Sustainable Energy. Development. Resilience.

Author: Long Seng To Page 1 of 4

New paper: Challenges and Success Factors for Mini-Grids in Malawi

I’m pleased to share a new journal article on “The Quest for Resilient Sustainable Development and Low-Carbon Energy Transitions: Investigating the Challenges and Success Factors for Mini-Grids in Malawi” published in the journal Sustainability.

Renewable energy mini-grids offer a cost-effective solution for providing electricity to communities in developing countries, particularly in rural and semi-urban areas. Despite their potential, many mini-grids struggle to remain operational beyond their pilot phases.

This study identifies the key factors contributing to the success of mini-grids and provides insights to enhance their resilience. We created a database on the status of mini-grids in Malawi, analyzed two hydro mini-grid systems—Bondo and Chipopoma—and identified crucial success factors such as financial and technical resources, policies, community engagement, and institutional frameworks.

Read the full paper here.

Book chapter in Community Energy and Sustainable Energy Transitions

I’m delighted to announce the publication of the Community Energy and Sustainable Energy Transitions (CESET) book edited by Vanesa Castán Broto. The book is a key outcome of the CESET project and captures experiences from Ethiopia, Malawi and Mozambique. I have very much enjoyed contributing to this collaborative, multi-institutional research partnership over the last few years. The book provides an overview of key issues in the delivery of community energy systems, connects current literature with cutting-edge critical debates that challenge thinking in community energy systems, and offers a suite of multi-scalar empirical examples in the East Africa context.

I contributed to a chapter on Community Energy and Community Resilience: A Multi-Dimensional Perspective. Here is the abstract:

This chapter explores the mutually interdependent relationship between community energy and community resilience. The resilience of Community Energy Systems (CES) depends on both the physical aspects of energy provision and the socio-economic and political aspects of the constitution of communities. At the same time, sustainable energy projects managed by communities build autonomy, control over resources, and community cohesion thus making communities themselves more resilient. This chapter offers an analytical framework to analyse resilience in CES and to increase their resilience during their conceptualisation, installation, operation, and upgradation. Resilience is seen here as dependent on communities’ social, economic, physical, and human capital. The framework shows that while some aspects of CES resilience can be addressed in the design of the energy system, their success depends on appropriate mechanisms for community involvement and governance.

The book is open access and free to read here.

New paper: IPCC reports and HE Geography

I’m excited to share a new paper co-authored with colleagues from the Department of Geography and Environment at Loughborough University on “The IPCC reports and HE Geography: opportunities lost and found” published in the Journal of Geography in Higher Education.

The paper discusses current practices and opportunities for using the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports to enhance learning and teaching in higher education Geography.

Read the full paper here.

Submit your paper: focus issue on community energy and infrastructure resilience

Maintaining the microgrid in the Chipopoma Power project, in Mantchewe, Northern Malawi (credit: Vanesa Castán Broto)

It is my pleasure to announce that the upcoming Focus Issue: Community Energy and Infrastructure Resilience in the journal Environmental Research: Infrastructure and Sustainability (ERIS) is now open for submissions.

This collection aims to showcase a range of breakthrough experiences in developing resilient infrastructure through community energy. The Focus Issue welcomes research Papers, Perspectives, and Topical Reviews. For further information please visit here. Please consider submitting your article for the collection by 30 April 2024.

Read full details for the focus issue here.

New paper: Community resilience in Bondo, Malawi

I’m thrilled to share a new paper on “Community resilience in Bondo community, Southern Malawi: balancing energy, water and biodiversity,” published in the International Journal of Energy Sector Management.

Based on a case study of Bondo community, situated in the proximity of the biodiverse Mulanji Mountain in Malawi, this paper explores the intricate relationships between a community energy system, water resources and biodiversity conservation. The findings underscore the importance of a balanced approach to resource use and conservation, offering valuable insights on community energy resilience.

Read the full paper here.

