The Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), University of Ghana and University College London – Energy Institute are jointly organising a conference on the theme “Strategies for sustainable energy transitions in Urban Sub-Saharan Africa” in Accra, Ghana from June 19-20, 2017.  The conference is part of the project called “Supporting Sub-Saharan African Municipalities with Sustainable Energy Transitions” (SAMSET) funded by the Department for International Development (DFID), the Department for Energy & Climate change (DECC) and the Engineering & Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC).

Africa is fast changing in all facets of development. By 2050, it will be home to about 2 billion people, of which three out of five will live in cities. Currently, over a third of its people have already joined the middle class. Sub-Saharan African economies have grown 5.3 percent per annum in the past decade, triggering a dramatic increase in energy needs.  It is estimated that by 2040 about 75% of the total energy consumption in Sub-Saharan Africa will be in urban areas with its associated implications on sustainable development. Thus, this demand needs to be met by a mix of clean energy sources such as solar, wind and organic waste, as well as significant energy efficiency efforts, and not by expanding the conventional energy sources.

The foremost priority is to promote a more sustainable use of energy by relevant well-conceived urban planning giving priorities to soft modes of mobility and public transport, by implementing building regulations which favour architecture better-adapted to the local context, or by creating a market for efficient appliances. This reality also imposes an urgent obligation on the continent to consider sourcing more of its endowed abundant renewable energy resources to ensure long-term security of energy supply. Particularly, renewable energy resources — solar, wind, organic wastes and their corresponding technologies offer more promises for sustainable energy futures than the conventional energy sources.

In order for alternative energy approaches to become widely embraced, there is the need first of all to raise awareness on renewable energy options and energy efficiency opportunities in urban areas, and to promote strategies which will maximise their benefits in providing secure, sustainable and affordable energy to meet the rising energy demand in our fast-growing cities. These among other things, require knowledge exchange and partnerships between researchers and local authorities to enhance the understanding of the critical elements that inform urban energy transition issues, and to facilitate the optimisation of lessons learnt from pilot experimentations of knowledge exchange frameworks taking into account different geographical, economic and policy environments in SSA urban cities.

Secondly, there is also the need for national as well as local government planners and policy makers to understand local urban contexts so that they can grasp the significant opportunities of engaging at a local level, as well as acquire the critical set of capacities and skills necessary to drive and influence the uptake of clean energy and efficient technologies.

This conference provides a timely platform for the sharing of research information, implementation experiences and learning on the pathways to sustainable energy transitions in urban Sub-Saharan Africa with focus on the following central questions: what types of institutions, policies and regulation are required to promote sustainable energy transitions in African municipalities? To what extent are network and capacity building important in the promotion of urban sustainable energy transitions?  What are the most effective strategies for an urban sustainable energy transitions?