Dr Sarah Royston

Research Fellow

Global Sustainability Institute

Faculty:Faculty of Science and Engineering

Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: Consumption and change

Sarah carries out interdisciplinary research on energy and sustainability, focusing especially on issues of policy, governance and social practice.

Academia profile


Sarah's past work has explored how sustainable practices evolve across the life-course; community-based action on energy vulnerability; the role of experiential know-how in energy-related practices; how ‘non-energy’ policies steer energy demand; and how energy is governed in public sector institutions. Having also worked in the NGO sector advocating for just and sustainable energy policies, Sarah takes a cross-sectoral, impact-driven approach to research on social and environmental challenges.

Sarah completed a PhD in Social Policy at the University of York (2007-2011), with a thesis exploring how individuals’ practices aimed at addressing climate change evolve over their life-course. She was seconded to the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology in 2010 to write a briefing on “Climate Change: Engagement and Behaviour”, as well as providing research and capacity building consultancy to Friends of the Earth during the successful campaign for the Climate Change Act.

She then worked as a Research Associate on the RECCKN project at Keele University (Reducing Energy Consumption through Community Knowledge Networks), while volunteering for the Green House think tank. In 2012 Sarah moved to the Association for the Conservation of Energy as a Research Fellow, carrying out policy-focused research to support the organisation’s advocacy on issues of fuel poverty and energy efficiency.

In 2015 Sarah joined the DEMAND centre (Dynamics of Energy, Mobility and Demand) as a Research Fellow based at the University of Sussex, and worked on the Invisible Energy Policies project, exploring how non-energy policies shape energy demand.

Sarah joined the Global Sustainability Institute (GSI) in May 2019. At the GSI, she works on the Energy-SHIFTS project (Energy Social sciences & Humanities Innovation Forum Targeting the SET-Plan), aimed at bringing evidence and expertise from the Social Sciences and Humanities into European energy policy-making.

Research interests

  • Processes of energy and sustainability governance and policy-making, at various scales
  • The role of non-energy policies in steering demand; especially the impacts of digitalisation of public services
  • Energy and sustainability management in institutions
  • Energy in everyday life: practices that demand energy; practices of reducing energy demand
  • The role of different types of knowledge and know-how within these practices
  • In-depth qualitative methodologies
  • Interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral research


  • PhD Social Policy, University of York
  • MRes Social Research Methods, University of York
  • MA Sustainable Development, University of Leeds
  • BA Geography, University of Cambridge

Memberships, editorial boards

  • Member, Steering Group for EPSRC-funded "Welfare, Employment and Energy Demand" project, June 2015-December 2018
  • Member, Scientific Committee of BEHAVE Conference 2014, June 2014-September 2014

Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange

Grants and consultancy:

  • Scoping Review: Impact of non-energy policies on energy systems (Co-I). Funded by UK Energy Research Council, 2016.
  • Reaching Fuel Poor Families (PI). Funded by Eaga Charitable Trust, 2015.
  • Evaluation of the Warm and Informed programme (PI). Funded by The Children's Society, 2015
  • Closer to home: Locally-led delivery of energy and fuel poverty assistance (Co-I). Funded by Citizen's Advice, 2015.
  • Fuel poverty and energy efficiency: briefing series (PI or Co-I on four projects). Funded by Energy Bill Revolution, 2015.

Knowledge exchange:

  • Royston, S. (2018) "Integrating energy demand reduction across the institution", workshop for health professionals, Sustainable Health and Care Forum, Birmingham, 21st November.
  • Royston, S. (2017) "Searching for Invisible Energy Policy", invited presentation to policy-makers, businesses and NGOs at workshop on "Capturing the Multiple Benefits of Energy Efficiency", organised by the Swedish Energy Agency and the European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, Stockholm, 13th December.
  • Royston, S. (2017) " Invisible Energy Policy in UK Higher Education", presentation to policy-makers, NGOs and academics at Invisible Energy Policy day conference, held at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, 20 September.

Selected recent publications

Royston, S., Selby, J., and Kesidou, S. (2020) Governing energy in organisations: Energy management professionals, marginalised practices, and the limits to change. Environmental Policy and Governance 1–16.

Cox, E., Royston, S., and Selby, J. (2019) From exports to exercise: how non-energy policies affect energy systems. Energy Research and Social Science.

Royston, S. and Selby, J. (2019) Non-Energy Policy, in “Energy Fables: Challenging Ideas in the Energy Sector”, edited by Jenny Rinkinen, Elizabeth Shove and Jacopo Torriti.

Wadud, Z., Royston, S. and Selby, J. (2019) Modelling energy demand from higher education institutions: A case study of the UK. Applied Energy 233, 23, p816-826.

Royston, S., Selby, J. and Shove, E. (2018) Invisible energy policies: A new agenda for energy demand reduction. Energy Policy 123, p127-135.

Royston, S. (2015) "Know-how for keeping warm at home", book chapter, in Robison, R. (ed.) Sustainability: new questions, new answers. Cambridge: Global Sustainability Institute. 

Royston, S. (2014) Dragon-breath and snow-melt: Know-how, experience and heat flows in the home. Energy Research and Social Science 2, p148-158.

Shove, E. and Royston, S. (2014) "Smart meters don’t make us any smarter about energy use", article, The Conversation

Recent presentations and conferences

Royston, S. (2019) “In Search of Invisible Energy Policy”, part of the In Search of 'Good' Energy Policy Research Networks Series, University of Cambridge. 29 January.

Royston, S. (2018) "The search for invisible energy policy", CENSES conference "Clean Energy for All", Oslo, Norway, 22 November.

Royston, S. (2017) "Changing consumption", invited presentation to the public, and panel debate, organised by the Wellcome Trust, at the Wellcome Collection, 15 June.

Royston, S. (2016) "Invisible Energy Policy in UK HE", presentation at DEMAND Conference, Lancaster, UK, 13-15 April.

Shove, E., Royston, S. and DEMAND centre colleagues (2011) "Flipping Habits in the Kitchen", co-author/presenter of a short film as part of the ESRC-funded ‘Extraordinary Lecture and Exhibition of Ideas', British Library Conference Centre, 17 January.