Interview with Behavioural Researcher Sarah Delcourt

Sarah Delcourt


  • Behavioural Researcher & PhD Candidate at the KU Leuven on the topic of pro-environmental behaviour
  • Previous experience as data scientist for the insurance company Yuzzu (Brussel, Belgium)
  • Master in Psychology (Theory and Research) at KU Leuven Belgium


Role of KU Leuven in the ISLANDER project:

  • Provide partners with insights into the end-users’ behaviours and habits, and propose solutions to take this into account when developing and implementing the different technologies on the island


Sarah, please tell us about your role in the ISLANDER project?

The goal of the ISLANDER project is to achieve zero-emissions on the island of Borkum. To realise this objective, we invest in technologies such as battery and a smart-IT platform. However, this will only work if the island’s end-users adopt those technologies and adapt their behaviour to the new way of producing energy. That is where KU Leuven comes into action. We will provide our partners with different insights on the end-users, and how those insights can be integrated in the developing and implementing of the different technologies.


What has been most exciting in your work on the ISLANDER project so far?

The most exciting work so far was the work I conducted for Work package 4 (WP4). The goal of WP4 is to develop a forecasting model of end-users’ energy consumption. While the data scientists of elmy (partner in the project) developed the forecasting model, KU Leuven was responsible for collecting data on the different end-users, their habits, and daily energy consuming activities. Based on those data, I was able to define different profiles of end-users based on their characteristics and behaviour. I found that really exiting because I was able to combine my past experience as a data scientist and my current experience as a researcher. As a researcher, I had to develop questionnaires and collect the data. And as a data scientist, I had to analyse the data and work on a model capable of creating the different profiles. I really enjoyed this task.


What inspired you to work in the field of renewable energy?

I wanted to contribute to the field of renewable energy because I believe that human behaviour is an important key in fighting climate change. However, I have the feeling that this aspect is not always well represented in current research and policies. And I hope that my research will contribute to increasing the awareness for human behaviour’s importance.


Did you ever face difficulties within your career due to gender bias?

Personally, I never experienced any difficulties in my career due to gender biases.


What actions does your company take to support Gender Diversity?

KU Leuven puts importance on gender diversity at the workplace. Besides of giving the same wage to both man and women from the same experience, KU Leuven also developed an “Integrated Gender Equality Plan”. This gender diversity plan focuses on inclusion, prevention of transgressive behavior, education, monitoring, entry and progression of staff and students, women in supervisory positions, and commitment and implementation.


What other measures should, in your opinion, be adopted in companies to promote gender diversity?

I am not sure about what should be done to increase gender diversity. however I think we should provide enough education and training to managers (and other staff) in order to erase the different stereotypes resting on women.