New paper: Integrating sustainable and energy-resilient strategies into emergency shelter design

It was an honour to mentor the BJTU+ Team from Beijing Jiaotong University in the Solar Decathalon China 2021 student competition. The interdisciplinary team designed and built a modular emergency shelter prototype, entitled Bag Box Building Cloud (BBBC). This paper describes how sustainable and energy-resilient strategies were integrated into the design process using the Quantifying Sustainability in the Aftermath of Natural Disasters (QSAND) tool. This is the first project to use QSAND at the design stage (rather than evaluation) and the outcome was a highly innovative solar-powered emergency shelter that is reusable, versatile, safe, affordable, and energy-efficient. I am incredibly proud of the BJTU+ Team!

Read the full journal article here.

Learn more about the BJTU+ team entry for the Solar Decathalon China here.

Guest on Talking Humanitarianism podcast

I’m thrilled to announce my featured appearance on episode 8 of the Talking Humanitarianism podcast mini-series about humanitarianism and transitions to a low-carbon future from the Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies. Join the conversation as I discuss ‘What role do communities play in accessing energy in humanitarian settings?’. The episode explores the dynamic intersection of community resilience and energy provision, and sheds light on the human dimension of an otherwise technical world of energy access in humanitarian crises.

Listen now on  Spotify and Apple.

Webinar: Synergies between energy access and sustainable development

I was delighted to speak at the digital Zukunftssalon as part of the “The Forces of Transformation” series on 6th October 2022 to dive deeper in to the topic of “Deploying the synergies between energy access and sustainable development” hosted by WISIONS of Sustainability at the Wuppertal Institute.

Vice-Chancellor’s Annual Awards

Vice-Chancellor’s Awards Ceremony 2022. Photo by Loughborough University

The Centre for Sustainable Transitions: Energy, Environment and Resilience (STEER) was awarded a prestigious Loughborough University Vice-Chancellor’s Annual Award 2022 for international engagement and impact. I am very proud of the STEER team and our incredible network of partners working towards sustainable development. The award citation reads:

STEER hosts projects which between them have received over £90 million of investment from the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office, Royal Academy of Engineering and others.

The Co-Directors of STEER, Professors Ed Brown and Mark Howells and Dr Long Seng To, are building in partnership with governments and third sector partners around the world, including the World Bank and the United Nations, leading edge research projects which are having a significant effect on the mitigation of climate change globally. Much of the research activity is embedded in lower- and middle-income countries and is a model of working in partnership with communities.

Read more about the Vice-Chancellor’s Annual Awards here.

31st Session of the Committee on Sustainable Energy

It was a pleasure to speak at the 31st Session of the Committee on Sustainable Energy at the UN Economic Commission for Europe on 21-23 September 2022. The overall theme for this year was energy security, resilience and net zero. I presented on the opportunities and challenges of including renewable in the natural resource base in the session on modernising resource management.

Read the full documentation for the meeting (including my presentation slides) here.

Recruiting: Research Associate for Community Energy Systems

A vacancy of Research Associate for Community Energy Systems (CES) is available at Loughborough University, UK.

The post holder will work in close collaboration with me at the STEER Centre on exciting research projects focusing on the landscape of CES in Ethiopia, Malawi and Mozambique and collaborating with other researchers to build on new opportunities and knowledge emerging from community energy and sustainable energy transitions.

Loughborough University is seeking to appoint a Research Associate for Community Energy Systems with a focus on resilience in the global South. The Research Associate will work across two projects (60/40 time split) – the Community Energy and Sustainable Energy Transitions in Ethiopia, Malawi and Mozambique (CESET) project and Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS) programme. CESET explores how communities can support just energy transitions in East Africa, while MECS aims to rapidly accelerate the transition from biomass to clean cooking on a global scale.

Applicants should have experience of working and/or conducting research in the global South and understand the intersection between social and technical facets of the energy sector.

Closing deadline for applications: 4 September 2022.

Find further details here.

Clean and Modern Energy for Cooking: A Path to Food Security and Sustainable Development

Energy for cooking is essential to address energy poverty, food security & boost community resilience. I was really delighted to contribute to this important position paper with the UN World Food Programme and the Modern Energy Cooking Services Programme that sets out how clean and modern energy can help achieve these goals and pave way to sustainable development.

