Doctoral Thesis (2016)
Title An Analysis of the Sociotechnical Transition Process from the Existing Centralised Alternating Current Voltage Electrical System in the UK to One Where Distributed Direct Current Voltage is Used to Meet The Energy Needs of  the Built Environment.


This study concerns the potential sociotechnical transition of the current UK centralised alternating current (AC) electricity system to one where distributed direct current (DC) systems may proliferate. The development of the new distributed DC system has the potential to address a number of global challenges including the UN’s 17 Sustainability Challenges, particularly in terms of city and disaster resilience, energy security and energy independence. With the development of renewables and small-scale storage, among other technologies, this transition becomes a technical possibility. As transitions theory identifies energy systems as sociotechnical, transitions are a complex and people-centred process, an issue that has been identified that creates barriers to technical transitions. The multi-level perspective (MLP) is used as the theoretical framework and its applicability for future transitions is considered.

The research proposes a “bottom-up” approach, focused on the demand side within the built environment, to avoid the transition developing into a wicked problem. Using a mixture of primary interview data, analysed using thematic analysis, supported by data, from published academic and industry/governmental literature, a multi-method case study approach is used to develop a transitions model between the “as is” state and the potential future state with DC systems. Also identified were the institutions within the social and technical networks of the electricity regime, barriers and enablers to the transition, boundary points between the networks and the structurations of institutions within these networks.

Key findings are a lack of interdisciplinary thinking among different academic disciplines, a lack of DC standards and home appliances, and that DC is in focus for the office rather than the home. Knowledge dissemination especially via education, government procurement and energy policy, and the importance of independence from the market are key components for a successful proliferation. A conundrum connecting renewable generation, the carbon debate and energy policy, is identified. With a deeper understanding of the regime, landscape and with a multi-systems approach, a tentative solution is provided.

Contributions to knowledge are: the transitions model; the sociotechnical characterisation of the electricity system; a better understanding of how liability, living standards, disaster risk reduction and city resilience can be impacted by failure chains associated with power cuts; and a deeper understanding of the MLP model.


Masters Thesis (2011)
Title : Benefits of Direct Current Electricity Supply for Domestic Application


Although, the use of DC in the home has a long history, AC is presently used almost exclusively in all domestic electricity supply with DC limited only to niche applications such as motorised caravans/mobile homes and other leisure craft. In recent years there has been growing interest in the use of DC in the home partly because many modern home appliances use DC voltages and most renewable energy sources generate DC power. Continued use of AC therefore seems wasteful, as the energy has to be converted using an inverter from DC to AC and then using an AC to DC converter back to DC with consequent energy losses. Elimination of this multiple stage energy conversion saves energy, and CO2 emissions. Most of the previous works undertaken to assess the feasibility of DC in the home have concluded that it is not practical for technical and cost reasons. This research re-examines the methodologies and assumptions used in previous work on DC.

In contrast to previous work whose goal was to determine if DC voltage could substitute AC voltage in home applications, the primary objective of this research was to assess whether DC voltage could be used in the home avoiding any constraints imposed by how electricity is used today. A novel bottom-up approach is proposed starting with real DC loads that are found on the open market. These DC loads are apportioned to different zones, power sockets and cable spurs to determine the DC voltage peak power that directly correlates with real DC loads. Even given the constraints of voltage drops along the cables, this approach allows for the use of 4mm2 cables in the design and enables micromanagement of the loads. Previous works have suggested much bigger cable gauges.

Different design implementations/scenarios are investigated from which it has been shown that low power DC voltage can be practically and economically implemented with cables of an acceptable gauge. Some of the indirect economic and socioeconomic benefits that widespread use of DC in the home provides are discussed. These include Energy Independence with Energy Security, reduced pressure to import fossil fuels, the advantages of decentralised energy generation, and the increase in the quality of life and Gross Domestic Product of developing nations.  It is concluded however, that a full implementation of a DC system will only become possible within the context of Smart House Technology.


Peer Reviewed (2011)
Title : Proposed components for the design of a smart nano-grid for a domestic electrical system that operates at below 50V DC


The need and advantages of the use of direct current voltage for domestic usage has been presented, however at a very-low dc voltage, the system suffers from voltage loss constraints and higher than usual load currents. Some of the parameters that cause load-induced voltage drops and the resultant ramifications to the usability of the electric network are discussed. The system needs a dynamic mechanism to control the voltage at any node each and every time a new load is connected or a load is removed from the system. This paper seeks to use smart house technology in the form of a smart grid, intelligent appliances and interactive power nodes to circumvent and mitigate these problems. The requirements and possible components that the smart grid will need to provide, are set forth. The use of power line communications over the DC electricity mains using CAN-bus or LIN-bus protocols is discussed.


 Peer Reviewed (2014)
Title : To what Extent is Electricity Central to Resilience and Disaster Management of the Built Environment?


Purpose: This paper aims to establish two key points. Firstly that there is a gap in the resilience literature, and to show that electricity needs to play a more central role in all the academic research fields associated with ‘disasters’ and ‘resilient cities’.


Two approaches were used, database interrogation and establishing areas of expertise in the resilience and disaster case study literature. Firstly a database search was carried out, and the ‘keyword’ and ‘abstract’ fields searched for electricity related words. Then academic papers, and reports by public bodies were analysed to establish which academic disciplines are most active in this area of research.

Findings: This paper shows; that only 3.9% of the 4127 papers analysed, had key words connected to electricity, and that there is not a specific discipline within the resilience literature looking explicitly at how electricity effects the built environment.

Research implications: This paper implies that the role of electricity, in the academic literature associated with resilience, is under represented. A future research agenda should be developed that more adequately reflects the importance of electricity to the resilience of the built environment.

