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New £80m research centre will empower countries in the Global South to lead a sustainable energy shift

A new £80m centre that will give vulnerable populations in the Global South a voice, helping them to shape and benefit from the transition to sustainable energy, has been launched by Loughborough University at COP26.

Pictured from the left are: Dr Simon Batchelor, Director of Gamos and visiting Research Fellow, Dr Long Seng To, Professor Mark Howells and Dr Kandeh Yumkella, Founder and CEO of TENN.

Currently the world is not on track to reach the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 – ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all – by 2030. The new Centre for Sustainable Transitions: Energy, Environment and Resilience (STEER) will work with partners across the world, from decision-makers to energy poor communities, to try and make SDG 7 a reality.

Led by Professors Ed Brown and Mark Howells, and Dr Long Seng To, STEER brings together two major programmes funded by the Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) – Modern Energy Cooking Services MECS) and Climate Compatible Growth (CCG), as well as innovative research and capacity building on community energy resilience and inclusive energy planning.

STEER will co-create – with decision makers, affected communities and research partners – opensource sustainable energy planning tools and other training and capacity building methodologies that can be used by the finance, donor, ministry, and business communities in the Global South. The end goal is:

  • To ensure that there is national and community-level ownership of sustainable energy planning efforts
  • Coherence of strategic decision-making
  • Capacity building for government agencies and stakeholders to understand and utilise analytical models and planning methods
  • Transparency of data
  • Accessibility and effective participation for all

To mark the launch of STEER an event was held in Glasgow – the host city for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) – as part of a programme of activities organised by the Centre during the summit. 

The event celebrated the work of STEER’s two flagship projects, MECS and CCG.

MECS is a five-year £40m programme, working with the World Bank, to find innovative and modern cooking alternatives to biomass fuels, such as charcoal and wood, that are clean, affordable, reliable, and sustainable. 

Currently, over a third of the world’s population cook using these polluting fuels, leading to around four million premature deaths each year – primarily among women and children. Using charcoal and wood to cook also has a significant impact on climate change, contributing three per cent of the total CO2 emissions every year. MECS is laying the foundations for an accelerated transition towards affordable low carbon alternatives, such as highly efficient electric cooking appliances.

CCG is a £38m programme supporting investment in sustainable energy and transport systems to meet development priorities in the global south.  

Working with national and international research partners, including the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge and Imperial College London, CCG will deliver the economic tools and decision support frameworks needed to make green transitions possible in developing countries. 

Speaking about the launch of STEER, Co-Director Professor Mark Howells said: “Our aim is to develop world-class, agenda-setting research that supports delivery of the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with a particular focus on ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and services, that make business, economic, social and environmental sense. 

“Through the work of our flagship projects – MECS and CCG – we are already making a difference in ensuring no community is left behind as the world moves to cleaner more economic systems, which is essential if we are to prevent the major economic, social, and environmental damage caused by climate change. STEER can catalyse faster progress.” 

Co-Director Professor Ed Brown added: “STEER works across all aspects of SDG7 and beyond, bringing a fresh transdisciplinary and multi-sectoral approach to some of the most complex and intractable challenges that the global community faces. Too often the social, economic, financial, and environmental dimensions to those energy challenges have been treated separately, as if there are no trade-offs, conflicts and/or synergies between them. MECS research on low carbon cooking is just one example of the transformative potential of STEER’s work at the boundaries of those dimensions.”

Co-Director Dr Long Seng To said: “As well as its flagship programmes, STEER hosts innovative work on community energy resilience and inclusive energy planning. Working on the interconnections between STEER’s research themes with partners from across the globe, from government decision-makers to energy businesses to communities experiencing the impacts of climate change, we can accelerate the change needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and address the climate crisis.” 

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: PR 21/238

Video (downloads and embed codes): Introduction to STEER

 

Download video/audio (inc. raw files): https://www.lboro.ac.uk/media-centre/video-audio/2021/STEER

YouTube video link: https://youtu.be/xUBoPwf5MR0

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About Loughborough University

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2021 QS World University Rankings and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2022, and 10th in both the Guardian University League Table 2022 and the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.

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