Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Science and Mathematics


Earth and Environmental Studies

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Pankaj Lal

Committee Member

Neeraj Vedwan

Committee Member

Yang Deng

Committee Member

Andres Susaeta

Committee Member

Michel Masozera


Renewable energy sources--Social aspects--Africa, Sub-Saharan, Renewable energy sources--Economic aspects--Africa, Sub-Saharan, Renewable energy sources—Kenya, Renewable energy sources—Rwanda


The energy demands of future Sub Saharan African (SSA) economies will be primarily driven by population and economic development. The expected primary challenge will be meeting the increased energy demands while mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This can be achieved by reducing dependence on fossil fuels and transitioning towards renewable sources of energy. This dissertation aims at assessing renewable energy options for SSA through three primary objectives. First, we provided insight into the scope, trends, and focus of renewable energy research in SSA by quantitatively reviewing scientific articles. The approach allowed us to determine the geographical scope, different types of renewable energy, distribution of articles in journals, and year of publication. The quantitative review can help inform renewable energy laws and policy and highlight areas for future research.

Second, we examined the relationship between renewable energy consumption with various economic, social, and environmental determinants using panel-data based econometric model developed for 44 SSA countries spanning over 1990 to 2014. The results helped identify factors that impact renewable energy consumption in SSA. This was through showcasing the need for SSA countries to invest in renewables to increase energy access, stimulate economies and to tap into the benefits of carbon markets. In view of the wide distribution of renewable energy potential in SSA, the chapter unveiled the need for policies that provide economic incentives and subsidies that are geared towards making renewable energy cost more competitive to traditional fossil fuels. Third, we conducted a comparative assessment of two case studies of SSA (Kenya and Rwanda), in-order to assess public awareness, acceptance, and attitudes towards renewable energy. This objective addressed the need to integrate public input in the development of renewable energy policy. From our results it was apparent that the public in both countries, had a high level of awareness, acceptance and attitudes towards renewable, hence policy should shift to increasing knowledge and public participation.

In our last chapter, we evaluated public preferences towards attributes of renewable energy (biomass, solar, small-hydro, wind and geothermal) in Kenya and Rwanda using a discrete choice experiment approach. The objective addressed the need to assess tradeoffs between different attributes of renewable energy, in order to understand social, environmental and economic benefits and costs of non –market goods. Our findings highlighted differences in preferences between rural and urban residents of both countries. The general trends indicated a preference for solar, hydropower, wind, geothermal and biomass respectively. The public also placed a high utility on environmental impact, job creation and type of renewable energy.

Overall, this thesis investigates future renewable energy options for SSA, by using various econometric approaches to probe into the various issues that impact renewable energy development. In summary, there is overwhelming evidence of public support for renewables in our case-studies. The next step would be extending the case-studies to other SSA countries, and tasking decision makers to integrate public input in formulation and implementation of effective policies in-order to realize green and prosperous economies for SSA.

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