Tag Archives: Durham University

Urban Energy Transitions – Uganda

Prof. Simon Marvin from Durham University reports on the Durham SAMSET team’s recent work in Uganda.

During March we undertook initial fieldwork in Kampala, Uganda as part of our work on developing a knowledge exchange framework for urban energy transitions in African cities [1]. The work had three main components. i): a ‘netmapping’ exercise to review the institutional landscape of the energy sector with local and national policy makers. ii) meetings with agents of local energy transitions from the NGO and private sector. iii) And dialogue with our Uganda partners on understanding the case study cities and sensitising the knowledge exchange framework to the local context. Three sets of issues emerged that will be important in shaping our future work programme in SAMSET

Restricted Capacity of Municipalities to Shape Energy Transitions

We met the Municipal Town Clerks – the equivalent of a Chief executive in UK – from our two case study cities.  These municipalities have few formal responsibilities for energy issues with policy making priorities and capacity being exercised at a national level – through the energy ministry and the actions of an unbundled energy system of generation, transmission and distribution. Consequently, there was very limited capacity in the local authority to focus on energy issues – with only one member of staff employed to deal with all environmental issues – including working on forests, wastewater etc.  While municipalities were concerned about a range of energy issues in their cities including high costs, disruption, health and air quality plus access of households to formal energy system  – there are few formal mechanisms for them to interact with, or shape, the energy system.

By-passing Municipal and National Context

Mapping the urban energyscape revealed a wide range of local energy initiatives around lighting, fuel-efficient stoves and a range of decentralised technologies.  But these responses were strongly dependent on the actions of external intermediaries – NGOs and private companies  – who worked with local households and community-based organisations to develop local energy initiatives.  What was striking about these was the ways in which these responses tended to connect to international financial mechanisms, agencies and particular national contexts involving private companies, universities and NGOs to a particular local context – household, sewage works etc. There was strong sense that these initiatives largely by-passed the municipal and national contexts within which they were inserted according to external priorities – a form of transnational governance of local energy.

“District Champion” Energy Response.

While the energyscape was incredibly fragmented there was one example of an energy strategy at a municipal scale in Kasese that WWF has chosen as the “ Champion District”[2].  The imitative involves working with a cross-sectoral partnership designed to accelerate energy access for off grid communities through cooking and lighting. A number of different pathways are being experimented with including working with not-for profit NGOs and commercial models.  A private solar provider had report significant up lift in monthly solar installations from 2 up to 400 a month after the scheme provided enhanced access to the market through CBOs.  In contrast an efficient stove NGO reported that the scheme had been less successful in providing access to households.

Solar Lighting in Kasese

Solar lighting in Kasese © WWF-Norge/Will Boase

[1] http://samsetproject.net

[2] http://wwf.panda.org/who_we_are/wwf_offices/uganda/

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Urban Energy Transitions – Framework Effectiveness

Jonathon Silver from Durham University offers his thoughts on the start of the SAMSET project and its progression.

During our first network meeting of SAMSET we enjoyed meeting the wider team and the range of partners involved in our collaborative investigation. In a session organised by myself and Simon Marvin from Durham University we started to outline how we intend to go about developing a knowledge exchange framework for the SAMSET. Whilst this is a bit of a mouthful the basic aim of the framework is to act as way to think about how the context of urban Africa challenges established ways of researching and supporting energy transitions.

We began our session by posing a question to the team, ‘What does your own work suggest are the two most important issues the urban energy transitions framework must consider if it is to be effective in your local context?’ Through the answers we were collectively able to begin to map out the energyscape across the different urban contexts and reflect on some of the similarities and differences that exist across Ghana, South Africa and Uganda. This is important as whilst there are some obvious commonalities such as high rates of energy poverty, other issues such as the links to climate change provide some very different contexts for work by the team. As such we see the framework as informing the SAMSET investigation about the place based nature of energy transitions, something that has been lacking in much of the literature examining such issues. Over the next few months we will be bringing together these various dynamics into the framework that we hope will begin to interrogate what an urban energy transition means in different places, the key actors and drivers in such processes and the opportunities that are available across the cities we will be working in. We were pleased that the network meeting provided the first step in this process and look forward to meeting the wider team again later in the year to report back on our progress.