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.
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.
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.
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: