Project aim

CESET is a three-year research programme exploring how communities can support just energy transitions in East Africa. The project focuses on diversity: diversity of models of community energy and diversity of communities that engage in renewable energy projects. We believe that the strength of community energy lies in such diversity and adaptability. Diversity and adaptability are precisely what is needed to support the deployment of off grid energy technologies (solar, wind, hydro, biogas) in a variety of social and geographical contexts.


The project focuses on Ethiopia, Malawi and Mozambique. They are three countries which face enormous energy challenges, with very diverse contexts. In 2018, rates of access to electricity in Ethiopia, Malawi, and Mozambique were 44%, 13%, and 27% respectively (IRENA 2019). Despite recent improvements, 97 million people living in these countries still lack power. Moreover, progress towards clean cooking is too slow to meet international objectives for energy access. Only 2-3% of the population in Ethiopia, Malawi or Mozambique has access to clean fuels. These figures mean that almost 150 million people living in these countries rely on biomass or charcoal to cover their daily energy needs.


CESET explores how community energy operates at different scales, in order to understand its potential to address energy access challenges in a just and sustainable manner:

  • First, it focuses on the neighbourhood scale as a means to investigate how community energy works in practice. It does so through the design and construction of a community energy project (i.e. solar mini-grid). This project will generate new learning and demonstrates the complexities of delivering energy on the ground.
  • Second, CESET explores the significance of community energy within the national systems of service provision in the three countries. It does this from two perspectives: by examining the political economy of community energy in each country, and by exploring the energy landscapes within which community energy emerges in each country.
  • Finally, CESET aims to understand community energy as a means to bring together a wider learning community that can support a transition to sustainable energy in East Africa. It will bring together a community of scholars into a ‘Regional Energy Learning Alliance’ which, within the project, we call RELA. We hope RELA will outlive the project as a point of reference for knowledge exchange and capacity building on sustainable energy transitions in East Africa.