The Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction


Katharina Oemmelen

From mini grid to sustainable development? An analysis of the benefits and trade-offs of the renewable energy transition in rural Madagascar

School research theme: Sustainability in the built environment
Research supervisors: Prof. Priti Parikh and Dr Ben Page (Geography Department)
Start date: September 2022

A rapid extension of off-grid renewable energy is needed to meet the severe challenges brought about by poverty and human-induced climate change in rural sub-Saharan Africa. On one hand, access to energy is widely regarded as a pre-condition for a communities’ development. On the other, greenhouse gas emissions resulting from energy production are one of the primary drivers of global warming. Moreover, attempts to achieve universal energy access by 2030 (SDG 7) will result in a continued reliance on fossil fuels, as low-carbon alternatives alone will not suffice to reach this goal (IPCC, 2014: 355). To find the most sustainable path through this trilemma, a rapid extension of off-grid renewable energy systems is vital. In consideration of this, I aim to investigate how local drivers and barriers influence the extent to which the implementation of solar mini grids translates into improved rural development outcomes. Specifically, I want to focus on how gendered practices and norms shape and are shaped by a renewable energy transition, and thus explore how a feminist approach can contribute to inserting considerations of equality and justice into energy infrastructure implementations (Cronin et al., 2021).