UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy


Agro-industries and Clean Energy in Africa (AGRICEN)

Agro-industries and clean energy in Africa (AGRICEN) is a five-year research programme exploring how agro-industries in sub-Saharan Africa could contribute to improving rural energy access.

AGRICEN is funded by a £2 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Department for International Development (DfID) and the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

Lack of access to energy remains one of the major barriers to development in sub-Saharan African countries. In rural areas, it is estimated that only 10-14% of people have access to electricity. This has a knock-on effect not only on regional economic development but also on the health, education and social welfare of local communities.

To date, many small and medium-sized enterprises that implement green energy services in Africa have been hampered by problems such as limited access to investment finance, a shortage of skilled staff, and lack of revenue to fund on-going maintenance. Focusing on Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Malawi, AGRICEN will investigate the willingness of agro-industry players to play a role in widening rural energy access, and identify the barriers that prevent this from happening on a larger scale at present.


Agro-industries (such as sugar, tea, coffee and tobacco) are well-placed to benefit small and medium-sized enterprises by generating electricity and other fuels from their waste – for example feedstock from sugar or tea processing – and harnessing other renewable energy resources. This energy could be used not only to power their own operations, but also to supply energy beyond their estate boundaries to surrounding local communities.

Employing large numbers of people across Africa, agro-industries are significant contributors to country economies, and some already operate estate-based mini-grids to fuel their processing.

In order to define the policies that will enable new community enterprises to emerge and flourish, a complete picture of the situation is needed. Focusing on Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Malawi, AGRICEN will investigate the willingness of agro-industry players to play a role in widening rural energy access, and identify the barriers that prevent this from happening on a larger scale at present. It will also examine the impact of renewable energy policies which are starting to be implemented in African countries, such as feed-in-tariffs.


By the end of 2018, AGRICEN aims to:

  • Form a thorough understanding of the potential role of industries in energy services
  • Develop a strong methodology for project implementation
  • Help promote meaningful projects that meet the demands of potential investors

Over the next five years, the AGRICEN partners will:

  • Explore the potential for agro-industries to reliably develop cleaner energy systems for their own use and provide energy within their estate
  • Assess the level of expertise in agro-industries, their know-how and their facilities to operate, maintain and develop cleaner energy systems
  • Examine whether agro-industries’ willingness or interest in being involved in energy access outside their estates is affected by being outgrower-owned or privately-owned
  • Examine the viability of agro-industry based energy mini-grids as suppliers of energy to the surrounding rural communities
  • Assess the proportion of the rural population in sub-Saharan Africa that can benefit directly or indirectly from agro-industry based clean energy investment
  • Evaluate and develop the capacity of local specialised institutions to establish a critical mass of local expertise in cleaner energy development

University of Surrey


The University of Surrey hosts the Centre for Environment and Sustainability (CES), an internationally-acclaimed centre of excellence on sustainable development set up 23 years ago. The CES takes an inter-disciplinary approach to the analysis of sustainable systems, integrating strong, engineering based approaches with insights from the social sciences to develop action-oriented, policy relevant responses to long-term environmental and social issues.  



Matthew Leach is working on the AGRICEN project for CES.



AFREPREN/FWD is a registered Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) based in Nairobi, Kenya, with a vision of contributing to ensuring cleaner and affordable energy services for the poor in Africa. It brings together African energy practitioners, professionals, researchers, investors and policy makers from Africa who have a long-term interest in the development of cleaner energy services for Africa as well as energy research/capacity building and the attendant policy-making process. Founded in 1987, AFREPREN/FWD has extensive expertise of energy in East and Southern Africa and some experience in West and North Africa.

Stephen Karekezi is working on the AGRICEN project for AFREPREN/FWD.

Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Malawi (LUANAR)



The Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) was established in 2011 when the Bunda College of Agriculture was de-linked from the University of Malawi. The University’s vision is to advance knowledge and produce relevant graduates with entrepreneurial skills for agricultural growth, food security, wealth creation and sustainable natural resources management, through teaching, training, research, outreach consultancy and sound management.

The team at LUANAR working on AGRICEN are Kingdom Kwapata and Leonard Gennarow Masala.

The Policy Practice Ltd



The Policy Practice is a UK-based consultancy company which undertakes policy work in developing countries, and advises and trains governments, development agencies, civil society organisations and companies.  The Policy Practice provides practical, innovative solutions based on realistic assessments of the challenges and opportunities facing developing countries.  Its multi-disciplinary approach uses 'The New Political Economy Perspective' to understand the processes of socio-economic change and their effect on the implementation of development programmes.

Andrew Barnett is working on the AGRICEN project for the Policy Practice.



Gamos is a small but influential UK-based company working with the social factors surrounding technology use and transfer. Founded in 1989, Gamos aims to use its professional skills for the empowerment of individuals and communities in the poorer sections of society in developing countries, and mainly focuses on training and research. The company’s clients include international, governmental and local organisations around the world.

Simon Batchelor is working on the AGRICEN project for Gamos.


Ministry of Energy & Mines, Malawi African Energy Policy Research Network Limited, Kenya

Ethio-Resource Group (ERG), Ethiopia


Ethio Resource Group (ERG) is a private energy and environment research, consulting and service company established in Addis Ababa in 2005. ERG staff and associated experts are proficient in the energy and environment fields and work closely with partners and clients to apply this expertise to the wide range of services in the sector in Ethiopia and the East Africa region.


Over the past five years, ERG and its experts have completed or contributed to more than 50 projects in Ethiopia, Malawi, Rwanda and Madagascar. These range from conducting research (into the design of wood stoves, for example), to evaluating climate change impacts on energy services, to designing and supervising the installation of renewable energy systems.

Ministry of Energy & Minerals, Uganda


The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD) has a mandate ‘to establish, promote the development, strategically manage and safeguard the rational and sustainable exploitation and utilization of energy and mineral resources for social and economic development’.





  • To, LS, Seebaluck, V, Leach, M (2017) Future energy transitions for bagasse cogeneration: Lessons from multi-level and policy innovations in Mauritius, Energy Research and Social Science
  • To, LS, Kwapata, K, Masala, L, Alonso Navarro, V, Batchelor, S, Mulugetta, Y, Barnett, A, Karekezi, S (2017) Policy perspectives on expanding cogeneration from bagasse in Malawi, Journal of Energy in Southern Africa, 28(1), pp.45-53

Conference papers

  • To, LS and Mulugetta,Y (2016), Agro-Industries and Clean Energy in Africa (AGRICEN) Project Update, Sugarcane Landscapes Workshop, UCL, 6 July, London
  • To LS, Karekezi S, Barnett A, Batchelor S, Mulugetta Y, Leach M, Kwapata K (2014), Agro-Industries and Clean Energy in Africa, 4th Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa, 8-10 October, Marrakesh

Working papers

  • Tesfamichael, M. (2018) Agro-industries and clean energy in Africa: A synthesis of five country reports. Working Paper, AGRICEN
  • Karekezi S (2014), Status of Cleaner Energy Development in Agro-industries of Eastern & Southern Africa, AFREPREN/FWD working paper 409.

STEaPP contributors 

Yacob Mulugetta
Professor Yacob Mulugetta
Project lead