Energy and Development

The Open University is actively involved in assisting developing countries as they seek to build sustainable energy futures. 

In many developing countries there are competing demands for electrification – with approximately 1.5 billion people worldwide lacking access to electricity - and therefore in consequence the predominate use of wood for fuel with twice as many people lacking access to modern (low carbon) cooking services.  Grid electrification still remains the dominant policy approach favoured by many country governments. This is despite the often dispersed nature of many rural populations in developing countries and the difficulties of affording payments to national electrical grids by the poor in both rural and urban communities.

The OU is working with a wide variety of partners to research and promote a range of other ‘inclusive innovations’ which focus on the needs and requirements of the poorest in society for sustainable energy provision.  These range from new types of cookstove and solar lanterns to community solar or hydro mini-grids.  We are asking the following types of questions with our research:

  • Which innovations best meet the needs (in the house and in business) of poor communities?
  • How can these processes and products be made more low cost and accessible through technological improvements?
  • How can these innovations be supported to become more widely available than only in communities which are often the focus of donor projects?
  • What are the wider policy implications which need addressing?