Ongoing research projects


Ongoing research projects in iMMC (August 2022)

This a short description of research projects which are presently under progress in iMMC.
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List of projects related to: sociological aspects of energy demand

Towards more sustainable mobility practices in Wallonia? A mixed-method research on the boosts and brakes for the development of such practices, and on the COVID-19 pandemic consequences.
Researcher: Line Vanparys
Supervisor(s): Francesco Contino

In the transportation sector of Wallonia, despite the existing policy goals and scenarios aiming to reduce energy consumption, and therefore car use, car is still the most used mode of transport. Moreover, in Belgium, the number of wage cars almost doubled between 2008 and 2020. And, if fewer people travelled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a more intensive use of the car is conceivable: people intend to use public transport less and use the car more because of health security reasons. There is thus an emerging need to pursue research on the development of more sustainable mobility practices. Social practice theories are the theoretical framework. By rejecting the distinction between macro- and microscopic levels of analysis,

they consider the practices as the unit of analysis explained by norms and values, infrastructures, socioeconomic, characteristics, other practices, … Even if there are surveys on how people explain their use of different means of transport, nearly no social practice theories’ studies have been carried out in Wallonia to understand the adoption and defection of sustainable mobility practices. A mixed-methods approach will be used, with quantitative data from existing surveys (notably BELDAM, Monitor, BeMob, and Mo’-vid19), and with qualitative data collected through three sets of in-depth interviews with a) individuals who changed their mobility practices to more sustainable ones, b) individuals wanting to do so but failed, and c) individuals having access to a company car. The research will focus on several aspects of mobility practices: means of transportation, distance, frequency, time allowed for each trip, type of energy (fuel, electric, …), and type of car (SUV, family car, more or less fuel/energy-efficient, weight…). The last elements have not yet been studied with a sociological approach.

The Impact of Energy Policies on the Energy System
Researcher: Panagiotis Varelas
Supervisor(s): Francesco Contino

There are many difficulties in the upcoming years toward a carbon-neutral planet. The main issue that renewable energy sources are facing in the energy transformation is the security of supply. Alternative fuels like hydrogen and ammonia might be a solution to this challenge as possible energy carriers. The main barrier they are currently facing is the increased cost compared to other fuels. This project is aiming to promote alternative fuels and green applications in mobility and other sectors and to highlight the importance of alternative fuels as a solution to tackle climate change and reach our goals.

In this direction, academia should play a vital role by providing the necessary facts and guidelines to the policymakers. Currently, researchers and policymakers are acting independently, and coordinating actions are very often lacking. The main goal of this research is to provide evidence and facts that can help policymakers take decisions. This implies measuring the impact of the energy policies on energy systems. Thus, every time an energy policy will be implemented or modified our model will be able to predict the potential impact both for investors and consumers.

Existing models are not considering the effect of the energy policies on the energy systems. Traditionally these models are scenario-oriented. According to their input parameters such as demand, consumption, and available technologies, they can suggest a couple of different scenarios to the policymakers.

Modern societies are rapidly changing by the decisions of political institutions. Recent major events in Europe and United States proved that energy transition is a dynamic condition affected by a plethora of different parameters that should be considered. Designing energy models needs to be a vice versa task proposing the optimal scenarios to the policy makers, considering at the same time the impact of energy policies.

The second novelty of this research proposal is that it will take into consideration both the financial and the societal impact of energy policies.