Community > Conference Series > LCEDN 4th Conference

LCEDN 4th Conference: Off-Grid and Renewable Transitions in Energy Livelihoods

Hosted by the Durham Energy Institute at Durham University, our fourth event took place at Grey College over the 23rd/24th March, 2015.

The Monday evening attendees at the new Durham Ice Rink Hydro Generator. Photo Credit: Keith Taylor

Durham University is home to the LCEDN’s National Co-coordinator, Ben Campbell, meaning that we have all been looking forward to this Northern event ever since the network was formed in 2012. The event itself kicked off on the evening of Monday 23rd with a tour of the new Durham Ice Rink Hydro Generator, followed by a historical tour of Durham’s coal mining heritage lead by Jim. Next up was an exclusive preview of Raihana Ferdous’ short film on ‘domesticating’ solar lighting on Sandwip Island in Bangladesh and a tour of Hongjian Sun’s Smart Grid Laboratory, before ending the night with a delightful meal at the pan-Asian Zen Restaurant.

Off The Grid Trailer feat. Sohini Alam from Soul Rebel Films on Vimeo.

Simon Hogg of the Durham Energy Institute (DEI)

Simon Hogg of the Durham Energy Institute (DEI)

On Tuesday 24th, Simon Hogg of the Durham Energy Institute (DEI) opened the day, swiftly handing over to Ben, who began by explaining his rationale for the conference theme, ‘Off-grid and Renewable Transitions in Energy Livelihoods’:

“The term ‘sustainable livelihoods’ was first coined by Robert Chambers at IDS in 1987, and was one of the primary concepts that drove the agenda for development at the time that the ODA was renamed DFID ten years later. Given that the need for sustainable development, for the poor, by the poor, has not gone away, and is only getting stronger, it seemed an obvious move to offer ‘energy livelihoods’ as a perspective on the transitions scenarios…

LCEDN Co-coordinator Ben Campbell

Durham University and LCEDN Co-coordinator Ben Campbell

…So among the advantages we can get from ‘energy livelihoods’ is a sense of everyday energy habits, of systems that are part of the texture of time and space in patterns of work and leisure. These can consist of ingrained, enduring local practices of smartly adapted subsistence know-how, and particular preferences for achieving household and community roles and statuses, which are part of the configuration of energy uses. To quote Tony Bebbington livelihood assets “should not be understood only as things that allow survival, adaptation and poverty eradication: they are also the basis of agents’ power to act and to reproduce, challenge or change the rules that govern the control, use and transformation of resources.” (1999: 2022)…


…An ‘energy livelihoods’ problematic can also show up deficiencies and scarcities, conflicting priorities and failures of conventional systems to adapt to new scenarios of need and choice. There are dynamics of change that can be tracked at different scales of effect by thinking through energy livelihoods. Attention can be brought to decision making processes that present us with real world dilemmas, of – for example – whether to expand the herd to produce more milk for the market and dung for the anaerobic digester, or given the domestic numbers in the household, perhaps limited funds and a loan from a donor-backed NGO can train a school leaver to set up a solar distribution enterprise, rather than borrow money at 60% interest and join the lines of workers heading to build football stadiums in Qatar.”

Introduction to the LCEDN & progress update

LCEDN National Co-coordinator, Ed Brown

LCEDN National Co-coordinator, Ed Brown

Ed Brown of Loughborough University and the Midlands Energy Consortium began by explaining the rationale for this event:

“Between January 2012 and June 2013, the Low Carbon Energy for Development Network was supported by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to create momentum among the UK research community, working on accessibility to renewable energy for the poor in the developing world. A network was formed to gather a database of expertise, to bring focus to major challenges, connect with overseas partners, and establish the UK as a hub for leading research in this field.

Three conferences were held at Loughborough (April 2012), Sussex (September 2012) and Imperial College (June 2013). Collaborations came about and interdisciplinary conversations took off, a significant web presence was established with regularly updated news, blogs and other activities, together with a searchable database of UK research expertise in this area and innovative research mapping activity ( University, NGO, policy and private sectors exchanged perspectives. Young researchers learned of each others’ projects, swapped ideas, and experienced practitioners sharing lessons from different parts of the world. EPSRC, DFID and DECC stepped up to fund twelve projects galvanised through the LCEDN’s channels, in the Understanding Sustainable Energy Solutions (USES) programme, which has been up and running since October 2013.

