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Sharing Lessons and Experiences from the Understanding Sustainable Energy Solutions (USES) research programme


Clean and sustainable energy for all is a major low carbon development indicator for developing countries who are seeking climate compatible development options. Access to clean energy is a key part of the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 7 and so is the Paris Climate Change Agreement also calls for pro-poor low carbon energy for all. Worldwide, bioenergy is currently the primary energy resource for about 2.7 billion people (Wicke, et al., 2011). In Africa over 620 million people i.e. more than 50% of the population lack access, to clean energy. Africa is also the only region in the world where the number of people without access to both electricity and clean cooking facilities is expected to increase between now and 2030 (APP, 2015).  A majority of people in Africa still depend on traditional sources of energy such as solid biomass energy (e.g. firewood and charcoal). 

Kenya is one of the five African countries alongside Nigeria, Ethiopia, DR Congo, and Tanzania account for around half of the sub-Saharan population facing energy insecurity especially for the poor.  Currently, only about 30% able to access grid electricity. The country’s energy demand is expected to grow five times by 2030 i.e. from the current 2294.82 MW to about 15,000 MW in line with vision 2030 targets (GoK, 2011). Biomass is currently the largest source of energy used for cooking and heating. For most Kenyans, in rural and poor solid biomass e.g. firewood and charcoal remains the predominant fuel. About 80% of the rural households use firewood compared with 10% urban residents (Gachohi, 2009, Kamfor 2002).

Building on this energy deficit in Kenya and other African countries, the UK government in partnership with various research and development agencies in developing countries initiated the Understanding Sustainable Energy Solutions (USES) research programme which provides a network of various energy – based projects funded under the UK government.  The USES programme is hosted at the UK-based Low Carbon Energy for Development Network (LCEDN).

The purpose of this project is to convene consultative platform that enables projects under USES network to share lessons amongst themselves and with policy makers based on the experiences gained through several years of implementation. Through the USES programme, various energy research projects funded under Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council would provide suitable evidence on linking the energy solutions to poverty-related and low carbon issues in the global south. Based on a multi-stakeholder approach, the USES initiative brings together various actors including academics, practitioners, policy-makers and the private sector both in the UK and the global south to collaborate in sharing research ideas, lessons and experiences towards informing low carbon energy for development. Over the last decade, the USES programme has established networks of  a number of projects in Kenya and abroad (see http://lcedn.com/uses/).   The Solar Nano-Grids (SONG) project which pursues action research aligning community energy needs with livelihood needs in Kenya and the Low Cost Technologies (LCT) project looking into options for quality energy appliances are examples of ongoing projects under the USES network.  In relation to linking energy solutions to improved livelihoods, the Energy Literacy for Decentralized Governance (READ) is also being implemented in Kenya and Tanzania to generate evidence on the opportunities and challenges to clean energy for development in Africa.

The projects operating under the USES network have generated rich experiences – having worked with different stakeholders including local communities, NGOs and governments and different disciplines including social and physical/engineering sciences.  In the context of the new international climate agenda under the Paris Agreement and the SDGs (especially SDG no. 7), this experience is valuable for practitioners, researchers and policy makers responsible for the implementation of low carbon development plans and or strategies.  The purpose of this project is to convene a consultative platform that enables the different experiences and lessons of USES- linked projects to be shared with relevant stakeholders.  This project proposes to implement a consultative workshop that brings together stakeholders in Kenya and other East African countries (Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Rwanda). Outputs and outcomes of the two day workshop will then be used to build a virtual consultative platform where priority insights and case study examples of successes and failures can be posted.  The project will be implemented by the Africa Sustainability Hub in collaboration in partnership with various organisations in Kenya including Strathmore Energy Centre, Egerton University, Institute for Climate Change and Adaptation as well as subnational partners – SCODE and Energeia.  

Project Aim and objectives

The purpose of this project is to convene a consultative platform that enables the different experiences and lessons of USES- linked projects to be shared with relevant stakeholders.  This project proposes to implement a consultative workshop that brings together stakeholders in Kenya and other East African countries (Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Rwanda). Outputs and outcomes of the two day workshop will then be used to build a virtual consultative platform where priority insights and case study examples of successes and failures can be posted.

The specific objectives are:

  1. To disseminate experiences of USES- linked energy projects implemented in Kenya with
  2. To provide evidence to policy makers on what work or not for sustainable energy solutions
  3. To provide develop a long term online platform for sharing lessons and success stories between policy project implementers and policy makers
  4. To provide the necessary capacity for policy makers to utilise lessons from USES in designing and implementing their NDCs

Project Activities

Activity 1: Workshop on sharing USES projects’ experiences at Egerton University or Nairobi University (August 2017): a two day workshop will be designed and delivered by the Africa Sustainability Hub – hosted at ACTS and  partners including LCEDN, Egerton Univerty, Strathmore Energy Centre and local delivery partners including SCODE and Energia.   The workshop will take two days and will draw  30 participants from four East African Countries including Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.  The wrokshop will focus on two particialr issues over the two days. The first day will involve a presentation dn discussions around the experiences and lessons from various USES projects in Kenya. The second day will involve plenary  sessions with policy makers on options for taking up some of the experiences into the  implemntation of rewepsective NDCs and county development/energy plans.

