A research agenda for a people-centred approach to energy access in the urbanizing global south

  • Nature Energyvolume 2pages776779 (2017)
  • doi:10.1038/s41560-017-0007-x
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Energy access is typically viewed as a problem for rural areas, but people living in urban settings also face energy challenges that have not received sufficient attention. A revised agenda in research and practice that puts the user and local planning complexities centre stage is needed to change the way we look at energy access in urban areas, to understand the implications of the concentration of vulnerable people in slums and to identify opportunities for planned management and innovation that can deliver urban energy transitions while leaving no one behind. Here, we propose a research agenda focused on three key issues: understanding the needs of urban energy users; enabling the use of context-specific, disaggregated data; and engaging with effective modes of energy and urban governance. This agenda requires interdisciplinary scholarship across the social and physical sciences to support local action and deliver large-scale, inclusive transformations.

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This paper was funded by a grant from the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council called ‘Mapping Urban Energy Landscapes’ (Grant reference: ES/K001361/1).

Author information


  1. Interdisciplinary Centre of the Social Sciences, The University of Sheffield, 219 Portobello, S1D4P, Sheffield, UK

    • Vanesa Castán Broto
  2. Practical Action, The Schumacher Centre, Bourton on Dunsmore, Rugby, CV23 9QZ, UK

    • Lucy Stevens
  3. Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and UNEP DTU Partnership, Anker Engelunds Vej 1 Bygning 101A, 2800 Kongens, Lyngby, Denmark

    • Emmanuel Ackom
  4. Institute of Sustainable Resources, University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT, UK

    • Julia Tomei
  5. UCL Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT, UK

    • Priti Parikh
    •  & Iwona Bisaga
  6. Low Carbon Energy for Development Network, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK

    • Long Seng To
  7. Environment Department, University of York, Heslington, YO10 5NG, York, UK

    • Joshua Kirshner
  8. Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy, University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT, UK

    • Yacob Mulugetta


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V.C.B. conceived the study and wrote the manuscript. L.S., E.A., J.T., P.P., I.B., L.S.T., J.K. and Y.M. contributed data and insights, discussed the argument, and edited the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Vanesa Castán Broto.