Sustainable Energy. Development. Resilience.

Category: Publications Page 1 of 2

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.

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.

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).

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.

New paper: Resilience a means to development

Go to journal home page - Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews

This paper entitled ‘Resilience a means to development: A resilience assessment framework and a catalogue of indicators’ was published in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. Resilience and development are mutually dependent properties of a community. Development leads to enabled capacities, but resilience guarantees that such capacities are sustained during extreme events. The enhancement of infrastructure systems’ resilience is largely influenced by community’s enabled capacities. The paper proposes a multifaceted electricity supply industry (ESI) resilience assessment framework, with a catalogue of 303 ESI resilience indicators.

Read the journal article here.

New paper: Funding and Delivery Models for Modern Energy Cooking Services in Displacement Settings


New ways of funding and delivering modern energy cooking services in displacement settings is urgently needed to address the scale of the issue. This article on ‘Funding and Delivery Models for Modern Energy Cooking Services in Displacement Settings: A Review’ examines current practices and suggests innovative pathways for the future.

This article was published in Energies as part of the Special Issue on Clean Energy Innovations: Challenges and Strategies for Low and Middle Income Countries.

Read the journal article here.

New briefing: Clean cooking in refugee camps and COVID-19

I contributed to a new Modern Energy Cooking Services Briefing Note on Clean cooking in refugee camps and COVID-19: What lessons can we learn? Drawing on progress made in Rwanda, Uganda & Bangladesh, this briefing outlines lessons to be learned for implementing clean cooking in refugee camps in the context of challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read coverage of the briefing on the humanitarian information service Relief Web here and the full briefing note here.

New paper: Why firewood?

This article published in Energy Research and Social Science addresses the question ‘Why firewood? Exploring the co-benefits, socio-ecological interactions and indigenous knowledge surrounding cooking practice in rural Nepal’. In the push to deliver clean cooking via modern cooking solutions, the co-benefits of traditional cooking practices are often overlooked. By exploring these co-benefits in the context of Nepal, we found that transition to clean cooking can be achieved by:

  • localising modern cooking solutions by modifying the design to suit cultural and practical needs, while simultaneously
  • improving traditional cooking practices to reduce negative effects, as fuel stacking is inevitable, and
  • delivering modern cooking solutions as part of a holistic array of development interventions.

Read the journal article here.

Mapping synergies and trade-offs between energy and the SDGs: A case study of off-grid solar energy in Rwanda

Fig. 2
Interlinkages between off-grid solar energy in Rwanda, the SDGs and Targets

Building on our previous work on Mapping synergies and trade-offs between energy and the Sustainable Development Goals this new journal article is the first to map the relationship between energy and the 169 Targets of the 2030 Agenda in a specific country and sector context. We found synergies between 80 (47%) of the SDG targets and off-grid solar systems in Rwanda. This showed how the sector can contribute to human development and well-being, build physical and social infrastructures, and achieve sustainable management of environmental resources.

Read the article here.

New report: Landscape analysis of modern energy cooking in displacement settings

The Landscape Analysis of Modern Energy Cooking in Displacement Settings report was recently published as part of the Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS) Programme. The report explores the drivers and constraints for the transition from traditional biomass fuels to modern energy cooking in displacement settings under three main themes: technological requirements; the role of different stakeholders; and policies and financial models. The report identifies five core priority areas of interest for the MECS humanitarian energy stream:

  • opportunities for MECS transitions in urban and peri-urban displacement contexts
  • MECS in community facilities and humanitarian institutions
  • innovative financing of MECS in displacement settings beyond grant funding
  • quality data on energy access and
  • inclusive models of MECS provision in and for the displaced and host communities. 

You can read the report here.

Book chapter: Community energy resilience for a new climate urbanism

I am delighted to contribute a chapter on ‘Community energy resilience for a new climate urbanism’ to a book on Climate Urbanism: Towards a Critical Research Agenda edited by Vanesa Castán Broto, Enora Robin and Aidan While. The book is the outcome of an international workshop on the changing relationship between cities and climate change hosted by the Urban Institute, University of Sheffield in September 2019.

