Highlights of the Understanding Sustainable Energy Solutions conference

23 January 2018

Around 90 delegates from a wide range of countries were welcomed to the Understanding Sustainable Energy Solutions (USES) conference, held in Nakuru, Nairobi from 6th - 9th December 2017, for three days of discussions, debates and community project visits.

USES is the EPSRC/DFID funded research programme that aims to further understanding of sustainable energy solutions to poverty-related and low-carbon energy issues in the Global South. This programme brings together 13 projects working on Understanding Sustainable Energy Solutions, which the LCEDN manages. The main focus of the conference was the sharing of lessons and experiences from the USES Network. Conference participants included the Kenyan Secretary of the Environment Ministry, local and national Kenyan government representatives, and representatives from a wide range of NGOs, research institutes and private sector companies involved in the sector of low carbon energy development in the Global South. The conference was hosted and co-organised by the African Centre for Technology Studies, the Sustainable Community Development Services (SCODE) and the LCEDN. Selected conference highlights are presented below:


Highlight 1 - Project Presentations

A fantastic collection of varied and insightful presentations were made by delegates, disseminating research findings, challenges, insights and next steps relating to the 13 projects of the USES programme. Full presentation files can be viewed in the Conference Proceedings available here (these are filed in the resources section). Overarching themes for the dissemination of research findings included Governance Issues, Energy and Agriculture, Low Carbon Transitions, and Technology and Beyond. 

Theme 1: Governance Issues

Theme 1 presentations (clockwise from top left): Ed Brown (READ project - energy literacy for decentralized governance), Xavier Lemaire (SAMSET project - supporting sub-saharan African municipalities with sustainable energy transitions), and Jon Cloke (SONG project - Solar Nano-Grids: an appropriate solution for meeting community energy needs?). 


Theme 2: Energy and Agriculture

Theme 2 presentations (clockwise from top left): Tony Roskilly (RE4FOOD project - energy efficient rural food processing utilising renewable energy to improve livelihoods), Simon Batchelor (AGRICEN project - agro-technologies and renewable energy technologies from East Africa), and Chris Walsh (Clean Energy from Rice Straw Project). 


Theme 3: Low Carbon Transitions

Theme 3 presentations (clockwise from top left): Aung Thet Paing (MECON project - effective energy efficiency policy implementation targeting "new Modern Energy Consumers" in the Great Mekong sub-region), Helen Osiolo (Green Growth Diagnostics for Africa project), and Herbert Candia (ELITH project - Energy and Low-Income Tropical Housing). 


Theme 4: Technology and Beyond

Theme 4 presentations (clockwise from top left): Alison Mohr (BARRIERS project - understanding the barriers to the introduction and uptake of clean cookstoves in southern Africa), Rupert Gammon (ESCO Box project: smart monitoring, billing and control for pro-poor access to energy services), Binu Parthan (STEPs project - sustainable thermal energy services partnerships), and Rebecca Hanlin (LCT project - low cost energy-efficient products for the bottom of the pyramid). 



Highlight 2 - Visits to Communities & Community Projects

On Day 2 of the conference, delegates were delighted to be given the opportunity to meet, chat with and attend public meetings with the two rural village communities situated in Nakuru county, Lemolo B and Echareria, which participate in the solar nano-grids (SONG) project, and to visit local community projects in Nakuru including a cook stove production facility. The communities are both classed as internally displaced people, having been moved to their current locations by the Kenyan government following evacuation from the Mau Forest (Lemolo B) or following internal displacement due to electoral violence (Echareria). Both communities are located in remote arid regions of Nakuru county. The SONG project team have worked alongside both communities to set up community-managed central solar nano-grid hub systems with household solar batteries, which have provided electricity for household and community use since 2016.

Conference delegates visiting the solar hub building at Lemolo B. 

The solar hub building at Echareria. 

At the public meetings, community members welcomed delegates to their community and expressed the successes of the solar hub systems to date, and presented current and future home-based business initiatives that are being developed in next phases of the SONG project that would further utilise the solar hub-generated power. 

Community members from Lemolo B gave a presentation on the benefits of and progress relating to the solar hub system with translation provided by Evan Kimani of GreenEarthCitizen (pictured, right) and John Maina of Sustainable Community Development Services (SCODE). 


Community members and USES Conference delegates gather for a photo opportunity during the visit to Lemolo B, 8th December 2017.

Whilst visiting the communities, delegates were delighted to be given the opportunity to participate in guided tours by community members of households utilising solar electricity in different ways - for domestic use (lighting, small appliances) and for a variety of home-based business initiatives, for example egg incubation and chick rearing.  

Guided tour taking place of renewable electricity uses by a household at Lemolo B. This photo shows the family's cooking hut. 



Highlight 3 - Community PhotoVoice Competition

The PhotoVoice competition was launched to provide residents of the Lemolo B and Echareria communities with the opportunity to showcase their views relating to the question of "what does energy mean to you?" to a global audience at the USES Conference through the medium of photography. During the couple of months prior to the conference, residents took and submitted photos depicting aspects of energy usage in their communities. A shortlisted collection of photos were selected from all images submitted by both communities, printed out and displayed in an exhibition in the main conference room throughout the duration of the conference. Below are selected images from both communities:

Kerosene lamps being prepared for use in the kitchen, sitting room and living room. Photo taken by Peter Ronoh, Lemolo B. 


This village cafe utilises a pico solar system as a light source for evening trade. Photo taken by Peter Ronoh, Lemolo B. 

Here, several used dry pack batteries have been connected together for powering a small torch bulb. Photo taken by Laban Kenbon, Lemolo B. 

Here, a family uses a dry cell battery powered torch for facilitating cooking in the evening. Photo taken by Laban Kenbon, Lemolo B. 

Firewood is used for heating tea in a village cafeteria. Photo taken by Pastor Wilson, Echareria.

Grid electricity is used to power welding machines for the production of metal doors and window frames. Photo taken by Pastor Wilson, Echareria.

A posho mill utilises grid electricity to produce flour for community use. Photo taken by Joseph Kiles, Echareria.

Roasted corn to be sold to the community is prepared outdoors using charcoal. Photo taken by Joseph Kiles, Echareria.


Dr Joni Cook

MECS Communications Officer (Loughborough)

Joni Cook joined the LCEDN team in March 2017. Joni is responsible for leading internal and external communications for the LCEDN and MECS programme, and is based at Loughborough University.

Joni's staff profile at Loughborough University can be viewed here

Joni can be contacted at:

E-mail: LCEDN@lboro.ac.uk 

Tel: +44 (0)1509 228423

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