This opportunity is now closed.

Funded PhD Opportunity

Investigating spatial variations in fuel poverty and determining the potential of, and attitudes towards, low-energy buildings and renewable technologies in Northern Ireland

Subject: Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology


Summary

Fuel poverty occurs when a homeowner must spend at least 10% of their income on maintaining a warm home (1). Living in cold homes is related to Excess Winter Mortality (2) in addition to mental (3) and physical health (4). Fuel poverty is influenced by three factors.

Firstly, household income has a significant impact on fuel poverty. Across the UK, Northern Ireland (NI) has the lowest median weekly income before housing costs (5) and the highest level of worklessness (6), thus leading to greater vulnerability to poverty.

Secondly, the energy efficiency of the home contributes to the extent of fuel poverty in a home. While inefficient buildings typically are at risk of fuel poverty, they also contribute to carbon emissions (7). Low-energy homes (such as those built to the passive house standard) have been shown to consume one third of the energy of traditional dwellings (8), and have a potential contribution to make.

The third contributor to fuel poverty is the cost of domestic energy services. NI has been restricted to home heating oil (HHO) and has had limited access to natural gas (9). The UK’s Climate Change Committee (10) has recommended electric heat pumps as the preferred heating option, and NI has the second lowest domestic electricity price in Europe. Fuel poverty varies considerably across space and time and models are required that identify those homes at greatest risk of fuel poverty (11; 12).

By identifying local areas at risk of fuel poverty, interventions such as renewable technologies, deep energy retrofit projects and low-energy new build initiatives can be targeted. However, identification of suitable areas demands excellent data that describe not only the building, but also the inhabitants of the home. This project will seek to use a large dataset (NI House Condition Survey) to identify relationships between variables and fuel poverty across NI.

This project has five connected work packages:

WP1: A systematic litearature review will identify predictors of fuel poverty and how low-energy building and renewable technologies can reduce fuel poverty.

WP2: A large dataset (N=3,000) of individual building data will be statistically analysed to identify relationships between fuel poverty scores and predictors (e.g. dwelling type or household income).

WP3: The main predictors of fuel poverty will be mapped at small area level using open data in a Geographic Information Systems (GIS). This stage will involve the use of Geographically Weighted Regression (GWR) to identify spatial variations in fuel poverty across NI. This stage will also identify ‘clusters’ of risk from which individual homes will be selected for WP4.

WP4: A sample of homes in areas of high predicted risk of fuel poverty will be visited to determine the extent to which homes are experiencing fuel poverty. Qualitative surveys will be used to assess attitudes to low-energy building and renewable technologies.

WP5: The potential contribution of low-energy homes in combination with electric heat pumps and renewable energy will be determined.

The project would suit a student with skills in GIS and statistics although training will be provided.  The project will ideally attract a candidate with methodological and/or applied experience.


Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Masters at 65%
  • Research project completion within taught Masters degree or MRES
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Experience of presentation of research findings

Funding

    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

    Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

    Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

    Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies


Other information


The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Reviews

Profile picture of Michelle Clements Clements

Completing the MRes provided me with a lot of different skills, particularly in research methods and lab skills.

Michelle Clements Clements - MRes - Life and Health Sciences

Watch Video  

Profile picture of Carin Cornwall

I would highly recommend Ulster University as you get so much support.  Coleraine is a beautiful town and the people are so friendly. It was a really positive experience.

Carin Cornwall - PhD Environmental Sciences

Watch Video  

Key dates

Submission deadline
Friday 7 February 2020

Interview Date
March 2020


Applying

Apply Online  


Campus

Coleraine campus

Coleraine campus
The feeling of community at our Coleraine campus makes for a warm and welcoming student experience.


Contact supervisor

Dr Paul McKenzie


Other supervisors

Related Funded Opportunities

Geography and Environmental Sciences

Subject: Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology

 View details

MRes in Geography & Environmental Sciences

Subject: Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology

 View details