Read the position paper here.

New paper: Delivering an off-grid transition to sustainable energy in Ethiopia and Mozambique

Energy, Sustainability and Society

What role can community energy systems play in the energy transition in East and Southern Africa? Find out in our new paper from the CESET Project published in Energy, Sustainability and Society.

Read the full paper here.

Royal Academy of Engineering Fellows Day 2022

Long Seng To speaking at Royal Academy of Engineering Fellows’ Day 2022. Photo credit: Lucy Wheeler

As an Engineering for Development Research Fellow, it was an honour to present my work on the role of communities in energy resilience at the Royal Academy of Engineering Fellows’ Day on 17th May 2022. The event was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the Academy’s work, especially on sustainable society and inclusive economy.

Read more about the Fellows’ Day here.

Recruiting STEER Centre Manager

Join us at the Loughborough Centre for Sustainable Transitions: Energy, Environment and Resilience (STEER)! We are looking for an excellent Centre Manager to contribute to our mission of accelerating the transition to inclusive, sustainable, and resilient energy systems through innovative research, analysis and capacity building.

The Centre Manager will provide strong leadership for the strategic management and development of the activities of the STEER Centre, managing both the strategic and day-to-day operations of the Centre and coordinating relationships with external funders. Working as part of the STEER Directorate, they will develop and implement internal management processes to inform STEER and School level decision making on resourcing and planning.

You will have significant expertise of implementing and managing complex and extensive research or project-based activities; substantial related professional and/or academic experience; proven experience of interfacing with government/industry/civil society and developing strong relationships; plus experience of managing relationships with multiple partners to ensure efficient and timely delivery.

Apply by 8 May 2022 here.

Webinar: Setting the Scene for Maximizing Impacts of Energy Access

It was a pleasure to speak in the webinar on ‘Setting the Scene: Maximizing the impacts of energy access on people’s development opportunities’ hosted by WISIONS of Sustainability and the ACCESS Coalition on 24th March 2022.

This webinar is the first part of the Webinar Series on how to maximize the development effects of energy access. It is increasingly recognized, that energy is inextricably linked to virtually all the SDGs. While there is an active debate on approaches to accelerate the achievement of universal energy access goal, there has been less attention to the question of how to maximize the development effects of energy access. This first webinar set the scene for the whole webinar series by exploring crucial aspects for maximizing contributions to multiple SDGs.

Read about the discussion and download further resources here.

New paper: Starter kit energy system modelling data

Go to journal home page - Data in Brief

A great new resource for energy planners and modellers!

This paper brings together energy data for countries in Africa, East Asia and South America. The publicly available data that can be used to create a simple zero-order energy system model, which can act as a starting point for further model development and scenario analysis. The paper includes an example for how the data can be used to create a simple energy system model for Kenya using the Open Source Energy Modeling System (OSeMOSYS) and three stylized scenarios (Fossil Future, Least Cost and Net Zero by 2050) for 2020–2050.

Read the paper and access the data here.

New paper: Visualizing Nepal’s electricity supply resilience from a whole-systems perspective

Go to journal home page - Energy Research & Social Science

This new journal article on ‘Visualizing Nepal’s electricity supply resilience from a whole-systems perspective: A participatory approach’ published in Energy Research and Social Sciences sets out a bottom-up participatory causal loop mapping method. Through a case study in Nepal, we identified four interconnected groups of factors as important for resilience: governance, technology, economic and social.

Read the paper here and download it for free here (before 16 January 2021).

Euro-CASE Annual Conference 2021

It was wonderful to join the discussions at Engineering to build back better, the 2021 annual conference of Euro-CASE, the European Council of Academies of Applied Sciences, Technologies and Engineering. I took part in a panel discussion on ‘Engineering a resilient future’ on 25th November 2021. Panelists included:

  • Professor Roger Kemp MBE FREng, RAEng Engineering X Safer Complex Systems Advisory Board Chair
  • Anne-Marie Eklund Löwinder, Swedish Academy of Engineering
  • Carsten Orth Gaarn-Larsen, Senior Vice President, Technical University of Denmark
  • Dr Long Seng To, RAEng Engineering for Development Research Fellow, Loughborough University
  • Dr Elena Fersman, VP, Head of Global AI Accelerator, Ericsson

Access the conference programme and recordings here.

