In 2018, Dr Long Seng To, Lecturer in Resilient Energy Systems at Loughborough University, was made an Engineering for Development Research Fellow (EDRF). These five-year Academy fellowships are funded through the government’s Global Challenges Research Fund. They are awarded to projects that tackle challenges faced by developing countries and highlight the vital role of engineering in achieving sustainable global development.
Dr Long Seng To has been studying how to achieve sustainable energy in multiple settings for many years. She took a BEng in Photovoltaics and Solar Energy as well as a BA in History and Philosophy of Science, while her doctorate thesis focused on renewable energy projects in rural China. Her current research is looking at the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal number 7 - the challenge of providing access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
Dr To’s five-year EDRF projectEnhancing community energy resilience using renewable energy in developing countrieswill lead the research in this field. The UN estimates that nearly 800 million people around the world lack access to electricity. A well-established energy system helps support every aspect of society – business, healthcare, education, agriculture and communication – and enhances the general quality of life.
Dr To has established four pilot projects in Nepal and Malawi, areas where there have been disasters and conflict, in order to study the solutions that local people find to sustain themselves in crises. She believes that community strategies to counter adverse conditions are central to achieving resilience.
Dr To says “We often think that communities and households are just the recipients of energy services. How about including them in the planning process? In order to recover, prevent, prepare and respond to disasters – their input could meet the short term needs and long term goals of communities.”
Photovoltaic and storage technologies are starting to change how energy systems work. Decentralised options like renewables, storage, smart grids and the internet of things are starting to challenge the centralised energy model. Developing countries that have lower levels of investment in centralised grids have the potential to develop and benefit from decentralised, networked and resilient energy systems.