Energy struggles: renewable energy in Africa


Start date: 1 September, 2021 End date: 31 August, 2025 Project type: Research projects in countries with extended development cooperation (earlier Window 1) Project code: 20-09-DIIS Countries: Ghana Tanzania Thematic areas: Energy, Lead institution: Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), Denmark Partner institutions: Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana University of Ghana Business School (UGBS), Ghana UNEP DTU Partnership (UNEPDTU), Denmark Project website: go to website (the site might be inactive) Project coordinator: Rasmus Hundsbæk Pedersen Total grant: 11,952,903 DKK

Project summary

The overall objective of this project is to contribute to a better understanding of how a transition to renewable energy can occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Many countries have set targets for solar and wind, but implementation has been slow and uneven. With rising energy consumption, there is a risk that the continent will become a more significant contributor to climate change. Understanding the difference between targets and the implementation of renewable energy in developing countries is still little developed. In the literature, there has been a tendency to focus on how technical innovation in renewable energy can drive a transition of energy systems. It is, however, increasingly clear that politics and power play a decisive role in the prioritization of energy projects. The project aims to develop a conceptual framework for the study of the political economy of energy that can analyse and help explain how energy projects are prioritized in different countries. It will conduct research on the development of the energy sectors in Tanzania and Ghana, which have both set targets for renewable energy. The two countries differ in the degree of the state’s involvement in their energy sectors, Ghana having liberalized more than Tanzania. The project’s hypothesis is that this difference caters for different dynamics in the energy sectors that decisively influence how an energy transition can occur. The project team uses multidisciplinary approaches to undertake research on the relative importance of technological capabilities, state capacity, and policy coalitions in the energy sectors. Throughout, the project pays particular attention to the role of access to energy services for the poor, which is a priority for both Tanzania and Ghana, as well as for Danish development assistance. The project also aims to provide
evidence-based findings that can lead to more informed decision-making in partner countries with regard to the choice of renewable energy technologies. The project is designed to enhance the capacities of younger-level researchers involved in the project.


First year report
The overall objective of the Energy struggles research project is to contribute to a better understanding of how an energy transition can occur in sub-Saharan Africa. The project’s research objective is to analyse how new renewable energy is prioritized in policy formulation and implementation in Tanzania and Ghana. Both countries have targets for renewable energy but are, like many other African countries, lagging behind in terms of implementation. Research activities are ongoing in both countries with case studies by three PhD candidates hired during the early phase of the project and by project researchers individually or jointly. Work is organized in two work packages. One is on the political economy of energy with a focus on the role of politics and power in the prioritization of different types of energy in the two countries. The other work package is focusing on the development of the markets for solar with a focus on linkages to other domestic sectors and industries. Despite some delays due to COVID19 the project is on track in terms of progress and outputs. Project workshops have been held (one online, one in person). PhD candidates have been involved in coursework and exams but are now all fully enrolled at their respective universities and have begun research activities. The first outputs from the project in terms of publications and outreach can be reported. Links to other, related, research environments exist and are expected to deepen in the coming years.

Go back to all projects