Keynote to launch Let Communities Lead report

I was very pleased to deliver the keynote speech at the launch of the Let Communities Lead: Stories and lessons on grassroots energy initiatives for sustainable futures report on 18th November 2021.

Community-based and inclusive renewable energy systems in underserved and marginalized communities are advancing rapidly around the world. The global initiative “Let communities lead” is an advocacy effort for increased empowerment, local ownership, and self-governance capacities. The initiative is launched by the Center for Energy and Society of the Arizona State University (ASU) and the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).

Read more about Let Communities Lead here.

New paper: Research and innovation agenda for energy resilience in the Pacific

I am excited to share a new paper published in Nature Energy on research and innovation priorities to support Pacific Island Countries and Territories in building energy resilience while drawing on their own unique strengths and existing community responses. This will help to build the evidence base and partnerships needed to implement the new Framework for Energy Security and Resilience in the Pacific (FESRIP) 2021-2030.

Read the press release here and the full paper here.

STEER Centre launch at COP26

I am delighted to be appointed Co-Director of the new Centre for Sustainable Transitions: Energy, Environment and Resilience (STEER) at Loughborough University. STEER was launched during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow on 4th November 2021. Our mission is to accelerate the transition to inclusive, sustainable and resilient energy systems through innovative research, analysis and capacity building.

Read more about the launch here.

Zero Emissions Solutions Conference at COP26

It was great to speak at the 2021 Zero Emissions Solutions Conference (ZESC) in the virtual exhibition space at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). Hosted by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the ZESC brought together leaders and scientists from businesses, governments, and academia from around the world. Taking place on sidelines of COP26, the ZESC hosted up to fifteen sessions featuring distinguished speakers who will showcase solutions relevant to the high-level champions thematic days including policy technology solutions for: finance, energy, youth, and nature.

I spoke on ‘How community energy resilience can ensure economic development’ at a session dedicated to ‘How the demand for energy is underpinning economic development’ on 3rd November 2021.

SDG 7 Pavilion at COP26

It was a great honour to speak at the SDG7 Pavilion at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on 1st November 2021. The session focused on ‘How do we scale low carbon cooking?’ and was hosted by Sustainable Energy for All. I highlight how the UN Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC) can help to scale low carbon cooking and shift investments into the sector. The session was chaired by Steven Hunt (FCDO) and speakers included:

  • Ambassador Dr Monica Juma (Cabinet Secretary Energy, Kenya),
  • Joint Secretary Ram Gopal Kharbuja (Joint Secretary, Ministry of Energy, Water Resources, and Irrigation (MoEWRI), Nepal), 
  • Anne Songole (ACCESS Coalition), 
  • Simon Batchelor (Modern Energy Cooking Services/Gamos), 
  • Ben Jeffreys (ATEC*),
  • Irene Wanjohi (Kenya Power)
  • Long Seng To (Loughborough University/UN Expert Group on Resource Management).
From left to right: Steven Hunt (FCDO), Ambassador Monica Juma (Cabinet Secretary Energy, Kenya), Ram Gopal Kharbuja (Joint Secretary, Ministry of Energy, Water Resources, and Irrigation (MoEWRI), Nepal), Long Seng To (Loughborough University, UN Expert Group on Resource Management), Anne Songole (ACCESS Coalition). Photo: Biraj Gautam/PEEDA, 2021

Watch the session here (starting from 18:30 in the recording).

Seminar at University of Birmingham

University Of Birmingham Letterhead, HD Png Download , Transparent Png ...

It was wonderful to present a seminar on ‘Energy resilience in the Global South’ hosted by the School of Chemical Engineering, part of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Birmingham on 27th October 2021. I really enjoyed meeting staff and students working on energy and other topics.

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