Energy for ecodevelopment

HELIO's contribution


The Smart Energy Path (SEP) includes all stakeholders as joint decision-makers. Together they identify a viable long-term future, requiring only or mostly local energy resources. This ecodevelopment planning is done using backcasting.

Quick overview

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What is SEP?

Smart Energy Paths (SEPs) refer to an approach to energy planning that aims to meet peoples’ needs and aspirations while at the same time being compatible with environmental sustainability and participatory governance.

The concept of SEP is to use energy technologies, which:
1. rely on renewable energy flows;
2. are diverse—the energy supply is an aggregate of many individually modest contributions, each designed for maximum effectiveness in particular circumstances;
3. are flexible and relatively low technology – which does not mean unsophisticated, but rather, accessible and easy to understand and use for the average person; and
4. are matched in scale, geographic distribution, and energy quality to meet end-use needs in order to take advantage of the free distribution of most natural energy flows.

A Perspective Based on Energy Service Needs
We typically value energy not for its own sake, but for the role it plays in providing society with the services is what we really value: heat for cooking and comfort, motive force for transportation, light to read, refrigeration to store food and medicine, power to ease the burden of human labour, operation of all the devices used for communication and entertainment that run on electricity.

The focus on energy services is more logical and a profoundly different way of looking at the energy system than regarding it as the production and consumption of aggregate quantities of fuel and electricity.

Backcasting: A goal-orientated energy planning
Backcasting involves imagining a future and then planning a way to get there. In smart energy planning, the future supply of fuel and electricity is not forecasted or predicted, but is “backcasted” from a future date for which targets and goals have been set for key indicators.

A Multi-sector and Multi-stakeholder Team
SEP planning requires both technical expertise and interpersonal skills to ensure active stakeholder participation. All energy actors are grouped into “seven families” directly or potentially affected by the development of energy policies and strategies.

These seven families are:
1. public institutions
2. energy utilities
3. energy service and technology providers
4. users
5. mediators (NGOs, women’s groups, universities, unions)
6. national funding agencies
7. international funders

This approach facilitates an inclusive, multi-sectoral committee accompanying the entire planning process.

Reports around the world

Related publications

SEP Framework and Background Papers

Methodology Papers

Our system of indicators