Royal Geographical Society conference 2020 - Session: Rethinking Barriers to Sustainable Rural Energy Access

1 Sep 2020 - 9:00am to 4 Sep 2020 - 5:00pm
The Royal Geographical Society

Session abstract

Globally, over 10% of the world population does not have access to electricity, and 40% do not have access to clean fuels for cooking - and levels of access are much lower in rural areas. At the same time that political pressure to improve access globally is increasing, however, the rapid onset of climate change imposes structures on the type and intensity of energy access globally. 


Despite technologies continually developing and achieving economies of scale, global energy access targets continue to be unmet. Projects are too often engineered through the lens of technological and economic aspirations rather than attending to the specific needs and aspirations of individual communities. 


In this session we would like to address questions that explore this idea further as well as investigating the critical importance (and limitations) of the social scale of energy access, with a view to extending practical social methodologies. We would also like to explore reasons for the slow progress towards universal energy access and interrogate how energy access is defined or understood, as well as questioning the premise of the existing energy access goals. 


This session will include 4-5 presentations with time for discussion between speakers and session participants. We encourage speakers to consider the following questions, and how these relate to your research or projects. 


  • How can we identify and cross the borders we have in our understanding of user experiences and realities to enable more sustainable access? 
  • What are the limits of current research approaches?
  • How can research be done differently?
  • What are the effects of not fully understanding the energy capabilities, understandings and aspirations of communities?
  • How do issues of energy justice materialise for communities?
  • How are energy access policies and projects evaluated, and is success measured appropriately?
  • What issues arise from conflicting approaches and understandings of different stakeholders, including the role of actors in the ‘Global North’?
  • Are current understandings of and ways of measuring energy access  appropriate?


Instructions for Authors 


We hope to be able to support distance/virtual participation in this session. If you would not be able to travel to London for the conference, please indicate this in your abstract submission. We also encourage participation from groups and individuals outside of universities and academia. 


Please send your paper title, abstract (up to 150 words) and full contact details to both session convenors by 30th January 2020. We will confirm participation in early February.

If you have any questions please contact either Natalie ( or Hannah (

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