Practical implications:With more focused research, into how the loss of electrical energy affects all aspects of life during and post disaster, better approaches to disaster risk reduction and management can be formulated.

Originality/value:This paper is the first to analyses the literature to understand how important the continuity of electrical supply is to the resilient cities and disaster management academic communities, and has highlighted this theme as a gap in the literature.


Paper presented at Darnell Conference (2009)
Title : An exploration of the technical and economic feasibility of a low powered DC voltage mains power supply in the domestic arena


This paper explores the feasibility of supplying electrical power to modern homes using a DC voltage mains within the house. A bottom-up approach is adopted in the design of the DC supply, starting with known domestic loads to build a power usage profile based on assumed lifestyle for the occupants of the house. The load profile is then used to work out cable sizes for the mains distribution network. It looks at the type of electrical cables to be employed and the calculations involved in working out voltage drops, and therefore power loss along the cables. The voltage used in the calculations, was 24 V, as this is the voltage rating of DC appliances and devices. The methodology is then employed with a range of powers and voltages to work out different possible load and cable scenarios. The constraints to the analysis and further work are discussed. Economic analysis is carried out on energy losses, and the advantage of using DC appliances, as against using AC appliances is discussed. The goal is to build a framework that will provide the necessary tools that will help in identifying an optimal voltage for the low powered DC home. Previous work is looked at.



Input paper to UNISDR (2014)
Title : The use of direct current voltage systems to increase a city’s resilience and reduce the vulnerability of economic activity from a disaster


Purpose: The overarching purpose of this paper is to address the challenges facing the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 in a holistic way. The emphasis will be on Thematic Research Area 8, which concentrates on what can be done to mitigate the adverse economic effects of a disaster. The electrical system is seen as pivotal to many economic aspects of disaster risk reduction (DRR). The objective of this paper is to show how distributed electricity systems, coupled with direct current (DC) voltage offer a solution to increasing resilience against the effects of a disaster, thus reducing the impact on both the economy and the people who facilitate its smooth operation.

Design/methodology/approach: This paper looks at the lifeblood of any modern economic system as being the electricity needed to operate most functions of economic activity. Economic activity requires a workforce and consumers, therefore this research will look at the economic system as being a socio-technical system. The whole economic value chain is the technical system and the workforce and consumers are the social system. Electricity underpins the functionality of the whole socio-technical system. Data from case study literature is used to build a picture of how both people and economic activity are impacted by the loss of electricity. Diagrams will be made of the different subsets of the economic activity that will be adversely affected by the loss of electricity, and of the subsets that surround the wellbeing of the workforce that will enable them to continue working.

Findings: There is a gap in the resilience literature with regard to the importance of electricity to DRR. Some literature, especially that about the loss of electricity to intensive care units in hospitals, has focused on educating clinicians as to how to overcome such challenges, but only offers limited solutions. It was found that by analysing information about the effects of a disaster from the point of view of reconstruction and rehabilitation programmes, it is possible to gain a clearer picture of some of the higher–order aspects of a disaster that were affected due to the loss of electricity, but not the actual details for each loss factor. This therefore only gives us higher order socio-technical implications.

Social implications

For the workforce to be able to work they must be able to sustain a reasonable level of living standard. For this to happen, all support activities that enable this must be able to function. These support activities may include; a operational home to live in, a school for the children, a functioning healthcare system, and functioning public services- including utilities. All these support activities require electricity to function. The social impact of the loss of electricity include; forced relocation, loss of functionality of all public services, breakdown in law and order, loss of job and therefore means of income, breakup of communities and relationships, 4

and a longer time to get back to pre-disaster living standards, all of which exacerbate the psychological trauma on individuals and families. By having to move from their community and/or having their means of financial income disrupted, the local economy will lose a proportion of its customers and therefore its income.

Technical and economic implications

The supply chain for economic activity should be looked at as the provision of the products or services from raw materials to consumption. Economic activities should therefore include, procurements of raw materials, excluding workforce skills, production, transportation, wholesaling, retailing, and consumption. At each stage there may be the need for storage, and when it comes to perishables freezing or refrigeration. All these activities require electricity, the loss of which, even in any part of the economic value chain can increase the vulnerability of the whole chain.

Originality and value

Although the importance of the continuation of the electric system in times of disaster is known, this research has been first to focus on the electrical system as being pivotal to the economic impact of a disaster. Based on work carried out during this research which indicated that there is a gap in the DRR literature, some case studies have been used to understand the negative economic impacts of the loss of electricity. They focused on subjects like, post disaster reconstruction and what anesthesiologist should know about healthcare in blackout situations, which are not subjects about electricity. By highlighting the importance of electricity in DRR, it is hoped that this will increase awareness among all DRR professionals that more emphasis should be placed on gathering data, and working towards a more robust electrical system. Distributed energy systems, lead to energy independence, which leads to energy security and untimely to a more disaster resilient society.


Conferences paper  (2013)
Title : The sociotechnical regime networks associated with the implementation of direct current (DC) electricity in the built environment


The use of direct current voltage in the built environment has a number of potential advantages. However, implementing DC voltage is not just a technical challenge; there are also many human interactions with the technical system that will be affected by such a change.  This paper seeks to show how socio-technical systems theory can be used to characterise the different elements that affect the implementation of DC in the built environment. By presenting an initial mapping of the socio-technical system around electricity supply for the built environment, this paper identifies the actors, networks and institutions, and associated rules and regulations that constitute the regime networks that are associated with the electrical system in the UK.  It has shown that some actors can function in more than one regime network and presents some of the interrelationships between the different network actors, all in a framework of increasing influence on the decision making process to implement DC voltage electricity.