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


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




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.

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Correspondence to Vanesa Castán Broto.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Broto, V.C., Stevens, L., Ackom, E. et al. A research agenda for a people-centred approach to energy access in the urbanizing global south. Nat Energy 2, 776–779 (2017).

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