Addressing Challenges in Long-Term Strategic Energy Planning in LMICs: Learning Pathways in an Energy Planning Ecosystem

Cannone, Carla; Hoseinpoori, Pooya; Martindale, Leigh; Tennyson, Elizabeth M.; Gardumi, Francesco; Somavilla Croxatto, Lucas; Pye, Steve; Mulugetta, Yacob; Vrochidis, Ioannis; Krishnamurthy, Satheesh; Niet, Taco; Harrison, John; Yeganyan, Rudolf; Mutembei, Martin; Hawkes, Adam; Petrarulo, Luca; Allen, Lara; Blyth, Will and Howells, Mark (2023). Addressing Challenges in Long-Term Strategic Energy Planning in LMICs: Learning Pathways in an Energy Planning Ecosystem. Energies, 16(21), article no. 7267.



This paper presents an innovative approach to addressing critical global challenges in long-term energy planning for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The paper proposes and tests an international enabling environment, a delivery ecosystem, and a community of practice. These components are integrated into workflows that yield four self-sustaining capacity-development outcomes. Planning long-term energy strategies in LMICs is particularly challenging due to limited national agency and poor international coordination. While outsourcing energy planning to foreign experts may appear to be a viable solution, it can lead to a reduction in government agency (the ability of a government to make its own informed analysis and decisions). Additionally, studies commissioned by external experts may have conflicting terms of reference, and a lack of familiarity with local conditions can result in misrepresentations of on-the-ground realities. It is argued here that enhancing national agency and analytical capacity can improve coordination and lead to more robust planning across line ministries and technical assistance (TA) providers. Moreover, the prevailing consulting model hampers the release and accessibility of underlying analytics, making it difficult to retrieve, reuse, and reconstruct consultant outputs. The absence of interoperability among outputs from various consultants hinders the ability to combine and audit the insights they provide. To overcome these challenges, five strategic principles for energy planning in LMICs have been introduced and developed in collaboration with 21 international and research organizations, including the AfDB, IEA, IRENA, IAEA, UNDP, UNECA, the World Bank, and WRI. These principles prioritize national ownership, coherence and inclusivity, capacity, robustness, transparency and accessibility. In this enabling environment, a unique delivery ecosystem consisting of knowledge products and activities is established. The paper focuses on two key knowledge products as examples of this ecosystem: the open-source energy modeling system (OSeMOSYS) and the power system flexibility tool (IRENA FlexTool). These ecosystem elements are designed to meet user-friendliness, retrievability, reusability, reconstructability, repeatability, interoperability, and audibility (U4RIA) goals. To ensure the sustainability of this ecosystem, OpTIMUS is introduced—a community of practice dedicated to maintaining, supporting, expanding, and nurturing the elements within the ecosystem. Among other ecosystem elements, training and research initiatives are introduced, namely the Energy Modelling Platform for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia-Pacific as well as the ICTP Joint Summer School on Modelling Tools for Sustainable Development. Once deployed via workflows, the preliminary outcomes of these capacity-development learning pathways show promise. Further investigation is necessary to evaluate their long-term impacts, scalability, replication, and deployment costs.

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