Since then the network has attempted to maintain its presence and develop new activities via the use of its members’ own resources and collaborations with a variety of different partners (e.g. with DECC, the Energy Knowledge Transfer Network and UKCDS in September 2014 and with the Bioenergy SUPERGEN hub and UKCDS in January 2015). It has also been funded by the EPSRC to network the projects funded under the USES programme ( The network is managed by the Durham Energy Institute and the Midlands Energy Consortium in close collaboration with Imperial College, the University of Sussex and UKERC.

Whilst there has been wide involvement from across the LCEDN in the more recent events described above, we have not held a specific LCEDN-badged conference since June 2013. Voices from the community assembled within the LCEDN have often since expressed their support for reconvening the broad-based dynamic interactions over pro-poor low carbon energy which characterised our first three events and also the opportunity to debate how we might take the LCEDN forward into its next stages given recent disappointing news over funding applications for the next stage of network activity. Given these demands, we thought that it was the right time to convene another LCEDN conference, and are enormously pleased to be host the 4th LCEDN conference here in Durham.

The LCEDN has three main purposes for this conference.

  • To reconnect and review the agenda of pro-poor renewable energy (Global poverty trends and context of Paris Climate Talks)
  • To learn from the first findings of the individual USES projects (Impact Underway)
  • To chart the best way forward for the LCEDN community (Strategic Directions)”


Keynote Speakers

Dipak Gyawali – Interdisciplinary Analysts, Nepal

Judith Cherni – Imperial College, London, Solar Network

Energy Livelihoods Workshop

The flipcharts and marker pens came out in full force for this session, which required participants to find a table (Households and Energy, Governance and Energy, Enterprise and Energy, Ecology and Energy, Education and Energy, City-Regions and Energy, Transitions and Energy) and discuss the following priority research issues:

  • What implications can we see in the growth in profile of renewable energy?
  • What are the implications for livelihoods? What are we getting?
  • How can we recognise success?
  • Who benefits most and what are negative elements?
  • What of urban-rural flows?
  • Examples of development with best intentions have unintended consequences, are we seeing this in Renewable Energy?
  • Can we see correspondences in cases of socio-technical ‘ownership’ in low carbon energy livelihoods?

View a summary of each of these seven parallel discussions in Jon Cloke’s blog post. 

Dave Ockwell (STEPS, Sussex University and LCEDN Management Comittee member) explaining transitions theory to the masses

Dave Ockwell (STEPS, Sussex University and LCEDN Management Comittee member) explaining transitions theory to the masses


Lessons from Interdisciplinary and Cross-sectoral Collaborations

This session was designed to spotlight features of effective process, engaging with diversity among energy livelihood actors, reassembling energy regimes and scales of practice. Firstly, Dave Ockwell (STEPS, Sussex) chaired a panel of select project presentations:

Durham University PhD researcher, Raihana Ferdous

Durham University PhD researcher, Raihana Ferdous

Jamie Cross (Edinburgh)


Joshua Kirshner (York)


Lorenz Gollwitzer (Sussex)



Ankit Kumar (Durham)


Raihana Ferdous (Durham)


Asha Singh (Imperial)

Coming soon


Ben Campbell chaired the second part of this session, which offered the projects funded under the recent EPSRC/DfID Understanding Sustainable Energy Solutions (USES) call to showcase preliminary findings:


Simon Batchelor (Gamos), describing the SAMSET, AGRICEN & new OU projects


Jon Cloke (SONG)
Solar Nano-Grids: An appropriate solution for meeting community energy needs?


Ed Brown (READ)
Renewable Energy and Decentralization (Energy Literacy for Decentralised Governance)


Mirjam Roeder (Energy from Rice Straw)
Energy from Rice Straw


Rupert Gammon (ESCOBox)
Smart monitoring, billing and control for pro-poor access to energy services


Ana Pueyo (Green Growth Diagnostics)
Green Growth Diagnostics for Africa



Ways Forward

DfID’s Leanne Jones opened the final session with a discussion of the DfID energy research agenda:



Leannes’s presentation then evolved into a open discussion chaired by Dave Ockwell (Sussex University), which explored the current funding climate in more detail, touching on issues concerning any future RCUK initiatives, the difficulties faced when several funding agencies work together, the experiences of colleagues of working with other research funders such as CDKN (Climate and Development Knowledge Network) and partnership agreements with tied studentships with private sector and NGO actors.

Dave Ockwell (STEPS, Sussex University and LCEDN Management Committee member) rounding off the day

Dave Ockwell (STEPS, Sussex University and LCEDN Management Committee member) rounding off the day

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