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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Achieving a sustainable regional strategy for localised power production, incorporating renewable energy, in developing nations

This thesis seeks to answer the key questions that policy makers and project facilitators ask in order to reach a recommendation for achieving such an ambitious yet necessary regional power production strategy. This executive summary goes through the main issues and solutions pertaining to each key question.

The thesis key questions have transferable meaning, so a thesis methodology mind map was designed to create a universal framework for policy development. This mind map was also instrumental in designing the makeup of this thesis and can serve, in its current or modified form, as a framework for most developing nation regional energy strategies.

Are the right stakeholders influencing strategy and if not, what needs to be done? The most crucial sub-question regarding rural electrification was found to be: what will the rural economy use electricity for? This thesis explored the paths to policy implementation based on stakeholder involvement and their strong influences in strategy implementation and performance in the power industry of developing countries. It is clear, from authoritative and critical publications, that there are links between poor stakeholder involvement and bad performance in the power industry.

By the basis of case studies, with a focus on Kenya and a few external influences from abroad, and examination of common policies and methods, stakeholder involvement was depicted considering societal changes over time. This is not a definitive method of marking a particular achievable strategic target at a future date, but it forms a continuous synthesis of stakeholder engagement to achieve optimal involvement at any given period of time.

Project participation was assessed from one case study location and compared with trends from elsewhere. An emergence of sophisticated stakeholder types was found to be common where inclusive and advanced project participation occurred. Along with inclusivity, sensitivity to regional and cultural needs helps ensure that operating plants and infrastructure are maximally beneficial to all interested parties.

What is the existing infrastructure and are there conflict/dispute areas in planning for future developments? Or rather: What are the real energy needs for such a region taking into account the varying needs from rural to urban areas? This thesis examined existing and planned infrastructure in order to determine commonalities and ambiguities of approaches to previous and new developments. It paid particular attention to turning points towards policy failure by bad infrastructure planning.

Profiles of infrastructure were created covering costs, growth, technology and size and matched with their corresponding electricity network scenarios and strategies. This included a needs matrix, to determine the real relevance and meaning of certain project strategies from both national and international perspectives.

How can renewable energy fit the regional infrastructure and reliability criteria for optimal power production? Or more precisely: how can decentralisation of energy and rural electrification be non - contradictory to environmental protection as well as quality and management obligations? (Forsyth,1999,p5). By definition in this thesis, infrastructure includes the resource, e.g. geothermal heat from the Earth’s crust, which forms an interface with the environment.

This examination showed that a common platform of infrastructure can help support an array of renewable technologies and services. It supplements the worldwide drop in capital and operational costs of most power generation technologies. Sensitisation to local capabilities to disseminate appropriate technology was found to assist the fit. The shortcomings of historical approaches to renewable energy inclusion and optimisation were found to be myopic policy, dependence on singular and base technologies as well as inefficient management.

Public/Private Sector
What kind of risks, optional opportunities and regulation do government/investors need to look into before making key strategic decisions? Or more concisely: Energy technologies are emblematic of the struggle between economic development tomorrow and survival today (Murphy,2001,p184). Equally, this thesis looked at the standard regulatory regimes behind the technologies in place at a national/regional level as well as international. It was shown how the interface of regulation with key decision making, from private as well as public investors, can become less of a struggle and more of a win-win opportunity.

Local Capability
How can entrepreneurship be encouraged to alleviate poverty whilst implementing trans-industry regulation on standardisation, health, safety and environment protection? Alternatively: Technologies are absorbed when they are compatible with the technological capabilities of the people using them (Murphy,2001,p175). This thesis treated, on a case study basis, entrepreneurial and strategic methods of fitting a local capability to tackle poverty. Some critical issues included the independence and suitability of regulatory bodies, such as the ERB, in Kenya and in other nations. Also, incentivisation methods for small and medium businesses were identified.

What kind of effective sustainable tools & knowledge transfer should be incorporated into both medium and long term plans? State corporations as well as private enterprise still have a long way to go to achieving sound energy policy within a compatible sustainability framework. As far as the law is concerned, the Kenyan legal enactments do not cover dispute processes and environment protection was well as they should. Gleaning from the lessons learnt, sustainability needs to be embodied in law enactments for relevance and meaning. Recommendations were made on improving these assessments in policy development.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.