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Durham Energy Institute

The Rising Powers and the low carbon transition in Sub-Saharan Africa

Download the research briefing: The Rising Powers and the low carbon transition in Sub-Saharan Africa

This DEI briefing summarises the key findings of from a major project exploring the roles that these ‘rising powers’ are playing in the transition to low carbon energy systems in Southern Africa. The project explored the power relationships at play in decision-making, policy structures and investment patterns in renewable energy development in Mozambique and South Africa.

Findings from the project included:

  • China, India and Brazil have a growing involvement in the provision of renewable energy technologies in Africa.
  • However these 'Rising Powers' are driven by diverse economic and political goals.
  • The depth, drivers, and outcomes of this activity are complex and contested in terms of both development and the implications for international energy and climate governance.
  • Renewable Energy ‘progress’ has been inconsistent and socially/spatially variable.
  • There are concerns in both countries as to who will benefit from the new investment.

Fieldwork for the project was undertaken in Mozambique, South Africa, China, India and Brazil between 2012 and 2014 and involved a combination of 200 semi-structured interviews and community-based research methods. A database of information on 150 renewable energy projects was also collected. Relationships and patterns of associations between variables were explored such as the roles of rising power countries in projects, types of project and technology.

This interdisciplinary research project, is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), and led by Professor Marcus Power Durham University.

The research project involves a team of academics from the universities of Durham (Department of Geography), Sussex (School of Global Studies and Science Policy Research Unit) and the University of Cape Town’s Energy Research Unit. These institutions are working together with the UK-based NGO Practical Action and the Brazilian Centre for Strategic Studies and Management.

Find out more about the Rising Powers project.