The Applied Research Programme on Energy and Economic Growth (EEG) is a £13 million research programme running from 2016-2021 funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). EEG produces ground-breaking research on sector reforms, innovative technologies and practicable solutions to some of the most pressing energy-related challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Priority research areas include energy access, renewable energy, power system reliability and the efficiency and productivity of energy uses.
EEG engaged widely with policymakers and energy practitioners to understand the challenges they face, and how research can help overcome them. Government bodies from numerous low-income countries provided substantial support in defining the objectives of the EEG programme including the Ethiopia Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity; Sierra Leone Ministry of Energy; Nepal National Planning Commission, and Kenya’s Ministry of Energy and Petroleum.
Resulting from 4 competitive calls for proposals, EEG has funded 25 projects across 12 countries, each valued between £200 - 400,000 for a total of nearly £9 million in research spending. Applicants were required to demonstrate engagement from local stakeholders and a plan to promote uptake of findings. Projects that included governments and industry practitioners as active participants were prioritised.
The EEG research projects remain at an early stage, with direct policy impact expected after findings emerge. However, the EEG projects that involve governments or utilities trialling new technologies and practices have already had an impact:
In Bihar, India, EEG is working with the University of Chicago, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, and the utility, Bihar State Power Holding Company, to implement one of the largest randomised control trials to-date assessing smart meters effectiveness in improving utility’s revenue collection and curbing system losses.
In Accra, Ghana, an EEG project, GridWatch, in partnership with the Electricity Company of Ghana and the Millennium Challenge Corporation has rolled out thousands of mobile phone-based and fixed sensors. Beyond helping the project to generate robust data to measure the true economic cost of the rolling black outs that plague the city, these sensors are helping the utility to monitor grid reliability, inform grid maintenance and upgrade decisions.
EEG projects are also having a tangible impact on the capacity of government and utilities to apply best practice and research to energy-related decisions. For example, an EEG project led by the University of Cape Town has explored best practice in renewable energy auction design. To promote uptake of the research findings, EEG has supported learning visits to Cape Town for 40 officials from low-income countries to undergo training in renewable energy project financing and procurement. The group ranged in seniority from newly hired employees of energy regulators and utilities all the way up to the Director General of Public Private Partnership in Ethiopia.
EEG also acts as the Secretariat of the Roundtable Initiative on Energy Planning, which works with governments, major donors and technical institutions to improve energy planning in developing countries. Through two major events – at the 2018 SE4All Forum and 2017 ESMAP Knowledge Exchange Forum – the Roundtable defined key principles for improving the support to strategic energy planning in developing and emerging economies. These Principles for support to energy systems planning include (1) national-level ownership of planning efforts, (2) coherence of strategic decision-making, (3) capacity building for government agencies and utilities to understand and utilise energy models, (4) transparency of data and (5) accessibility of energy models. Substantial effort has been made to facilitate the endorsement and application of the Principles by key organisations. Twelve organisations have confirmed their formal endorsement of the Principles so far: African Development Bank (AfDB), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Agence Française de Développement (AFD), OpTIMUS, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM), Swedish Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Politecnico di Milano, Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), World Resources Institute (WRI), Institut du Développement Durable et des Relations Internationales (IDDRI), International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE).
In addition, under the Roundtable Initiative, and in collaboration with the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, EEG is supporting three Centres of Excellence in Energy Modelling and Planning (in Uganda, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone). The Centres are supported with starter datasets and modelling tools for least cost generation mixes and geospatial modelling of distribution scenarios. Hands-on training events are provided for country analysts (e.g. government officers and academics) on the tools, tailored to individual target countries. These Centres of Excellence will provide a lasting legacy for the EEG programme.
As findings emerge from these world-class projects, EEG will work hand-in-hand with FCDO headquarters and country offices; its 20+ university partners; its 12 partner governments; and other businesses, donors and technical service providers to implement additional research uptake activities, such as training programmes, learning visits, targeted workshops and university curriculum support. These steps will ensure that the research not only leads to high quality research published in peer reviewed journals; it also helps transform energy policy and investment decisions in low-income cities and countries.