Imperial College London

Q&A with Professor Adam Hawkes: Helping countries build sustainable energy plans


Professor Adam Hawkes

Professor Adam Hawkes

We interviewed Professor Adam Hawkes (Department of Chemical Engineering) about his work as System Design Lead for the CCG programme.

1. What is the Climate Compatible Growth (CCG) research programme?

The Climate Compatible Growth (CCG) programme is one of the Foreign, Development and Commonwealth Office’s flagship activities to support investment in sustainable energy to meet development priorities specifically in the Global South. The £38 million CCG programme covers a huge range of activities and has a wide range of stakeholders. On the academic side, we have the UK's leading research institutions including Imperial College London, Oxford, Cambridge, University College London, Loughborough, and the Open University. There are also a number supporting global organisations (e.g., World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, IEA, and IRENA).

2. What is the structure of the programme?

The programme is broken down into three main areas, one is research, which has several work streams including system design. The second area involves building partnerships and stakeholder mapping, at both an international and national level. This also includes significant engagement with international organisations such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The third area involves building platforms, which includes software, ICT, data curation, tools, website, etc.

3. Why is CCG so important?

The most important point to make about climate compatible growth is that it is different in that it is not focussed solely on energy access and cost in the Global South. We want to ensure economic growth occurs alongside climate change mitigation. This approach looks at the energy and emissions impact of different choices and what technologies can support different growth paths as development is a priority in these countries. CCG says you can do both (i.e. minimise emissions and stimulate development), and we work with countries to help them achieve this aim.

4. What countries is CCG working with?

The main countries are in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Kenya is an initial focus along with Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

5. You are the System Design Lead for the CCG. What is System Design, and why is it important?

System design looks at both energy system and transport system development. Energy planning capacity is often the primary ask of most of the countries we work with. We assist the countries to develop modelling tools to answer questions relating to climate compatible growth. For example, this might be how best to invest in renewable energy, or to provide evidence to inform their decisions on nationally determined contribution (NDC) targets, or even questions such as how to assess the social economic impacts of NDC targets. We work on both the analytical capability and aiding interpretation of the modelling into policy decisions.

You need multiple levels of engagement within a country to achieve the best outcomes. We need strong engagement at very senior levels, for example, the body responsible for the NDC in the country. However, we also need to work closely with the people who are doing the analysis (e.g., a Ministry of Energy or similar). 

6. How does systems modelling fit in with other areas in CCG programme?

Our systems design area works with two other overarching areas of CCG; (1.) sector integration, and (2.) economics and policy. Sector integration looks outside of the energy system, for example at infrastructure, water, agriculture etc. and examines the relationships between these systems. This also involves looking at climate impacts. For example, this could involve exploring what would happens if there are more extreme weather events, or what are the vulnerabilities of the infrastructure. The economics and policy side looks at financing, governance of change and political and economic issues – all of which are key when pursuing real on-the-ground change in a country.

7. Could you tell us about some of the projects that you are working on?

We are doing some global work in collaboration with the Green Grids Initiative, which looks at investment in grids to support renewables. This work involves developing the methodology for qualifying finance in grids, in order to support renewables investment.

The CCG team is also working with Kenyan Ministry for Energy to initially support them set their renewable targets, but we later hope to support their work towards setting NDC targets, and bridging the gap between county-level and national-level energy planning. In August, CCG held a scoping workshop using the OSeMOSYS modelling platform, and in October have followed this up with a first detailed engagement workshop with Kenyan stakeholders. Within our team at Imperial College, we have also used our MUSE model to look at the power system in Kenya.

8. What are the challenges for the programme/systems modelling?

There are certainly a lot of challenges. Some of the most interesting challenges are around our own understanding of the demands in the countries. Models are normally designed to serve some basic energy demands, and they make choices between technologies to do that. But a country which is aiming for rapid economic development will have issues with energy access and suppressed demand. You therefore cannot be sure what the demand is in that country, and thought needs to be directed at what demand to model in the sense of how the results will best serve sustainable development. We need to find better ways to capture this information than we currently do in the sustainable development context.

There is also a significant data problem. For example, at a country level, Kenya consists of 47 counties, and you need county level data for a more comprehensive analysis, which currently does not exist. We try to think of ways to infer that data using novel approaches such as highly spatially resolved techniques (e.g., satellite data).

9. How is CCG helping with preparations for COP-26?

CCG includes an activity called the COP Rapid Response Facility. Our work in Kenya and Laos, are both responses to COP rapid response facility requests. CCG hosted three days of side events during COP26


Zara Qadir

Zara Qadir
Department of Earth Science & Engineering

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