Research Themes

The ARUA CoE in Energy is primarily a research centre, with the mandate to investigate various aspects around the use of renewable and sustainable energy within the African context. We view energy as a key enabler to unlock the potential of the continent and its people. To us, energy is therefore not a final product, but rather one of the critical tools that facilitate sustainable development and economic growth, and that can unlock numerous socio-economic benefits linked to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Africa’s energy needs and uses differ from other regions of the world (and in different regions on the continent), and any energy solutions therefore need to take local conditions and societal needs into account. This is also the approach of our CoE, where we seek to generate uniquely African solutions to our energy challenges. Our research is done in collaboration with a wide range of African academic partners and other stakeholders, and as we grow our CoE and our network we hope to help build a strong and vibrant renewable energy research community in Africa.

Of particular interest to our CoE is to develop renewable energy solutions and systems to enhance food production throughout the entire value chain. This includes renewable energy technology that improves agricultural yields (i.e., produce more food on the same land) through intensification, or allows more food to reach markets through strengthening postharvest crop preservation and distribution, or unlocks more value through postharvest processing. We are particularly focused on opportunities and technologies that enhance resource use efficiency, promote resource circularity, and lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions or long term carbon sequestration.

In light of the above, the CoE and researchers at Stellenbosch University are involved in a number of multidisciplinary renewable energy projects linked to the food production system, and we are constantly broadening our portfolio of projects. Our work includes experimental and modelling studies, some of the concepts that we are working on or have flagged for future investigation include:

  • Anaerobic digestion of agricultural residues and by-products, for providing heat for processing (pasteurization, drying) or cooling for cold-chain management, and nutrients to enhance agricultural output
  • Optimal allocation of natural resources (including energy), by using water-energy-food nexus methodologies
  • Renewable energy to intensify or operate agricultural operations, e.g. irrigation through solar photovoltaics, or integration of renewable energy into aquaponics systems
  • Postharvest processing of agricultural produce and recovery of energy from residues, following a biorefinery approach
  • Developing sustainable and highly circular value chains and business models around production and utilization of renewable energy, specifically within off-grid and rural settings

These are a few of our active research fields. If you want to know more about individual projects, please refer to the projects page. Alternatively, feel free to contact us.