Sustainable Thermal Energy Service Partnerships (STEPS)

The provision of clean, sustainable thermal energy services in rural areas of developing countries is an area so far neglected by academia, however it is projected that more than 2.6 billion people will remain without such services by 2030. The research undertaken in this project will study existing experiences of providing thermal energy for cooking, space heating and sanitation using different approaches, particularly the “fee-for-service” business model. In this model, users pay for the energy services delivered to them, relying on service provision from a private provider for a small monthly fee. Users can benefit from energy services under this model without having to incur large up-front costs, which is of particular importance in rural areas of developing countries where household income and access to credit is generally low.

The STEPs project has undertaken a program of research in its operational period focused to key topics, including business models for sustainable electricity provision and how these can be cross-applied to thermal energy, existing experience with thermal energy service provision on both a state project and business-based platform, and research on applicability for thermal energy business models on a technology-specific basis. The production of a STEPs project toolkit for thermal energy services, on both a business and policy level, is underway with the production of working chapters for a number of thermal energy technologies, including Liquefied Petroleum Gas, biogas digesters, solar water heaters and improved cookstoves.

Outputs from the STEPs project have been focused on production of materials for the upcoming STEPs toolkit. These include a scoping review on business models for rural and peri-urban energy, and working papers on thermal energy service technologies. Partnerships are being built with South African stakeholders and a UN and government project providing thermal energy services in Afghanistan.

Other project outputs to date include:

– Review of thermal energy demand in Lesotho for a number of use cases

– Case studies for public-private partnership frameworks in sub-Saharan African country contexts

– Tunisian and Ghanaian Liquefied Petroleum Gas service cases.


University College London

Sustainable Energy Associates (India)

University of Southampton

University of Warwick

Restio (South Africa)

Econoler (Canada)


Project Website

STEPs Project Website

Project Blog

STEPs Project Blog

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