Overline: Studie
Headline: Fostering Community Well-Being Through Energy-Sector Investments

The positive impacts of renewable energy development for people and the planet are widely acknowledged. However, the direct contribution of local renewable energy projects to local community well-being has received limited attention to date. A new study prepared by researchers at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) describes a social performance approach to investing in the energy sector that focuses on promoting the well-being of individuals and energy project host communities.

A student installing solar panels.
A trainee at the Strathmore Energy Research Centre in Nairobi, Kenya installing solar panels. Strathmore University Training

While the Paris Climate Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), have been rightfully celebrated as global milestones towards securing livelihoods and opportunities now and in the future, they lack societal ownership among communities, who play a decisive role in driving the necessary sustainability transformation, write IASS researchers Grace Mbungu and Sebastian Helgenberger.

The many positive effects of local energy projects, such as community revenues, are largely regarded as secondary co-benefits, if not entirely ignored by development policies and practices. Tapping into these opportunities for effective policies and practices in climate action and international development calls for a different approach to sustainable energy development: a social performance approach to energy development and investment of the kind outlined by the authors.

An important aspect of this social performance approach is its focus on the direct contribution of sustainable energy investments in fostering the well-being of individuals in a manner that reflects their aspirations for good quality of life. The researchers argue that energy policy should not simply be monitored to assess its incidental co-benefits, but should be intentionally designed and implemented with a view to maximizing the social performance of local energy projects and contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Mbungu, G. K., & Helgenberger, S. (2021). The social performance approach. Fostering community well-being through energy-sector investments. IASS Discussion Paper, June 2021. DOI: 10.48481/iass.2021.017