Electric pylon
Creating sustainable energy networks

People across Latin America unable to adequately heat and power their homes are set to benefit from a major new international research project that aims to address ‘energy vulnerability’ and help create sustainable energy systems.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) today announced investment of £147 Million for international development research programme awards, which includes an award of £1.3 million to the ESLatinA (Energy Solidarity in Latin America) project.

Funded through the GCRF (Global Challenges Research Fund), ESLatinA responds to the urgent need for comprehensive and inclusive understanding, evidence and governance capacity on energy vulnerability in Latin America, with an in-depth focus on Colombia, Cuba and Mexico.

Energy vulnerability occurs when households cannot access vital domestic energy services – such as heating, cooling, and powering appliances – because of systemic problems such as unreliable or poor quality infrastructure; gendered differences in energy access and use; high energy prices; social isolation; and intensifying climatic changes.

Led by experts at the University of Birmingham, the project unites researchers from Central University of Las Villas (Cuba); University of the North (Colombia); National Autonomous University of Mexico; Technical University of the Central Valleys of Oaxaca (Mexico); Onergia (Mexico); Energy Ombudsman Mexico; and The College of the Northern Border (Mexico).

Project lead Dr. Harriet Thomson, from the University of Birmingham’s School of Social Policy, commented: “Around a third of Mexican households cannot access an adequate level of energy services, which has serious consequences for human health and wellbeing. Similar issues exist in Colombia, where average annual electricity interruptions add up to 38 hours per year, and in Cuba, there has been no research or official policy on these topics.

“ESLatinA will combine the concepts of energy vulnerability and energy systems resilience to generate inclusive and transformative understanding, evidence and governance - creating the potential to change the way we look at energy policy, not just in Latin America but worldwide.”

Energy vulnerability extends beyond a simplistic interpretation of ‘energy poverty’ as a state of lacking access to electricity or clean cooking facilities, to a broader understanding of dynamics and processes that lead to this and other energy services insufficiencies.

ESLatinA has brought together a multi-disciplinary team of academics, policymakers and civil society representatives for a genuinely collaborative initiative. In-country workshops hosted and led by Karla Ricalde (óol), Yamila Roque, Manuel Rubio and Yanelys Delgado (Central University of Las Villas, Cuba), Karla Cedano and Manuel Martinez (National Autonomous University of Mexico), and Rosie Day (University of Birmingham), helped shape an innovative bottom-up proposal, centred around a Latin American ethos of resilience and solidarity.

The project includes bespoke local and national-level household surveys, participatory workshops, and proposals for new governance and legal frameworks. The project will also establish national monitoring Observatories and a pan-Latin American network, and undertake national-scale energy systems vulnerability mapping and local-level assessment modelling.

ESLatinA research will lead to cross-cutting capacity-building and socio-technical solutions - including a diagnosis toolkit, energy literacy workshops, community exhibits, and bespoke National and Local Action Plans - to help decision-makers to alleviate energy vulnerability across the region.

  • For more information, please contact Tony Moran, International Communications Manager, University of Birmingham on +44 (0)782 783 2312. For out-of-hours enquiries, please call +44 (0) 7789 921 165. The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.
  • UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is the largest public funder of research and innovation in the UK, with a budget of over £8bn. It is composed of seven disciplinary research councils, Innovate UK and Research England. It operates across the whole country and works with many partners in higher education, research organisations businesses, government, and charities. Its vision is for an outstanding research and innovation system in the UK that gives everyone the opportunity to contribute and to benefit, enriching lives locally, nationally and internationally. Its mission is to convene, catalyse and invest in close collaboration with others to build a thriving, inclusive research and innovation system that connects discovery to prosperity and public good.
  • The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) supports cutting-edge research and innovation that addresses the global issues faced by developing countries. It is a £1.5bn Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy fund and part of the UK Government’s Official Development Assistance commitment. For more information visit www.newton-gcrf.org