of accommodation you’re after in Durham at whatever budget, it’s there! College accommodation isn’t the cheapest and rooms often look a little dated, especially for the price you pay, but it brings with it the social benefits of living in college and for some, the ease of having meals provided in term time… It shouldn’t be underestimated how strong the college community is at Durham and if you are a postgraduate new to Durham, coming only for a year, ‘living out’ certainly makes it a little harder to develop these bonds with your college and friendships within college in the relatively short time you have in Durham… Private halls in Durham tend on the whole to be quite expensive but are of high quality; they offer an experience akin to typical university halls in cities across the country and virtually all of them in Durham been built in the last few years. Thirdly; renting – this certainly can be the cheapest way to live in Durham and the lower end of rents are some of the most affordable of all university cities in the UK. The student rental property market in Durham is extensive and very varied and despite what some agents might suggest; there is always, year round, rooms available – so don’t panic, you will find somewhere if you are looking!


Taken just a few days ago; rooms still available for £75/week including bills. There are tens of estate agents and lettings agencies in the centre of town; take a look at their websites as not all of their properties are listed on Zoopla and Rightmove…


Two final tips: If you are on the hunt for a room there’s a great page called ‘Durham Find a Housemate’ on Facebook which is updated almost daily with newly available rooms over the summer and on throughout the year as rooms unexpectedly become available – it’s well worth a look. Secondly; if you do end up living in Gilesgate like a half of us on Energy and Society did this year, or indeed other non-central locations like Framwellgate Moor or Langley Moor it’s really not that far, but if you do find the walk a little long, get a bike! (There’s a second hand bike shop on North Road and also lots of great cycle routes out of Durham into the surrounding countryside). (Or alternatively you can use the bus; many of the bus routes in Durham are free to use with a student card).

International Student Energy Summit 2017

by Michelle Uriarte

First a little bit about the event, according to the official web page the SES is:

The Student Energy`s International Student Energy Summit (SES) is a global event that brings together the world`s brightest students to learn and discuss the current issues and trends in energy.

Past events were hosted in Bali, Indonesia in 2015 and Trondheim, Norway in 2013, this year it was celebrated at Merida, México, and as the official page explains it brings the best speakers in the Energy sector of the world, talking about topics from democratization of energy to technical aspects of the wind and solar plants; it is intended for undergrad and postgrad students with an interest in Energy. The whole aim of the summit is for students to get to know the latest trends of energy and get involved with them.

This year Durham University gave a £500 travel bursary to the winner of the three-minute thesis competition, I was lucky enough to win this competition talking about the topic of my dissertation “The Birth of Waste to Energy in Mexico: Lessons to be learned from the UK” and was able to travel to Mexico, which is also the country I am from.

Michelle 1

The Summit started with two of the main figures of Energy in Mexico Pedro Coldwell Director of the Energy Ministry and Dr. Antonio del Rio, Director of the Institute of Renewable Energies in Mexico, welcoming the students and speakers followed by a small cocktail party.

The following days we had different seminars such as “Democratization of Energy”, “The Sustainable Development Goals and the Future of Energy”, “Energy and People”, and “Cities and the Energy Transitions”, etc. Throughout the conferences we were reminded how the students are the ones that will shape the future of energy and therefore of the world, the speakers were eager to answer all the questions we had and even got the time to speak one on one after their conference finished.

Michelle 2

I had the opportunity to speak with H.R.H Princess Size Djigma who is an Ambassador of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency of Burkina Faso, she gave an impressive speech incentivizing the students to create their own companies and research about energy, she also talked about the role of developing countries to tackle climate change.

After all the seminars and conferences were over we were invited to a gala dinner, where we could meet more students and speakers and do networking, as well of course to enjoy Mexican food and hospitality. Then on the last day of the summit we had workshops, I chose the workshop “The Complex Dynamics of Energy Markets” where through a board game we could experience how the energy markets act like in Nordic countries.

Overall, it was a really enriching experience, which I feel really proud of being part of.

Michelle 3

Deadline for scholarships extended to July 15 2017

DONG Energy are offering a number of scholarships for outstanding UK students who will be starting the MSc Energy and Society or MSc New and Renewable Energy courses in October 2017. The scholarships will have a value of up to £6,000.

This is a unique opportunity as these scholarships are only available to UK students who wish to study on these courses at Durham University.

The deadline for DONG scholarship applications is 15th July 2017. Find out more at

Funding to join exciting new European project – PEOPLE-centred development approaches

A new EU Erasmus+ project will bring an opportunity for four Masters students to join students and energy academics from Slovenia, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic (Czechia) to work on people-centered development. The project is embedded into the compulsory Field Study module for the MSc Energy and Society course; the selected students will take this module as a 30 credit module. They will be awarded mobility funding to work in collaboration with a UK company, Kemuri Ltd to help develop user friendly elements within the company’s current products and services.

Apply now to the MSc Energy and Society course to join this exciting new initiative! Find out more at PEOPLE project funding.

A research report from Orkney

This summer, Michael Westrom traveled to beautiful Orkney, Scotland for five weeks to study the local experience of governance that accompanies the transition to decentralized community renewable energy. Orkney is a collection of islands north of the mainland of Scotland that generates over 100% of its electricity from renewable sources, most of which comes from community-owned wind turbines. Mike’s findings will be written up for his MSc dissertation.

