How do we make developing countries’ energy systems more resilient?

03 Oct 2019

Many low-income countries are vulnerable to natural hazards, long-term processes of ecological degradation, and global climate change. These factors threaten progress towards economic development enabled by energy access. Despite this, researchers have until recently failed to address resilience at a community level in sustainable energy systems. Research on energy access in low-income countries has also tended to be divided between on-grid, mini-grid, and stand-alone solutions. However, communities often utilise different combinations of systems in a strategic way in order to improve their resilience.

The applied research programme on Energy and Economic Growth (EEG) and the Low Carbon Energy for Development Network (LCEDN) worked together to exploring the potential of a whole systems energy research approach to address questions of community resilience.

The workshops

Three workshops were held to catalyse new research collaborations, open up dialogue, facilitate knowledge exchange, and establish a working relationship between academics, policy makers, energy practitioners, and donors in the UK, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. The first workshop was held in Oxford in the UK in November 2018, the second in Kathmandu in Nepal in February 2019, and the third was held in Salima in Malawi in April 2019. Participants included representatives from Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Malawi, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Mozambique, USA and the UK. The discussions included technical innovations needed for more resilient electricity systems, linking resilient electricity systems with broader community resilience, and exploring the governance and planning processes required. The workshops were particularly successful in bringing together perspectives from disaster risk reduction and energy access for the first time. Each workshop identified the most impactful research questions for the region on community energy resilience.

Wider engagement

An overview of the Nepal workshop was given at a webinar on Resilience and Reliability of Energy Projects in Nepal convened by the LCEDN, Smart Villages and the Hydro Empowerment Network in February 2019. We also convened a session on Energy Resilience at the LCEDN annual conference in May 2019 to share the outcomes of the Malawi workshop. We look forward to engaging further at other events focused on energy in humanitarian settings.

Author Long Seng To is RAEng Engineering for Development Research Fellow at Loughborough University and Principal Investigator of the “Community energy resilience and electricity systems” project funded by the Whole Systems Networking Fund. Email:


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