Jim Watson

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Global warming.jpg This article is part of the Climate project of Spinwatch.

Dr Jim Watson is Professor of Energy Policy at Sussex University (SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research, The Sussex Energy Group) and research director of the UK Energy Research Centre, which is based at Imperial College, London.


According to the Sussex University website Watson was:

From Dec 2008 to Jan 2013... Director of the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex. My other roles include:
  • Member of the Academy of Science of South Africa panel on green technologies
  • Member of DECC and Defra's social science expert panel
  • Council Member of the British Institute for Energy Economics
  • Member of Carbon Connect's Future Electricity Series steering group
I have been a specialist adviser to the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee for its inquiry into The UK's Energy Supply: Security or Independence? (Apr-Oct 2011); and the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee for its inquiries on the Draft Climate Change Bill, Climate Change: The Citizen's Agenda and Energy Efficiency and Fuel Poverty (Mar 2006 to Jun 2009).
In have also been Chair of the British Institute for Energy Economics in 2011; a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics working party on new approaches to biofuels (Sep 2009 to Apr 2011); a Lead Expert with the UK government Foresight project on Sustainable Energy Management and the Built Environment (2007-2009); and a member of the IPPR New Era Economics panel (2010-12).
From June to August 2008, I was a Visiting Scholar with the Energy Technology Innovation Policy group at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
I have been at SPRU since 1993, initially as a DPhil research student and since 1997 as a member of staff. My first degree in Electrical Engineering is from Imperial College London. The degree was linked to an engineering apprenticeship with the Rover Group from 1988 to 1992.

He has also been a Trustee of the Koru Foundation, a renewable energy charity[1]



Innovation in Cleaner Energy Technologies

I am working with colleagues on UK and international policies to support the development and deployment of sustainable, low carbon energy technologies. This includes work on specific low carbon technologies (see below) and more general research and outreach (e.g. by contributing to a 2008 Sussex Energy Group workshop on UK energy innovation policy)
I have been studying the development of gas turbine and 'cleaner coal' technologies for power generation since 1993. Current work includes research on the economic and policy issues for cleaner coal technologies including carbon capture and storage (CCS) within a Sussex Energy Group project: Cleaner Fossil Fuels and Carbon Capture and Storage. This includes collaboration with the Managment and Economics Department at the University of Linkoping in Sweden on innovation within the multinational electrical equipment industry.
Between 2004 and 2006, I led a project funded by the ESRC Sustainable Technologies Programme: Unlocking the Power House. The project was a collaboration with Southampton University and Imperial College. It focused on the possible impact of micro-generation on the relationship between household consumers and energy companies, and the wider implications for energy policy.

Nuclear power

Nuclear spin.png This article is part of the Nuclear Spin project of Spinwatch.

 :I am collaborating with Alister Scott on the return of nuclear power as an option in the UK and other countries. This includes an analysis of the potential impacts of new nuclear investment on UK energy security, and the broader consequences for the rest of the energy system.

Energy, Climate Change and Development

I have conducted research on energy and environment in China since the late 1990s. I currently lead a project within the Sussex Energy Group and the Tyndall Centre on Chinese energy futures. I am working with colleagues at SPRU, IDS and TERI (India) on a number of projects focusing on low carbon growth and technology transfer."[2]


FrackWell.png This article is part of the Spinwatch Fracking Portal and project

On fracking

In 2012 Watson said that:

The view of Ministers that shale gas will significantly boost UK energy security is questionable for two reasons. First, the UK is already in a comparatively strong security position, with access to a diversity of domestic and international sources of gas via pipelines and ships. Rather than relying on shale gas, a priority to strengthen gas security should be more attention to the low amount of gas storage we have.
Second, even if UK shale gas resources turn out to be large and low cost – and that is a big if – this will not necessarily bring down prices to UK consumers. It is unlikely that UK shale gas will be anywhere near as cheap as it is in the US, and any price difference between UK gas and continental European gas will quickly disappear as a result of demand from other countries.

In November 2013 Watson told a public lecture that he was 'tired of advocates saying it’s going to transform our economy tomorrow' based on 'inappropriately used' comparisons with fracking in the US.

He was also, however, weary about 'some rather poor rhetoric coming out of some of the opposition groups as well'.

Watson criticised the Coalition government for causing confusion for the public and investors by 'trying to run two energy policies at the same time' with the Tories and Lib Dems running in opposition directions on energy policy, including what role gas should play in the energy supply. [3]



Contact, Resources and Notes


Address:Freeman Centre North Wing, 1st Floor, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton
Email: W.J.Watson@sussex.ac.uk
Phone:(01273) 873539 or (01273) 678166



  1. Jim Watson, "Biography of Jim Watson", Sussex Energy Group website. Accessed 13/02/09
  2. Jim Watson, "Biography of Jim Watson", Sussex Energy Group website. Accessed 13/02/09
  3. News agencies, David Cameron was wrong to raise public's hopes on fracking, says energy expert, The Telegraph, 7 November 2013