Uganda community with overhead cables

Project Details

Thematic Project
Efficient & Productive Use
Renewable Energy
Grid Access
Mark Howells
Sierra Leone
KTH Royal Institute of Technology
Professor Mark Howells

Mark Howells

Principal Investigator

Energy systems planning for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

National energy planning and policy support for the achievement of SDGs


Background, challenges and context 

The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the African Union’s Agenda 2063, and the Common African Position on the post-2015 Development Agenda all highlighted that energy planning is central to the optimisation of investments in energy production and infrastructure.  

Yet within Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, energy planning is constrained by insufficient human and institutional capacity to effectively use models and decision support tools for energy planning and management. These constraints are further exacerbated by a lack of dedicated institutions for long-term capacity and skills development. 

Furthermore, existing electrification, energy, and integrated assessment models often lack the data that are critical for informing policy analysis in low-income countries, in part because they are often closed-source, expensive, or difficult to adapt. 


Research overview and objectives 

To help address these capacity and data gaps, EEG supported a project on national energy planning and policy support for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

The project promoted the use of quantitative analysis through free, transparent, and robust energy modelling to directly inform energy policy in Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, and Uganda. 


Research methodology

The project drew on the planning tools developed by the OpTIMUS Community of Practice, including the Open-Source Electrification Toolkit (OnSSET), the Open-Source energy Modelling System (OSeMOSYS), and the integrated Climate, Land-use, Energy, Water strategies (CLEWs/OSiMOSYS) framework. 

The project team helped to build the components of an energy planning ‘ecosystem’ by providing starter datasets and tools, online teaching material, and training events.  


Research results, key messages, and recommendations

From its work on national energy planning and policy support in Sierra Leone, the team concludes:

  • Self-sustained national planning ecosystems can accelerate the achievement of SDG 7 (access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all).

  • Development partners can make their support more coordinated and effective.

  • Academic partnerships can foster national ownership of strategic planning, and play a critical role in changing the paradigm from short-term capacity transfer to more sustainable capacity development.

  • Formalised academic partnerships may increase the retention of capacity, and support national planning ecosystems in becoming more self-sustained.

  • National ownership and accessibility of data are key to nurturing planning ecosystems.

  • Increased knowledge sharing on best open practices for energy data and model infrastructure may further support ecosystems by improving the communication between academia, government, and utilities.


The findings and recommendations from the team’s modelling work include:


Sierra Leone

Scenarios were modelled in OSeMOSYS, which selected a suitable energy mix for Sierra Leone, providing least-cost optimal solutions. The modelled period spanned 2015 to 2050, with each year having two seasonal variations – six months of dry season (November to April) and six months of rainy season (May to October). Currently only 17.8% of Sierra Leone’s population has access to electricity. The scenarios modelled included a business-as-usual base case, a national electrification strategy to ensure 100% of the population have access by 2035, and a climate resilient version of the national electrification strategy that takes account of the impacts of climate change on hydropower availability.

  • To achieve universal access by 2035 as stated in the Government of Sierra Leone’s energy policy, huge investments must be made in the energy sector. An extra 2.2 to 2.4 billion USD is needed over the current rate of funding. The development of hydro and large-scale variable renewable energy sources (VRES) needs to be accelerated, but new energy sources such as LNG and imported coal will also be needed.

  • Given the likely impact of climate change on dry season river flows, to ensure power generation resilience to climate change, an extra 500 million USD investment should be made on non-VRES.

  • The CO2 emissions for Sierra Leone’s energy sector are relatively low, amounting to about 5% of total emissions. Any percentage decrease (restriction) in CO2 emissions will result in a 2.7% increase in operational cost.



The team investigated the effect of the reservoir inflow patterns of the Nile River on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) hydropower generation in Ethiopia during the period 2022-2037, using the OSeMOSYS modelling system for medium- to long-run integrated assessment and energy planning.

  • The broad implications of the study do not suggest that the Ethiopian government should stop pursuing its current ambitious national hydropower development plan because of the coming drought seasons.

  • However, the government could increase the share of other renewables (e.g. wind, solar, and biomass) in the power generation mix to help manage load shedding during drought seasons and reduce dependency on hydropower.

  • Other factors (such as investment in energy efficiency) have the potential to contribute to a reduction in electricity demand, which could potentially ease the pressure on hydro and reduce the intermittency/load shedding caused by water shortages in hydropower dams.



The CLEWs open-source integrated modelling framework was used to highlight the impact of one policy change in Uganda’s energy system on other resource systems, focusing on deforestation, long-term electricity supply planning, crop production, water consumption, land-use change, and climate impacting greenhouse gas trajectories.

The team mapped the ripple effects of a policy change related to reducing biomass (firewood) consumption. All the resource systems were modelled using a modified version of OSeMOSYS, which accommodated for changes in land cover and land use. The model identified an optimal strategy for resource supply, transformation, and use to meet annual energy, water, and agricultural crop demands until 2050.

  • Despite the reduction in deforestation of woodlands and forests, the greenhouse gas emissions in the power sector are expected to increase between 2040-2050, owing to higher fossil fuel usage.

  • The policy change is also likely to increase the cost of electricity generation, which in turn affects agricultural land types.

  • There is an unforeseen shift from irrigated to rainfed type land due to higher electricity costs.


Through the model set up for Uganda, the team was able to highlight the need for integrated policy planning that takes into consideration the interlinkages between resource systems and cross-propagation effects.

Capacity building was a core element of the energy systems planning project. Open-source modelling tools were taught to individuals from identified institutions in Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, and Uganda to develop local capacity in energy planning and policy making. 

The team also supported the development of three energy planning centres of excellence by working closely with its partners – the University of Addis Ababa and the Ministry of Water and Energy in Ethiopia; the Ministry of Energy in Sierra Leone; and Makerere University and the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development in Uganda.

While the project focused on targeted institutions and the demands of Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, and Uganda, the research and development advances are generally applicable. The teaching material (much of which is not country-specific) has been made available online and via regional training hubs, and is being used elsewhere in energy planning programmes and capacity development projects. For example, it has been adopted by the UN’s Modelling Tools for Sustainable Development project, as well as being regularly used at the Global Summer School of the same name and the annual Energy Modelling Platform for Africa (EMP-A). 


Local partners

Ethiopia: University of Addis Ababa and Ministry of Water and Energy   

Sierra Leone: Ministry of Energy 

Uganda: Makerere University and Ministry of Energy


External Journal Articles
The latest osemosys and onset models for Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and Uganda
Promoting the Transfer and Development of Climate-Smart Energy Technologies in Uganda
Supporting Electrification Policy in Fragile States: A Conflict-Adjusted Geospatial Least Cost Approach for Afghanistan
Land, energy and water resource management and its impact on GHG emissions, electricity supply and food production- Insights from a Ugandan case study