Panel at 5th roundtable on strategic energy planning Aby Dhabi

Deepening international coordination on supporting strategic energy planning

In January 2020, the Roundtable Initiative on Strategic Energy Planning held its fifth Roundtable Discussion in Abu Dhabi. Jointly convened by EEG and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), it provided an opportunity for key international stakeholders to learn more about the initiative, and the concrete measures that have been supported so far. Luca Petrarulo, a consultant for EEG and Roundtable Initiative coordinator, explains more.

Strategic energy planning is an essential part of policy and investment decision-making in the energy sector. It involves forecasting a country’s or region’s future energy needs and shaping pathways for meeting them in ways that satisfy energy access and energy security goals, while being consistent with broader economic, social and environmental objectives – including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris climate change agreement.

The main stakeholders involved in strategic energy planning in developing countries are government decision-makers, and technical analysts, energy utilities and planners, public and private investors, the private sector and academic researchers. In turn, governments are often supported by a mix of bilateral and multi-lateral donors and development partners, with technical institutions and consultancy firms providing data and analysis using a variety of software tools and models.

However, when it comes to improving decision-making, this support isn’t currently effective enough, for numerous reasons. For example, donor support can be too fragmented, poorly coordinated and not in line with governments’ own priorities. It can also be difficult for stakeholders such as leaders, policy makers and investors to support plans they had little part in developing (even if prepared and presented by respected international organisations), and they don’t always have the technical capacity to undertake their own analysis or produce their own evidence.

And, when externally funded capacity-building is provided, this can be disparate, consequently failing to align or build on existing national planning structures and processes. The models and datasets that development partners commission can often lack transparency, accessibility and flexibility (and sometimes even scientific robustness) – creating problems in terms of their use and acceptance.

In addition, plans can often be too focused on specific aspects of the energy system, rather than on a coherent and integrated assessment of the energy sector as a whole (for example, concentrating on supply side over demand side issues, or on electricity over heating and cooking).

A group of development partners intends to address these issues through the Roundtable Initiative on Strategic Energy Planning. The initiative, for which EEG acts as the Secretariat, aims to improve the effectiveness of the energy modelling and planning support given to developing countries.

In January 2020, the initiative held its fifth Roundtable Discussion, jointly convened by EEG and IRENA during the 10th IRENA Assembly in Abu Dhabi. Representatives from 20 organisations participated in the event. It gave us the opportunity to outline the initiative’s objectives and benefits to key international stakeholders, and introduce some of the concrete measures supported to date – including creating the Roundtable Principles for Supporting Strategic Energy Planning and improving capacity building support, and data and model standards.

Roundtable Principles for Supporting Strategic Energy Planning

Through the roundtable consultation process, the group has co-developed five key Roundtable Principles – a ‘code of conduct’ to guide strategic energy modelling and planning support. They are: 1) National ownership; 2) Coherence and inclusivity; 3) Capacity building based on co-development; 4) Robustness of models, analysis and tools; and 5) Transparency and accessibility of data and evidence.

The principles have so far been endorsed by 18 organisations, including IRENA, the Department for International Development (DFID), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE), and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD).

Although not legally binding, signatories to the principles commit to incorporating them in their working practice. The principles are evolving and will adapt as the coalition builds. Currently, EEG is exploring the possibility of implementing the principles in supporting strategic energy planning in Ethiopia, in collaboration with the government, the development partners and other key national stakeholders.

Capacity building

EEG and several of the Roundtable partners have been sponsoring key national and international capacity building activities to develop long-term energy modelling capacity using open access tools. For instance, several international energy modelling summer schools, such as the Energy Modelling Platform for Africa Summer Schools and the Joint Summer School on Modelling Tools for Sustainable Development – OpTIMUS, have been supported, both technically and financially. These programmes brought together trainees from government, academia, utilities and the private sector from Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America who are directly involved in strategic energy planning. The courses combined lectures and hands-on exercises in the use of open source modelling tools integrating multiple resources such as climate, land, water and energy to address specific policy questions.

In addition, EEG is funding several projects to build the capacity of local energy research and modelling communities. For example, the energy systems planning for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) project, led by the Royal Institute of Technology of Sweden (KTH), has assisted modellers from Ethiopia, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan to develop open source models on least-cost electrification strategies and national energy sector planning, summarise them on policy notes to be pitched to national policy makers, and develop curricula on energy system modelling and planning in local universities.

Data and model standards

The Roundtable partners have been working on data and model standards to make them more ubiquitous, Retrievable, Repeatable, Reconstructible, Reproducible, Interoperable and Auditable (u4RIA). The standards will address all too common issues in the modelling world, such as incomplete metadata, inability to trace back underpinning assumptions and calculations, incompatible file formatting and inappropriate data management and storage.

It is very positive to see that both the importance of strategic energy planning and the willingness by development partners to harmonise their approach is gaining so much traction. Many of the top international donors and service providers in the energy space have already joined the Roundtable Initiative and we are looking for many more to join. For further information, please contact

By Luca Petrarulo