Activity 2: Presparation of projects communitcation package and products (August 2017- March 2018): a web based and printed communications package will be developed and ditributed or made accessible to participants before and afrter the workshop.  These will include some of products outlined below  under outputs: 

Activity 3: High level advocacy work by ASH /ACTS, LCDEN and partners (Dec 2017-2018): this will done at the international policy meetings we regularly attendand and present at, including via our contacts, involvement and expert advisory roles we have with organisations including: UN climate change secretariat; Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); African Development Bank; World Bank; OECD Environment Directorate; UK Department for International Development, Africa Group of Negotiators, Future Earth among others.

Expected outputs and outcomes



2 day workshop for 30 participants inlcuding project proponents, policy  makers from both national and county governments.

East African policy makers have knowledge and capacity to design

2 x printed & electronic technical briefing notes  written in English and translated into English and French and focusing on

  1. Pre-worskshop brieifng note on the activities of USES projects being implemented in Kenya
  2. Key lessons and pathways to achieving or not achieving impacts through energy projects


Accessible technical materails to support the uptake of lessons by policy makers and project pratitioners/resreahcers




Video documentary of the workshop proceedings including the insights from different projects and countries as well as interviews with  specific identified participants.  Th video will be posted on the website for continued policy advocacy

Available visual recordings of insights from project teams and policy makers to be used for presnetation and continues engagements in different forums. 


Project web page with e-resources & contact point hosted by the ASH and LCDEN 

Patiipants involved in the workshop are able to access and exchange ideas online. 

Presentations of the project inssights and lessons in atleast 3 policy platfroms – 1 at sunational level, one nationally and one internationally. 

Presentation will also be delivered in all of the international policy forums that Sussex and ASH/ACTS and LCDEN  are currently engaged as discribed in section xxx

, including: the expert advisory role Sussex plays to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat; ACTS’ role representing Africa on a special panel of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); regular contact we have with the advisor to the president of the African Development Bank on green growth; annual events ACTS and Sussex put on at the UNFCCC Convention of the Parties; and ad hoc meetings and presentations at other policy forums that we regularly get asked to present to.

Increased international awareness of the benefits of this policy approach to low-income countries, but also to the global community in terms of increasingly long term uptake and development around low-carbon energy technologies.

This increased awareness will also contribute to international policy makers being more supportive of East Africa’s (and any other low-income countries’) efforts to implement this new approach in practice (with potential additional benefits in terms of increased assistance with, and openness to, supporting applications for internatinal climate finance to fund low-income countries’ efforts to operatinoalise this approach in practice).

Significance of the project

The project will significantly contribute to supporting international climate policy implemntation: By helping East African countries policy makers to learn from the experiences and evidence of USES projects in Kenya,  the project will suport the domestication of international policies into national and subnational levels by infroming policy makers on what works and what does not.  Evidence on exisitng cases and lessons from a range of USES projects, the workshop offers significnt lessons to policy espcially the implemntation of Nationally Deternioned Contributions which underpin low-carbon economic growth in low-income countries, contributing to alleviating energy poverty in these countries and influencing the future shaping international climate change policy  under the Paris Agreement. This contribution is important for enhacning resreach impacts- see more discussion here -http://www.theimpactinitiative.net/blog/blog-turning-scholarly-pursuit-development-pursuit.

While this project targets mainly East African participants, the project has  international impact This approach undertaken in the project  could be widely adopted in other low-income countries across the world. The project will provide support to new platforms for sharing lessons from future USES and related proecjts creating a portal that enhacing exchnage and capabilities of policy makers to design and implemnte effective low carbon energy intiatives. 

The project will contribute to addressing energy insecurity especially in Africa, in light of the framework set forth by the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals Number 7 by utilising climate change and energy related action research and knowledge networks. This contributes to the synergies between climate change goals and the SDGs- see more discussion here (http://blog.acts-net.org/bloggers/joanes-atela/27-mainstreaming-ndcs-with-sdgs-the-role-of-national-innovation-systems).

Delivery partners

The workshop will be deliverd through a consortium of organisations with vast expertise and experience working on energy resrach, policy and capcity buuilding in Kenya. The consotium will be led and coordinated through the African Sustainability Hub – hosted at the African Centre for Technology Studies. 

