This report captures the outcomes of three workshops on community energy resilience and electricity systems that were part of the Research Collaborations on Community Energy Resilience in Low-Income Countries Project led by the Low Carbon Energy for Development Network (LCEDN) and the Energy and Economic Growth Programme (EEG), with funding from the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) Whole Systems Networking Fund.
Many low-income countries are vulnerable to natural hazards, long-term processes of ecological degradation, and global climate change. These factors threaten progress towards economic development enabled by energy access. Despite this, researchers have until recently failed to address resilience at a community level in sustainable energy systems. Research on energy access in low-income countries has also tended to be divided between on-grid, mini-grid, and standalone solutions. However, communities often utilise different combinations of systems in a strategic way in order to improve their resilience.
The project explored the potential of a whole systems energy research approach to address questions of community resilience. Three workshops were held to catalyse new research collaborations, open up dialogue, facilitate knowledge exchange, and establish a working relationship between academics, policy-makers, energy practitioners, and donors in the UK, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. The first workshop was held in Oxford, UK in November 2018, the second in Kathmandu, Nepal in February 2019, and the third was held in Salima, Malawi in April 2019. Participants included representatives from Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, UK and USA. The discussions included: technical innovations needed for more resilient electricity systems, linking resilient electricity systems with broader community resilience, and exploring the governance and planning processes required. The workshops were particularly successful in bringing together perspectives from disaster risk reduction and energy access for the first time.
Each workshop identified the most impactful research questions for the region on community energy resilience. Three research themes emerged from the workshops:
- Energy system design to improve energy system resilience
- The role that community plays in ensuring energy system resilience, and
- The role energy systems play in community resilience
These themes highlight the need for further research on the interconnection between the resilience of energy systems and community resilience.