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In Memory of Abeeku Brew-Hammond, Innovator and Campaigner for Sustainable Energy

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(Image via KNUST)

It is with the greatest sadness that I have to write about the sudden passing of a colleague, co-author, and most importantly, a friend, Abeeku Brew-Hammond, who passed away on March 25, 2013.

Abeeku had an incredibly rich and interdisciplinary career in energy.  At his passing he was an associate professor, and director of The Energy Centre (TEC) at the College of Engineering of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana.

Abeeku was also Board Chairman for the national Energy Commission of Ghana as well as a member of the Technical Group under the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Group on Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All).  These two roles, impressive as they are individually, together highlight what is most significant about Abeeku’s professional contributions.

Abeeku embraced, advanced, and agitated for innovations up and down the full scale of energy projects, from household-level technologies and practices to systems level innovations at the national and regional scale.

I first got to know Abeeku in 1999 when we worked together on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Methodological and Technological Issues in Technology Transfer (IPCC, 2000), which had been requested by the People’s Republic of China.  It is interesting to think back over Abeeku’s career in light of that project, and where China, Ghana, and other nations are today, in part because of the work Abeeku embraced and to which he contributed so much.  The IPCC report was where I first got to know that you simply can’t anticipate what Abeeku would advocate for next.  One moment he was focused on clean cookstoves and solar home systems, the next he was deep into the requirements that utilities should follow to decarbonize their generation mix.

Abeeku was the first manager of the Global Village Energy Partnership (GVEP) — from 2003  to 2007— when GVEP was hosted by Practical Action in their Rugby office in the UK.  A look at GVEP today with its strong team of in country-based research and development practitioners working in East and West Africa and the Caribbean makes it clear that Abeeku’s vision of a group working by and for the poor has been deeply ingrained in the fabric of the organization.  To further develop these networks, Abeeku was the founder and first director of KITE, a Ghana-based NGO with a regional outlook specializing in energy policy, project development and knowledge management.

Most recently, Abeeku brought a tremendous sense of purpose, professionalism, and humor to the United Nation’s High Level Task Force on Sustainable Energy for All , where he co-chaired the writing team of Task Force 1, charged with developing an integrated plan to bring energy access to the 1.5 billion people who today lack these services.  Working as the co-chair of Task Force 2, on renewable energy and energy efficiency, it was pleasure to bounce ideas back and forth, and to watch the energy he brought not only to the intellectual components of the project, but to the need to continually make the case that progress on energy access is not a number, or a rate of change, but a series of stories of individuals who are impacted by changes that energy services can bring.

In the Sustainable Energy for All process, which is just launching this year under the direction of Kandeh Yumkella, a West African colleague of Abeeku’s , the group was fortunate to have two leaders who spoke with incredibly empathy and in compelling stories about villages where they have lived and family members whose lives were changed by energy services.

In the space of this new initiative, Abeeku and I were again co-authors on papers that examined the real possibility of changing the energy access ‘equation’ in parts of the world see for too long as the last places likely to achieve access (Bazilian, et al. 2012, van Vuuren, et al., 2012a & 2012b).

Mostly, however, I will remember Abeeku’s excited drive and his energy.  I recall a SEFA meeting in London where Abeeku said of the official launch, “Finally!  We have a global push for something that will do good for the planet as an much-deserved side-benefit of doing good for the poor!”

I will miss Abeeku very much, but could not be more pleased that we have those words of his to remind us just how important it is to get on with the job.  That is just what Abeeku would have done.

References:

Bazilian, M., Nussbaumer, P., Rogner, H.-H., Brew Hammond, A., Foster, V., Pachauri, S., Williams, E., Howells, M., Niyongabo, P., Musaba, J., Gallachóir, B. Ó., Radka, M., Kammen, D. M. (2012)  “Energy access scenarios to 2030 for the power sector in sub-Saharan Africa”, Utilities Policy, 20, 116.

IPCC (2000) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Groups II and III (2000) Methodological and Technological Issues in Technology Transfer (Cambridge University Press: New York, Cambridge UK and New York, NY).  ISBN 0-521-80494-9.

van Vuuren, D., Nakicenovic, N., Riahi, K., Brew-Hammond, A.,  Kammen, D. M., Modi,V., Nilsson, M., Smith,K. R. (2012a) ‘An energy vision: transformation towards sustainability — interconnected challenges and solutions”, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 4, 18–34.

van Vuuren, D. P., Nakicenovic, N., Riahi, K., Brew-Hammond, A., Kammen, D. M., Modi, V., Nilsson M., and Smith, K. R. (2012b) An Energy Vision for a Planet Under Pressure, Rio+20 Policy Brief #8.  www.planetunderpressure2012.net.