Developing countries and climate change
By ucqbdwk, on 4 March 2014
Blog by Dan Kerr, Research Associate at UCL-Energy
The lack of reliable modern energy access is seen by many as a key barrier in promoting the development of low-income developing countries, both in limiting economic activity for the current workforce, and through limits placed on education for the future workforce. Constraints on economic activity, particularly in rural areas of developing countries, placed by the lack of energy access have severely limited the development potential of whole communities. The reliance on traditional energy sources (predominantly biomass) in both urban and rural has led to significant burdens on the time and resources of families, particularly women and children.
The UCL Energy Institute is currently involved in two research projects that seek to tackle this situation. “Supporting African Municipalities in Sustainable Energy Transitions” (SAMSET) and “Sustainable Thermal Energy Service Partnerships” (STEPs) are both funded jointly through the EPSRC-DFID-DECC. Dr Xavier Lemaire and Daniel Kerr from the Institute will be working on the projects.
Urbanisation rates in Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, are the highest in the world, and efforts to achieve the energy-related dimensions of the Millennium Development Goals has often failed to have a significant impact on cities. SAMSET seeks to address this by creating a knowledge exchange framework, through which to support cities in sub-Saharan Africa with sustainable energy transitions. SAMSET covers the entire gamut of urban energy sectors, from buildings to transport to waste management to electricity/heat generation. Through close partnering with six cities in three African countries (Ghana, Uganda and South Africa), as well as with global partner institutions, the project aims to develop an information base from which to support cities, undertake direct support for cities around strategy development and priority initiatives, and facilitate knowledge exchange and capacity building.
The STEPs project focuses on rural areas of developing countries, and the challenge of thermal energy service delivery to these areas. It is estimated that without intervention, 2.6 billion people will still lack access to clean, safe thermal energy by 2030. The STEPs project aims to directly address this through the development of a new model for thermal energy service delivery, the Sustainable Thermal Energy Partnership. This model is to be constructed as a pro-poor public-private partnership (5P) model, focusing on fee-for-service financing methods for thermal energy service equipment, for example solar cookers or LPG stoves. The research will study applicable energy conversion and end-use application technologies, analyse institutional arrangements, and develop business and enterprise models which need to be implemented to promote thermal energy services in rural areas developing countries.
Both the SAMSET and STEPs projects have significant potential to contribute positively to poverty alleviation and climate change mitigation in developing countries. The STEPs project in particular has wide-ranging potential to meaningfully provide a new framework for energy services in rural areas. Removing the burden of traditional biomass collection from the rural residential sector frees up vast amounts of time for income-generating activities, improving local economies and enabling further development. The provision of clean, safe thermal energy reduces indoor air pollution, which is a major contributing factor to national health issues in a number of sub-Saharan African nations, and also greatly improves quality of life.
For SAMSET, the accelerating pace of urbanisation in developing countries has been accompanied by an accelerating pace of energy demand and consumption. Making fundamental changes at the ground level when designing and managing new and existing urban areas, towards the use of sustainable energy across all sectors of urban energy consumption, will have significant effects on greenhouse gas emissions, total final energy consumption, the urban heat island effect and much more. Particularly in countries such as Uganda, where urbanisation rates are still low but increasing rapidly, the SAMSET project hopes to make a meaningful contribution to future urban development practices.
In summary, the number of ways that improving sustainable energy uptake can affect economic circumstances and climate change in developing countries are myriad. From lights in the home at night and a clean-burning stove, to street lighting, sustainably-powered shops, energy service companies providing employment, public transport, urban planning and power generation, sustainable energy use can have vast effects on the welfare of developing countries across the vast majority of sectors. The UCL Energy Institute and its researchers involved in these projects hope to be able to live up this potential.