Socially just energy systems

Two women standing in front of an electric cooking pot, they are measuring out ingredients using a large spoon.
EPC mini-grid pilot. Image credit, Hannah Blair (CLASP) 2016.

Business-as-usual policy and practice are not delivering sufficient progress on SDG7, as evidenced by current rates of access to clean cooking and electricity. More socially inclusive, development needs-focussed policymaking, planning and service delivery are needed to ensure everyone benefits from a sustainable energy transition, even the poorest and most vulnerable groups.

This strand encompasses policy and technical research on socially just energy systems and solutions, as well as capacity building and on-the-ground solutions deployment.

The FCDO-funded Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS) programme, led by Professor Ed Brown, is a £40 million programme working across 19 countries. In just three years, it has become recognised as the leading centre globally for innovative research and action on new approaches to clean cooking, driving growing global interest in clean electricity for cooking as a potential game-changer for stalled progress on universal access to clean cooking. The programme brings together diverse researchers tackling everything from global market and political economy analyses, national/local energy planning, support for technical, regulatory and financial innovation (such as carbon finance) to in-country work with local communities, entrepreneurs and consumers.

Further impact-focussed research to scale up progress on SDG7 includes innovative work on inclusive financing through social protection approaches (“energy safety nets”) to ensure the poorest and most vulnerable groups have energy access, as well as development of more inclusive, needs-based and cross-sectoral planning approaches to designing and delivering energy services in different country contexts.

This includes a programme of capacity building using the innovative Energy Delivery Models (EDM) planning approach developed by Dr Sarah Wykes in collaboration with researchers from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and partners in Southern countries. EDM is currently being used as the key methodology for a major three-year capacity building to support national and sub-national energy planning in Kenya, via the EU-funded Sustainable Technical Energy Assistance (SETA) programme.

Our work in Kenya also illustrates the connectivity between the three strands of the STEER research portfolio, where there are emerging connections between SETA, CCG and MECS research.

STEER researchers have long worked at the intersection of transdisciplinary academic research, development practice and business. Our researchers have been instrumental in the evolution of the UK Low Carbon Energy for Development Network (LCEDN). LCEDN has played a major role in promoting transdisciplinary and multi-sectoral approaches to research on low carbon transitions in the Global South and creating a community of researchers interested in collaborating around those issues.

The STEER team is also involved in shaping enabling policies and knowledge sharing among stakeholders on best practices in energy access through our membership of the Alliance of CSOs for Clean Energy Access (ACCESS), a global network of energy access practitioners and researchers.

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