New research programme to explore the links between energy and economic growth
A new multi-faceted, global research programme called Energy and Economic Growth (EEG) has been launched to study the links between energy systems and economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asian countries. The programme will build a body of world-class evidence to inform energy policy in such a way as to stimulate growth. The £13 million programme is funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and will be implemented between 2016 and 2021.
The Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) of the University of California, Berkeley and Oxford Policy Management (OPM) will oversee the strategic direction of the programme. The research is to be carried out by leading academics representing top institutions around the world. At the heart of the programme is a commitment to ensuring that the knowledge generated responds to real-world challenges—and ultimately goes on to have real-world uses.
The notion that energy systems and investment contributes to economic growth and poverty reduction is widely accepted, but evidence of causal relations is limited. This evidence gap presents a risk of misallocating scarce public resources—a risk which is compounded by the exponential growth of energy consumption in low- and middle-income countries, and the formidable challenges and complex trade-offs that countries face in maximising benefits and reducing potential costs. New research is urgently needed to strengthen evidence-based policymaking.
Catherine Wolfram, EEG Research Director and Director of the Energy Institute at the University of California Berkeley’s Haas Business School, said:
‘Intuitively, we all know that energy is quite literally an engine for economic development. Yet, we're still very much in the dark about how, and to what extent, energy drives growth, especially in low-income countries. How important are things like access, efficiency, and reliability in maximising the impact of our energy investments? We've brought together an impressive team of researchers—including economists, engineers, and political scientists—to tackle these questions by generating a rigorous body of evidence. I'm thrilled to be part of this important effort!’
EEG is designed to find and fill gaps in the energy and growth evidence base by facilitating a dialogue between leading academics and key policymakers. Creating and building the capacity of these networks is key to making sure the work of the programme crosses the research–policy divide and is eventually seen as an authoritative source of information around energy and growth.
Neil McCulloch, principal consultant at OPM and Programme Director said:
‘At the heart of EEG is a commitment to ensuring that our research speaks to the needs of those responsible for taking key decisions about energy in low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. We will pioneer approaches to dialogue and partnership-building, such that the mutual interests of researchers and policymakers will determine research design and ensure research uptake. Ultimately, through a dynamic research-policy interface, EEG will provide the tools and support to galvanise economic growth underpinned by sustainable, efficient energy systems.’
During its first year, EEG will produce a comprehensive set of State of Knowledge papers in six thematic areas, which define the research framework and priority areas for the next stages:
1. The linkages between electricity supply and economic growth;
2. The financial and policy instruments and governance structures that encourage the development and better utilisation of appropriate large scale power infrastructure;
3. The role and potential of electricity supply and energy efficiency measures in supporting sustainable urbanisation;
4. The constraints in use of large-scale renewable energy sources, or “greener” energy sources;
5. An improved understanding of the role of extractives in electricity/energy provision and sustainable development;
6. The barriers and opportunities for innovative and appropriate design of larger-scale, centralised energy infrastructure to respond to evolving demand and support inclusive growth.