Origins of the LCEDN
The Low Carbon Energy for Development Network (LCEDN) was launched in January 2012 and is an initiative of the Durham Energy Institute (DEI) and the Midlands Energy Consortium (MEC). At present the LCEDN operates as a platform for academics, practitioners, policy-makers and private sector organisations to interact and cooperate on research for low-carbon development. It is centred on a group of five academic research centres that facilitate a network of individuals and organisations concerned with promoting Energy for Development research in the UK and worldwide. These are the Science and Technology Policy Research Department (SPRU) at the University of Sussex, the Energy Futures Lab at Imperial College, the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) as well as the DEI and MEC.
Evident from two workshops held in 2011 and attended by academics from throughout the UK and across numerous disciplines, the enthusiasm of the UK research community to engage with the energy for development agenda is strong. However, while the UK boasts considerable pools of expertise in both the energy and development fields the two are rarely brought into conversation.
The limited connections between different research communities, lack of coherence between research and policy agendas, profusion of new funding opportunities and increasingly urgent development needs demand a flexible, critical and proactive response.
The LCEDN’s Remit
In meeting this challenge, the LCEDN aims to bring together researchers, policy-makers and practitioners from across the United Kingdom to expand research capacity around low-carbon development in developing economies. The network will pinpoint UK strengths, identify where they could be deployed and highlight areas where expertise needs to be further developed. It will also actively seek to promote collaborations between UK-based academics and researchers and research institutions from developing countries. In particular it seeks to bring together existing expertise in international development, renewable energy transitions and science and technology studies in order to enhance and support interdisciplinary research, learning and policy-formation. The network will provide a hub for academics, government bodies and practitioners to identify common interests, share ideas and information and address emerging opportunities.
The LCEDN thus aims to strengthen inter-disciplinary collaboration amongst academic participants and their collaboration with government, international institutions, NGOs and the private sector with a view to enriching UK and international policy-making regarding energy and development. In doing so the Network will: (1) review the ‘state of the field’ of energy/development research in the UK; (2) undertake ‘rapid evidence reviews’ of specific technologies, particular countries and emerging themes where there is a current policy need; (3) maintain a bespoke website with an interactive capability as a means for exchanging information, developing contacts and creating new ideas; (4) produce regular updates summarising the latest Network activities, available research funding and UK/International collaboration opportunities and (5) organise and host three UK workshops in its first year of operation.
Indicators of Success
The creation of an active, engaged and visible ‘energy for development’ research community, with a strong postgraduate presence. Specific indicators of success will include the following:
levels of membership registration and conference attendance;
increased number of collaborative and interdisciplinary energy projects between academics in the UK and developing countries;
increased number of proposals with a ‘development’ focus to Research Council energy calls and improved UK involvement in internationally funded activity within the energy and development field;
levels of membership registration and conference attendance;
volume and national and international diversity of visitors to the website;
level of contribution to LCEDN initiatives (e.g. rapid response reviews);
enhanced contributions from UK academics to national and international policy debates;
the continuation of the LCEDN beyond the initial one year funding period.
Terms of Reference for the LCEDN Management Committee
Function of the Committee: The LCEDN Management Comitee (hereafter MC) will: (1) Set the strategic direction that will guide and direct the activities of the LCEDN; (2) Ensure the effective management of the LCEDN and its activities; (3) Monitor progress against key indicators of success; (4) Monitor the activities of the LCEDN to ensure they are in keeping with the founding principles and objectives of the Network and (5) appoint two national co-ordinators to oversee the day-to-day running of the network and supervision of the RAs working for the LCEDN.
Membership: The MC will be representative of the Network. During the first year (January 1st-December 31st 2012), membership will include: (1) at least one representative from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the Department of International Development (DfID) and Research Councils UK (RCUK); (2) at least one representative from each of the academic partner institutions named on the original funding bid (University of Durham, the Midlands Energy Consortium (MEC), the University of Sussex and Imperial College) and one representative from the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) and (3) at least one representative from the UK NGO sector (Practical Action as a representative of BOND) and groups liaising with the private sector (Energy KTN). Up to two co-options will also be allowed. Membership of the Network will be revisited at the end of the first year.
Chairing: The MC will be chaired by one representative from the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC). The main duties of the Chair will be to assist with the managerial direction of the Network and with the planning and running of MC meetings.
Frequency of Meetings: The MC will meet a minimum of four times during the first year of the LCEDN project.
Record of Meetings: Responsibility for taking the minutes of the MC meetings will be shared between the Research Assistants (RAs) involved in the project.
Why Energy for Development?
In December 2010 the UN General Assembly declared 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All in recognition that access to affordable modern energy services is essential for sustainable development and for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. The initiative developed out of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s global Sustainable Energy for All proposal. This international programme will engage governments, the private sector, and civil society partners with the goal of achieving three key targets by 2030: a 40 per cent reduction in global energy intensity; a 30 per cent increase in global renewable energy use and, ultimately, universal access to modern energy services.
The urgent need to expand research capacity towards clean energy systems in developing economies is therefore clear.
The need for low carbon development however should not obscure the fact that for the majority of people living in the Global South, access to some kind of basic modern energy service is the most pressing need. To take sub-Saharan Africa as an example, access to electricity is currently estimated to be at 31%. In fact, the entire installed generation capacity in the region is just 68 gigawatts (no more than Spain’s), most of which is concentrated in South Africa.
Although notable, the sub-Saharan region is not exceptional in this respect. Almost 1.4 billion people in the Global South have no access to electricity, and over 2.5 billion remain dependent upon burning carbon-based fuels for everyday tasks.
The demand for ‘modern’ energy services is complicated by the need for that demand to be met through more sustainable means than has been the case for those who already have access to those services in the rest of the world. Increases in world population and growing urbanization also look likely to amplify the challenge of squaring growing energy needs with the global imperative for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A balance must be struck between tackling energy access issues and sustainable, ‘clean’ growth. Indeed, the challenges for both the development of low-carbon alternatives as well as their adoption by low-income communities are numerous and interlinked. As such, the search by developing economies for accessible and sustainable energy systems is paramount and the decisions made by these economies as well as the factors that influence their choices are critical.
Our management committee
We are world leaders in the development of thin-film photovoltaics, offshore wind technology and technologies for fusion energy. We also have leading UK research groups working on energy distribution networks, microgeneration, carbon capture and storage, geo-energy, plants and microbes for energy, clean chemical processes and the societal aspects of energy use.
The Midlands Energy Consortium consists of the universities of Birmingham, Loughborough and Nottingham. The consortium, initiated by the universities respective Vice-Chancellors in October 2006, draws on many existing collaborations and recognises the synergies between the three institutions’ research activities.
SPRU has over 40 years’ experience in the analysis of science, technology and innovation. Our research starts from real world problems, engages in rigorous interdisciplinary research and policy advice, and makes theoretical contributions in the social sciences.Our focus currently includes innovation management in firms, technological competition in industries, societal impacts of technologies and their regulation, and the positive contributions of innovation to solving societal and economic policy problems.