African Sustainability Hub

The Africa Sustainability Africa Sustainability Hub (https://steps-centre.org/global/africa/#home) was launched on 10 June 2015 by the Kenyan minister for Finance during a Low Carbon Development Conference held in Nairobi, Kenya.  The hub’s main focus is to support social research and capabilities of African researchers, policy makers and change makers to understand and solve some of the underlying social issues affecting the achievement the post-2015 SDGs. The hub is established on a mutual partnership between Africa and UK leading research and policy think tanks on sustainability: the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS), the STEPS Centre at the University of Sussex, the Africa Centre of the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), and the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS). The Africa Hub aims to utilize this North-South and South-South leaning opportunities to pursue, in a participatory manner, socially inclusive evidence on various sustainability pathways, something new and unique from the way much of the social research and policy/practice has been pursued (see here https://steps-centre.org/blog/rethinking-africas-sustainable-development-pathways/ . Currently the hub’s work focuses on transformative action research and networking that generates evidence on the underlying socio-technical challenges to sustainability in Africa and capacity building that enhances skills and capabilities to address the challenges.  The hub’s key research theme is pathways to pro-poor energy access which aims to identify, analyze and present evidence on various social and technical options for enhancing access to clean energy especially for the poor segment of the society, Transforming environmental governance and capacity building and consultative platforms. For the last 3 years the hub has been convening workshops on climate finance, building innovation systems for stakeholders and policy makers within the East Africa region (see http://www.acts-net.org/cribs).  

The Hub also builds on the platforms created at ACTS to deliver on its mandate.   The hub has contributed to the establishment of the partnership for supporting the implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions of developing countries. Through this, ASH/ACTS and its partners have developed an online tool for tracking NDCs of 163 countries. The tool is one of the first data management platform under the Paris Agreement and has officially been endorsed by the UNFCCC as suitable for use by developing countries. From a broader perspective, this partnership places ACTS at a strategic place to access huge financial support through UNFCCC, private sector and developed countries supporting NDC implementation (http://newsroom.unfccc.int/paris-agreement/new-online-tool-makes-climate-action-plans-more-comparable/).  During the twenty second conference of Parties (COP 22) to the UNFCCC meeting in Marrakech, ASH/ACTS was nominated to represent sub-Sahara Africa in the International Network of Climate Change Centres of Excellence and Think Tanks for Capacity Building (INCCCETT) launched at COP 22 under the Moroccan presidency to the COP as a network of climate centres and think tanks for capacity development in the field of climate change, under the auspices of the Scientific Committee of the 22nd Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The nomination of ACTS to join this high level international initiative came against vibrant and active engagements at COP 22 including a very successful launch of the ACTS-led book on community based adaptation in developing countries; dissemination of our climate change capacity building products such as the policy briefs and flyers on innovation system builders for the East Africa policy makers and the short climate change courses offered by ACTS.  Ideally, the publication products disseminated by ACTS delegation at the COP made it easier to claim this space above other African institutions.  During the event several stakeholders appreciated the work ACTS is doing and in addition to launching products, AHS/ACTS delegation spoke is several side events where they strategically showcased  ACTS work as a source of empirical reality into the African context (http://blog.acts-net.org/bloggers/joanes-atela/27-mainstreaming-ndcs-with-sdgs-the-role-of-national-innovation-systems). Building on the active engagement in international climate change events, ACTS has been approached to host the Africa Group of Negotiators expert support system. ASH will therefore utilize these platforms to deliver the workshop effectively and disseminate resulting outputs. 

Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)-Africa Centre is a member of the Africa Sustainability Hub.  SEI is an independent international research institute involved in research and policy work on environment and development issues for more than 25 years. SEI has undertaken extensive research on innovation and diffusion of technologies related to clean energy including cook stoves and solar panels

Strathmore Energy Centre: the Strathmore Energy Research Centre (SERC) is a research Centre within Strathmore University. The Centre caries out research and technical training on energy issues. The Centre works closely with the government, private sector and general public in providing useful services to spur entrepreneurship and innovation in the renewable energy sector.     

Egerton University (http://www.egerton.ac.ke/index.php/Chancellor/our-profile.html) is an intituion of higher learning offering formal undergraduate and post-graduate training in various sustainable development fields including energy. 

The Institute for  Climate Change and Adaptataion- University of Nairobi (ICCA): ICCA  is part of higher edcucation isntitute based at the University of Nairobi. The Institute offers conducts fformal training on climate change and adaptation at postgraduate level (Masters and Doctorate) initially. The institute also offers Professional Short courses for various climate change and adaptation actors and stakeholders in the public and private sectors including NGOs.

The Sustainable Community Development Services (SCODE) (http://scode.co.ke/sample-page/) is a subnational NGO working with communities in Kenya to improve their livelihoods through sustainable – development and conservation technologies and approaches. SCODE lobbies for identification and adoption of best practices in energy and other development sectors. 


Project delivery team

The project team will draw from all the partners involved in this work.  The team will be led by Dr Joanes Atela – the coordinator of the Africa Sustainability Hub