Beyond the technological fix: Sustainable energy options and development in Nigeria
This research will critically explore the drivers and dynamics of household energy decision-making at three research sites across Nigeria.
Increasing household access to affordable and sustainable sources of domestic energy in sub-Saharan Africa is vital for alleviating poverty, attaining the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and combating global climate change. Volatile petroleum markets and global concerns over energy insecurity have led to rapid advancements in ‘green renewables’ such as off-grid solar energy – seen as capable of delivering ‘win-win’ outcomes due to their ability to provide sustainable energy while promoting ‘pro poor’ economic growth.
A lacuna in much recent renewable energy research has been the lack of in-depth exploration of the multi-scalar factors that shape the domestic energy choices for poor households in sub-Saharan Africa. There is a pressing need for interdisciplinary approaches that frame energy research more effectively within the broader socio-economic, cultural, behavioural, political, environmental and technological challenges affecting sustainable energy production, access and use.
Focusing on Nigeria, Africa’s most populous and energy-hungry country, this research will critically explore these drivers and dynamics of household energy decision-making at three geographically diverse research sites across the country. Informed by technical feasibility considerations and engaging with a wide range of stakeholders, the project will build new partnerships, and produce new knowledge and understanding for energy research in Nigeria. This will be the first step in laying the foundations for the submission of a major multi-country Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) research bid to follow.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, and has recently surpassed South Africa as the continent’s largest economy. Although Nigeria is a major oil producer and exporter, successive governments have been unable to ensure an adequate, reliable and secure supply of energy, and around two thirds of the population have no access to electricity in their homes or communities. Overall population growth, increased urbanisation, expanding energy demands and intensified natural resource use among the poorest segment of the population have combined to stimulate recent changes in domestic energy consumption patterns.
In 2014, the Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) identified the lack of a stable and sustainable energy supply as a major constraint to Nigeria’s economic growth and development potential. Nigeria therefore provides an ideal context within which to conduct our case study research, and the country and its growing population stands to benefit directly from the findings.
As a consequence of continuing cost reductions, technological innovations and new delivery models, off-grid alternative energy systems for households are seen as capable of delivering ‘win-win’ environmental outcomes while promoting ‘pro poor’ development. An important charge is that too often, promised benefits fail to be realised because technologically and environmentally driven strategies do not engage sufficiently with context-specific and micro-level considerations. Encouraging the use of more renewable energy sources therefore requires a more nuanced and systemic understanding of socio-economic, cultural and political contexts.
Building on the team’s networks and previous research on livelihood issues around domestic energy access, consumption and production, the main objectives of this study are:
To critically assess the different interests, agendas and capacities of key stakeholders within Nigeria’s renewable energy market and the sustainable energy solutions that may be appropriate.
To explore the factors that influence decision-making at the household and community level, in particular examining the socio-economic, political and cultural drivers that shape choice and up-take of domestic energy.
To create a broad, prospective life cycle based spatial model, to explore the most effective use and supply of resources in order to provide sustainable energy.
To disseminate findings to key stakeholders, soliciting feedback and generating wider policy lessons for implementing sustainable energy options.
- Principal investigator:
Roy Maconachie (Social & Policy Sciences)
Marcelle McManus (Mechanical Engineering)
Chick Wilson (Chemistry)
- BUK partner lead:
Engagement with research participants and dissemination to academic and non-academic audiences is central to this research and will involve:
an in-country stakeholder workshop (involving government, policy and donor agencies, civil society actors, local media representatives and academics)
engagement with NGOs
a research brief
and public lectures and discussions in international forums.
This research will yield a greater appreciation of the need for an informed, enabling and diverse intervention space in Nigeria’s domestic energy sector, and the value of responsive policy processes benefiting inter alia from proactive academic and applied research input.
Throughout the project, we will engage with planners and policy makers in Nigeria’s energy sector, to facilitate the co-production of knowledge and ensure that the research aligns with local challenges and needs. This will involve discussions to:
assess the direct relevance of our findings for energy, landscape and regional development policy/practice
evaluate the implications of our findings for on-going debates around sustainable development, attainment of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals and global climate change.