Dr Sarah Higginson


Sarah Higginson is a researcher in the ECI (Environmental Change Institute) at the University of Oxford.

Academically, she is interested in the timing and flexibility of energy use practices. Her work is highly interdisciplinary and has resulted, in collaboration with colleagues, in a new methodology called Practice Network Mapping, which uses a quantitative form of Network Theory and some free software called Gephi to diagram data-driven, visual maps of social practices. This makes it possible to analyse their characteristics, such as which elements are more central or peripheral, or which connections are more frequent or direct. The hope is that this method will eventually allow social science insights to be better incorporated into engineering models of energy demand.

Her current work is on project called RealValue, an EU funded, Horizon 2020 project, where she is looking at the social acceptability and implications of aggregating control of household energy storage devices (heat and hot water) in Ireland, Germany and Latvia with potential economic and environmental benefits for a number of applications, including: integrating renewable generation, energy arbitrage, ancillary services, deferral of network investment and enhanced grid capacity.

Much of her past work was outside academia working in the third sector, mostly developing methods to facilitate conversations between various stakeholders about a broad range of sustainability topics, from regeneration and local economic development to democratic participation and climate change. She also previously ran a family Trust empowering women in some of the most dangerous parts of the world and now runs her own business, which she is hoping to set up as a Trust in due course, probably focusing on South Africa, where she grew up, and the relationship between energy, empowerment, economic sustainability and biodiversity.