Rihab Khalid


Rihab Khalid is the 2020 Isaac Newton Trust Research Fellow at Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge and will be affiliated with CRASSH during the period of her three-year fellowship.

I am an interdisciplinary researcher in sustainable energy consumption and demand management, focusing on socio-technical approaches to societal transitions. In particular, I am interested in the intersections of gender, energy infrastructure and space use in Pakistan and more broadly in the Global South. My work takes a multidisciplinary approach to understanding energy demand, amalgamating socio-cultural theories with more technically grounded understandings of consumption in the context of architectural and urban spaces.I am committed to problem-driven research to tackle societal challenges, and to improve energy efficiency and sufficiency to meet climate change targets through sustainable socio-technical transitions.

I am currently Co-I on the QR-GCRF project: ‘Gender equity and energy access in the Global South’, headed by the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University. The project aims to investigate what the UN Sustainable Development Goal of "access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy" (SDG7) means to the professionals working on matters of energy access, and in particular what the implications are for gender equality (SDG5), in the Global South. While much research, policy and practice address these SDGs separately, there are major gaps in knowledge and action on how energy access and gender equality intersect. Through collaboration with 11 partners across six countries, the project is undertaking 80 semi-structured interviews spanning Nigeria, Ghana, India and Pakistan. Interviews will be targeted towards professionals working on different aspects of the (developing) energy system to understand how their (gendered) expectations are shaping the systems of provision. Findings from the study will be used to produce policy recommendations for each region.

As part of CRASSH, I will be working towards expanding the role and engagement of Social Science and Humanities (SSH) perspectives in energy policy and research. To date, energy studies and policy programmes have been dominated by Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines. It is now recognised that a multidisciplinary approach is necessary to tackle global 21stcentury challenges such as those of energy demand reduction, energy justice and climate change mitigation. In this, the Arts, Humanities and the Social Sciences certainly have a greater role to play. 


I obtained my PhD in Architecture at the University of Cambridge in 2020. My PhD thesis: ‘Socio-material constructs of domestic energy demand: Household and housing practices in Pakistan’ focused on addressing the gap in current domestic energy use studies in the Global South from a socio-technical perspective. Through my research, I identified various nexuses of practices and spatial arrangements of urban housing that have emerged, persisted and transformed over time, giving rise to unsustainable levels of electricity consumption in middle-class housing in Lahore, Pakistan. By combining theories from the social sciences with the knowledge of spatial agency in design, my study explored sustainability interventions in house design and use, as well as providing implications for housing and energy policy in Pakistan.


Peer-reviewed journal articles:

Khalid, R., Sunikka-Blank, M., 2020. Housing and household practices: Practice-based sustainability interventions for low-energy houses in Lahore, Pakistan. Energy Sustain. Dev. 54, 148–163. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.esd.2019.11.005  

Khalid, R., Christensen, T.H., Gram-Hanssen, K., Friis, F., 2019. Time-shifting laundry practices in a smart grid perspective: a cross-cultural analysis of Pakistani and Danish middle-class households. Energy Efficiency. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12053-018-9769-7  

Khalid, R., Sunikka-Blank, M., 2018. Evolving houses, demanding practices: A case of rising electricity consumption of the middle class in Pakistan. Building and Environment 143, 293–305. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2018.07.010

Khalid, R., Sunikka-Blank, M., 2017. Homely social practices, uncanny electricity demands: Class, culture and material dynamics in Pakistan. Energy Research & Social Science 34, 122–131. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2017.06.038

Policy report:

Khalid, R. and Foulds, C., 2020. The social dimensions of moving away from gas cookers and hobs: Challenges and opportunities in transition to low-carbon cooking. London: UK Energy Research Centre. https://ukerc.ac.uk/publications/the-social-dimensions-of-moving-away-from-gas-cookers-and-hobs-challenges-and-opportunities-in-transition-to-low-carbon-cooking/

Blog posts:

Are our houses demanding more from us? https://sciencetrends.com/are-our-houses-demanding-more-from-us/

Cooking up a storm? What will it take to decarbonise UK’s heat for low-carbon cooking. https://ukerc.ac.uk/news/cooking-up-a-storm-what-will-it-take-to-decarbonise-uks-heat-for-low-carbon-cooking/

Related events:

Evolving Houses, Demanding Practices: Rising Electricity Consumption-Pakistan. http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/events/27926


Lucy Cavendish Isaac Newton Trust Research Fellow


October 2020 - September 2023


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