Here he tells us more about what he found:

For three of the five weeks, I lived on the small island of Shapinsay, home to about 300 residents. The Shapinsay Development Trust (SDT) is a community charity group that owns and manages a 900 kW wind turbine (see photos below of the turbine and SDT). Aside from earning revenue by exporting the electricity on to the grid, the SDT is a part of a 10 million Euro funded project to convert some of the electricity that would otherwise be curtailed (due to grid restraints) into a hydrogen fuel. Orkney Islands Council (OIC) has agreed to purchase the fuel to power a fleet of council vehicles, to heat the Shapinsay primary school, and eventually to power ferries, adding more revenue to the community.

I studied how both the revenue from the wind turbine benefits scheme and the partial ownership over the production and distribution over hydrogen fuel has empowered the SDT charity and changed local governance. Now the SDT charity, headed by a small group of residents, has a new and strong influence over island policy, provisioning of social resources, and even transport relative to the local council government, as related to their control over the renewable energy facility.


Memoirs of the 6th Symposium for CONACYT Scholars in Europe

Michelle Uriarte Ruiz

The sixth edition of the Symposium for CONACYT (Mexico’s entity in charge of the promotion of scientific and technological activities) Scholars in Europe was organized and hosted by the European Parliament and CONACYT on 29, 30 and 31 of March of 2017 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France; with the participation of over 130 scholars from 13 European countries.


This symposium aims to gather Mexican scholars throughout Europe to discuss, share and collaborate on their research topics, there were roundtables and seminars given by the scholars in 9 main different topics proposed by the Scientific Committee. I was lucky enough to present my dissertation topic in the roundtable of Climate Change and Energy, the title of my presentation was “The Social and Environmental Impacts of Waste Management in Mexico City”

I explained how Mexico City has expanded in the last decades from a rural to an urban area with an ever increasing population (20 million people in the metropolitan zone), even though Mexico was the first Latin American country to sign the Kyoto Protocol in 2012 and became one of the world pioneers in Climate Change Regulations, the quality of life in Mexico City has been severely affected due to the greenhouse gas emissions. The lack of urban planning, increased population and climate change mitigation actions, has driven Mexico City to a tipping point, where is absolutely necessary to reconsider the urban planning, as well as short, medium and long measures of how to improve the citizens quality of life. With the improvement of the life quality and the population growth, the volume of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) has also increased, currently more than 13,000 tons of MSW are generated and the average generation per capita is 1.31 kilograms per day, which is higher than the global average of MSW. This has a great impact over the environment, only in 2010, 31 millions of CO2e emissions were emitted, and this would represent 5% of the total emissions of the country in that year. Fourteen per cent of these emissions came from the MWS management and disposal.

In order to avoid what many consider an environmental and social crisis, the government has looked for technological solutions. Waste to energy treatment seem to be the logical solution, but it is not the whole solution, the waste management problem in Mexico City is really complex, and all the social implications of this problem have to be explored, I compared what the UK has accomplished since the 90s in waste management which includes:

  • 45% of the MSW were recycled
  • The total MSW destined to landfill decreased by 71% (in comparison with the year 2000)
  • The volume of MSW destined to Waste to Energy was tripled (2.4 million tons in 2000 to 7.8 million ton)
  • Methane emissions were reduced by 61% (in comparison with 2002)
  • The Waste Management sector made profits of £18.7 billions
  • 10 TWh were generated in Waste to Energy

Finally I pointed out what were the lessons that Mexico could learn from the UK in waste management including landfill tax, emphasis in waste prevention, invest in research and community projects and creating a waste hierarchy focusing in waste reduction.


My presentation was well received, and many people had questions in the topic, people that are from Mexico City pointed out that even if they are not studying something related to waste management or environmental issues in the city, they were aware of the impacts and wanted a solution, they liked the comparison between the UK and Mexico and were impressed of what the UK accomplished in such a short amount of time. Overall it was an amazing experience to be able to share my research and I was able to meet a lot of students that are also interested in Energy and Climate Change. M3

‘Why I chose to study Energy and Society’ – Hetty’s perspective

A field trip to Cape Town in April 2016 inspired me to pursue a masters in energy; I was in my final year of studying a BA in Geography at Durham. The fieldtrip gave me the chance to experience a low carbon energy transition first hand, with the added dimension of the complex apartheid history of South Africa. The research explored the dynamics of solar energy in two low-income settlements, with the intention of establishing the extent to which the solar transition in the Western Cape is as a result of international actors or local ambitions. It was made clear that there is an intricate set of networks that are required to facilitate the transformation of an energy system, with various stakeholders required to drive the technological changes alongside the behavioural changes required for the adoption of new technology.


The Energy and Society MSc has been the perfect opportunity to explore energy from an interdisciplinary perspective, more specifically it has enabled me to investigate key social challenges relating to a wide range of energy systems. I particularly enjoyed exploring the socio-political and economic issues associated with oil in an extended essay, as it demonstrated the way in which carbon has become locked into society. Understanding these issues are vital for ascertaining the obstacles to the low carbon energy transition. Furthermore, what has been made clear by my experiences in South Africa and on the masters course is that there is an increasingly complex set of actors and governance networks involved in transforming how society produces and uses energy.


I’m planning on taking this further for my dissertation in the coming months. I will be exploring the governance networks relating to reducing carbon emissions in the UK supermarket meat supply chain; a sector of paramount importance. Given the current political climate I think it’s going to be fascinating to research where this sits on the agenda of the different stakeholders involved; from government, to suppliers to consumers.