Emerging economies

Access to affordable and clean energy is the United Nations’ 7th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) and its provision is core to delivering many other SDGs.   In addition, as the worst effects of climate change will disproportionately affect the global poor, so clean energy provision is core to an equitable approach to tackling climate change.

There is the possibility that, without the incumbency of large grid infrastructures, leaps in new operational methods and technologies for local energy provision, can be developed faster in developing countries.

Our research recognises this and includes policy development and knowledge exchange, as well as the co-development of new technologies and systems.


Research in Oxford

Detailed photograph of Switch Grass
Oxford scientists are working to develop bioenergy crops suitable for hot arid conditions

The following Centres undertake policy work:

  • The ZERO Institute (Zero-carbon Energy Research Oxford) brings together researchers from across the University of Oxford to tackle questions surrounding zero-carbon energy systems, and to accelerate multi-disciplinary research on the zero-carbon transition. Its world-leading multi-disciplinary hub, known as Mini-TESA, is paving the way for a zero-carbon energy transition.
  • Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development with research programmes in the urban transition and in mitigating the impact of energy-hungry cooling technologies.
  • The Blavatnik School of Government’s International Growth Centre promote’s sustainable growth in developing countries, focusing on what it has identified as the four key drivers of growth: state effectiveness, productive firms, liveable cities and reliable energy access.
  • The Technology and Management Centre for Development (TMCD) manages interdisciplinary research into the applications of technology and management in and for the developing world.  Energy-related research includes trade in environmentally sound technologies, a comparative study of China and India in renewable energy technology catch up and opportunities in green technologies for developing countries.
  • The Environmental Change Institute undertakes a range of research programmes and contributes to the UN’s work: Dr Lisa Schipper [AG5] was lead author of Chapter 18: Climate resilient development pathways in the IPCC’s report
  • The Transport Studies Unit undertakes research in 4 themes: Energy, Climate & Environment; Politics, Power & Governance; Everyday Life & Justice; Health & Wellbeing.  TSU work across Asia and increasingly Africa and Latin America


The Oxford Martin School funds several large, multidisciplinary research programmes that involve developing countries, including:

  • Future of Cooling investigating cooling as a dynamic system and examining its interlinkages across Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the developing and developed world
  • Dryland Bioenergy developing the use of Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM) plants for bioenergy production, aimed especially at sub-Saharan Africa. These crops could be cultivated on marginal, abandoned agricultural land and produce a viable energy yield through the process of advanced anaerobic digestion (AAD)
  • Post-Carbon Transition aiming to identify positive ‘tipping points’ that could help move global economic development firmly onto a zero-carbon path
  • Net Zero Recovery developing methods on how the large COVID fiscal bail-outs can assist the carbon transition
  • The Oxford Martin School’s Large-scale Integration of Renewable Energy programme has recently concluded.  It has led onto many new initiatives, including the International Community for Local Smart Grids whose membership is broadening to include developing countries.
  • There are many Professors within the Engineering Science Department with active research programmes into the provision of electricity and transport in the Global South.  The Energy and Power Group research local smart grid systems to provide electricity and mobility.   They work with the Power Electronics Group on novel low cost power converters and control schemes for autonomous DC microgrids.
  • The Battery Intelligence Lab’s research includes the development of algorithms for the use of second-life batteries for portable solar powered electricity and, with the Machine Learning Group’s Prof Mike Osborne, the development of novel machine learning approaches for managing decentralised off-grid power systems

In longer term storage, our Green Ammonia research is investigating how this leading “Power-to-X” energy storage vector should be incorporated into the energy infrastructure over the next 20 years, specifically in developing countries