My chapter shows how communities play an active role in ensuring energy resilience, and argues that community energy resilience will be a fundamental part of the urban transformations required to address climate change. The chapter interrogates the idea of community resilience in the context of climate urbanism, and explores the strategies that communities use to access energy in the face of shocks and stresses in two rapidly urbanising countries, Nepal and Malawi. The chapter contributes a new perspective on climate urbanism by examining how climate change is shaping how energy services are organised and governed at the local level.

You can order your copy of the book here.

New report: Impacts and Coping Mechanisms for the Covid-19 Pandemic in Malawi’s Energy Sector

This report presents the results of two online workshops funded by the Energy and Economic Growth programme on the impact of COVID-19 on Malawi’s energy sector, and the coping mechanisms employed by different stakeholders within the sector. The workshops were held in collaboration with Mzuzu University in Malawi.

Read the report here.

New paper: A systems thinking approach to stimulating and enhancing resource efficiency and circularity in households

Conceptual diagram showing tri-lateral approach in systems thinking for enhancing energy efficiency and resource circularity in households (Ng, K.S. & To, L.S., 2020)

A new article on ‘A systems thinking approach to stimulating and enhancing resource efficiency and circularity in households’ has just been published in the Journal of Cleaner Production. It analyses three integrated household energy supply and waste management models, and shows that switching to solar PV offers significant greenhouse gas reduction and cost savings. Further benefits can be attained by increasing resource recovery from waste.

Read the article here.

Community Energy Resilience and Electricity Systems: Workshops Report

I’m very pleased to announce that a summary of the outcomes of ‘community energy resilience and electricity systems’ workshops in the UK, Nepal and Malawi is now available.

The report gathers together the expertise of 75+ practitioners, policymakers and researchers from 13 countries. We call for further action and research on:
1. Energy system design to improve energy system resilience
2. The role that community plays in ensuring energy system resilience, and
3. The role energy systems play in community resilience.

This project was a collaboration with the Energy and Economic Growth programme and the Low Carbon Energy for Development Network with support from the UK Energy Research Centre Whole Systems Networking Fund. A huge thank you to all the participants for contributing their expertise!

Read the executive summary and download the report here.

New Paper: Decentralization: The key to accelerating access to distributed energy services in sub-Saharan Africa?

Our journal article on ‘Decentralization: the key to accelerating access to distributed energy services in sub-Saharan Africa?’ has just been published in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences. Drawing on the experiences of Kenya and Malawi, the paper explores the inter-linkages between distributed energy services and decentralized local governance systems.

Read the article here.

Book chapter in Energy Access and Forced Migration

I am delighted to contribute a chapter on ‘Towards community energy resilience’ to a book on Energy Access and Forced Migration edited by Owen Grafham from Chatham House. The book brings together author-teams of practitioners, academics, businesses and policymakers in an interdisciplinary dialogue about the best way of approaching energy provision for the forcibly displaced.

My chapter, co-authored with Niraj Subedi, develops the emerging concept of community energy resilience. Firstly, we examine definitions of resilience and community resilience and how they relate to energy services. Secondly, we discuss energy resilience in the broader context of the community and the research needs identified during a series of workshops with experts from energy access and disaster risk reduction. Thirdly, we take a deep dive into the case study of Nepal after the major earthquake in 2015, an event that displaced 2.6 million people. Lastly, we will reflect on the concept of community energy resilience in relation to forced migration and avenues for further research.

You can order your copy of the book here.

UNFC Solar Specifications launched

As a member of the Solar Energy Sub-Group of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s Expert Group on Resource Management, I am delighted to announce that the specifications for the application of the United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC) to solar energy has now been endorsed and is now operational.

The new Solar Specification will accelerate the shift towards solar energy by enabling the reporting and classification of solar projects in an internationally-harmonised way. The next step is to develop case studies to demonstrate their real-world application and to raise awareness of the new standard.

You can access the Solar Specifications here.

Interview: Creating a common language for solar in the energy mix

PV Magazine logo

PV Magazine featured my work on the draft Solar Specifications for the application on the UN Framework Classification for Resources for their August 2019 issue.

“As solar comes to represent a larger proportion of the global energy mix, direct comparisons with conventional energy sources, and even with other renewables, are becoming more and more important. This is reflected in a bid by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s (UNECE) Expert Group to standardize reporting on solar energy potential. Long Seng To, Royal Academy of Engineering research fellow at Loughborough University, and part of the UNECE solar energy subgroup, discusses the draft standards.”

Read the full interview with PV Magazine here.

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