Supporting African municipalities with sustainable energy transitions

Client: Funded by by UK aid from the UK Department for International Development, the Engineering & Physical Science Research Council, and the Department for Energy & Climate Change

Period: 2013 - 2017

Project leader: Adrian Stone

ERC project team: Adrian Stone, Bryce McCall, Louise Tait

Partners: UCL Energy Institute – Durham University, Sustainable Energy Africa, University of Ghana, Uganda Martyrs University, Gamos


Urbanisation rates in Africa are the highest in the world, and in most Sub-Saharan countries service delivery is inadequate to keep up with the needs. African populations remain amongst the poorest in the world, and efforts to achieve the energy-related dimensions of the Millennium Development Goals s have in most cases not had significant impact on urban populations.

The situation can be summarised as one where much urban energy transformation research does not understand the detailed organisational dynamics and constraints in cities and therefore is often of limited use; where there is a gap between policy and implementation; where capacity within local/national government departments involved in energy and urban development is inadequate in the face of increasing challenges; and where modes of knowledge transfer are not effective in facilitating sustainable energy transitions in cities.

SAMSET seeks to develop a knowledge exchange framework for supporting local and national bodies involved in municipal energy planning in the effective transition to sustainable energy use in urban areas. Through close partnering with six cities in three African countries (Ghana, Uganda and South Africa), the project aims to develop an information base from which to support cities, undertake direct support for cities around strategy development and priority initiatives, and facilitate knowledge exchange and capacity building.

ERC’s role is to develop model the urban energy systems of the six partner cities in Ghana, Uganda and South Africa. The project aimed to develop an evidence base to serve as a tool for local decision-makers. We undertook bottom up modelling of urban energy systems using the Long-range Energy Alternatives Planning (LEAP) model, developed by Stockholm Environment Institute. In-country partner universities undertook primary data collection on sectoral energy demand and supply. A baseline model and range of scenarios were then developed collaboratively with local research partners and municipalities. These results serve as the basis for further collaborative energy strategy development and prioritising implementation options for the next phases of SAMSET.

This project has made an important knowledge contribution to the dynamics of sustainable energy transitions in African cities, an area that has received relatively little research focus to date. The project has served to introduce to city and local planners the use of energy models, while also setting up the foundation for future development of energy modelling exercises and its applications locally. It has also made valuable modelling methodological contributions. Modelling has had to account for distinct characteristics such as the informal economy, own energy generation through diesel and gasoline generators, the high reliance on biomass, variations in urban forms as well as supply constrained electricity systems and suppressed demand for energy services.