Ethnographies of everyday management of energy access

Ethnographies of everyday management of energy access in Maputo

This British Academy Sustainable Development Programme funded research is part of a collaborative project led by Dr Vanesa Castán Broto of the University of Sheffield: Sustainable Energy Access in Mozambique: Socio-political factors in conflict-laden urban areas. The research examines electricity management practices of staff within Mozambique's national electricity company EDM (Electricidade de Moçambique, E.P.). It aims to study how EDM staff imagine its clients and how those views are expressed in the way the company manages the supply of electricity in the capital city of Maputo. The research seeks to identify the ways these everyday management practices promote unequal patterns of energy provision over time and space that can lead to social and political unrest.

Sustainable energy access in Mozambique

Achieving universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy requires dealing with socio-political constraints, particularly in conflict-laden areas. In Mozambique, where armed conflict is resurgent, achieving energy access can support economic development and the eradication of extreme poverty. Mozambique has abundant fossil fuel and hydropower resources and a nascent renewable energy industry. There are also business models, such as the prepaid electricity system, that enable poorer people to access energy in unprecedented rates. What then explains the persistence of energy poverty? Why do some populations lack reliable sources for basic needs such as lighting, cooking and heating water? We argue that to facilitate energy access we need to understand the socio-political conditions that prevent it, particularly the underlying conflicts related to energy provision. The project uses quantitative and qualitative methods developed through co-production processes to analyse the socio-political roots of energy-related conflicts and how they can be overcome.

The project aims to understand the social and political conditions that constrain universal energy access in urban areas in Mozambique, focusing in the underlying conflicts related to energy provision. The project has three objectives: 

  1. To understand the uneven geographical patterns of energy access in Mozambique
  2. To examine how the political economy of Mozambique influences energy access
  3. To examine the everyday processes of symbolic and economic violence constraining energy access

The aim is to provide recommendations to policymakers and other actors from the private and civil society sectors on how to improve energy access in Mozambique. The team will work directly with a diverse array of actors to understand their constraints. A key audience is that of Mozambique’s policymakers with agency to intervene in the provision of energy services, including: the electricity provider EDM, the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy, regulatory bodies in the energy sector, and private actors and NGOs who may play crucial roles in the implementation of locally-suited technologies and business models. Other target audiences include donors and international policymakers active in securing sustainable energy for all, including: DfID and the FCO in the UK, the World Bank, ESMAP, UNIDO, the International Energy Agency, and leading NGOs such as Practical Action.