The future’s electric

Changing the world with energy access and clean cooking

Access to modern sustainable energy services is one of the most important challenges faced by the global community (UN SDG 7), but we are failing to meet the need for cleaner cooking.

Around the world, four billion people continue to rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating. Indoor air pollution from these types of fuels causes up to four million premature deaths every year, and the burning of biomass is a major contributor to climate change.

The FCDO (formerly DFID) had the foresight to see the need for innovative new ways that this challenge could be met and partnered with the University in leading that effort.

Building on almost a decade of leading research efforts to address the challenge of sustainable energy in the global south, our UK Aid-funded work to revolutionise global approaches to clean cooking transitions under the Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS) programme is beginning to yield significant results.

A focus group in rural Zambia, exploring what value an electric pressure cooker might offer to their cooking
Courtesy of Nancy Serenje, CEEEZ

Our impact

Influencing public policy and funding

  • Our ongoing research collaboration with FCDO has helped champion more contextual social energy systems approaches towards the achievement of SDG7.
  • FCDO doubled the funding for MECS to £40 million when its significant paradigm-shifting impact became apparent.
  • Our eCook project demonstrated the feasibility of electric cooking, directly influencing the Clean Cooking Alliance’s global strategy for the sector.
  • Innovative financial programmes - including EnDev and Beyond The Grid Africa - are now incorporating concessional finance for electric cooking devices into their programmes.

Inspiring charities

  • We convinced the US NGO CLASP of the case for electric cooking - the promotion of efficient electric cooking appliances is now a priority market-creation activity for them.
  • Dutch NGO Hivos were inspired by our focus on interdisciplinary work and gender equality to prioritise electric cooking.

New market development

  • The MECS Challenge Fund has supported business investment in clean cooking technologies and solutions.
  • This has supported 43 companies to develop clean cooking products - such as electric pressure cookers - services and market development activity in the Global South.
  • Burn Kenya have changed their strategy - investing in manufacturing energy-efficient electric appliances at scale and expanding their premises to develop a dedicated production facility for electric pressure cookers.

The research

We have pioneered new ways of transitioning to low carbon energy in developing countries, whilst advocating for change in conventional research, policy and funding approaches.

We have developed sustainable models for addressing SDG7 which comprise new, holistic interdisciplinary contextual social energy systems approaches. We have also demonstrated, for the first time, the possibility of global reach for modern energy cooking services, even amongst low-income populations in the Global South

Our ground-breaking projects include the Understanding Sustainable Energy Solutions (USES) Network (RCUK/DFID, 2013-18), the LCEDN fast-start stage of the Transforming Energy Access Programme (TEA - DFID, 2016-18), the Solar Nano-grids project (SONG - RCUK/DFID/DECC, 2016-), Renewable Energy and Decentralization (READ - RCUK/DFID/DECC/LU, 2014-17) and Energy Technology Pathways (2015-16) as well as the ongoing UK Aid-funded Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS) programme highlighted here.

Key to these achievements has been our collaboration with local partners who have steered our priorities and successfully implemented new initiatives on the ground.

We are massively grateful to our funders and partners for enabling the dramatic impacts that our research on energy transitions is beginning to have.

It has enabled the University to develop new approaches to the building of effective and resilient research partnerships as embodied in the newly established STEER Centre which houses the MECS programme, the UK Aid-funded Climate Compatible Growth programme, and a growing family of other innovative international collaborations and partnerships.

Research funders

  • DECC
  • UKRI

Development partners

  • Clean Cooking Alliance

Meet the experts

Photograph of Ed Brown

Professor Ed Brown

Professor of Global Energy Challenges

Photograph of Simon Batchelor

Dr Simon Batchelor

Visiting Fellow in Energy and International Development

Photograph of Long Seng To

Dr Long Seng To

RA Eng Engineering for Development Research Fellow