Jon Lovett

Jon Lovett

Jon Lovett is Chair in Global Challenges in the School of Geography at the University of Leeds and works on institutional economics.

Location United Kingdom


  • @paulgwynn A lot of countries are developing microgrids at a range of scales from local communities to larger scale operations. Here's an article about microgrids and mining in Indonesia for example:

    It's not only clean energy, microgrids are also cheaper, more...

  • A great many thanks to all the course participants. The discussion forums during the past two weeks were lively and informative, I very much enjoyed reading them and replying. I wish everyone success in their future careers and I hope you find PyEPLAN a useful tool for designing microgrids.

  • Many thanks, I'll ask Lizzie to add that. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

  • Thank you! We hope that you are able to apply the information in the course and the design software in your own work.

  • Thank you! We are very pleased that you enjoyed the course.

  • Thank you very much, we are pleased that you enjoyed the course.

  • Thank you very much Muhammad. We wish you success in your future career.

  • Thank you Lorna. we're really pleased you've enjoyed it. As you say, it takes a lot of work to put a course like this together so it makes it all worthwhile when the participants say they've gained something from it!

  • @MERCYMirriamapio Thank you very much for your appreciation. We are very pleased that the course has been worthwhile for you and wish you success in your future career.

  • @MojahedMnzool Welcome to the course. I hope you find it interesting and useful.

  • Thank you! We very much appreciate your nice feedback.

  • Many thanks! It's very nice for us to know that you've enjoyed the course and gained some useful knowledge.

  • Many thanks for your kind words and valuable contributions in the discussions. There are some very knowledgeable and engaged people on the course.

  • @LornaAllen Yes, I agree that's not very clear. It refers to the different types of sources of generation e.g. a solar panel is a renewable unit with the Microgrid design area map. Hope that helps.

  • @MichaelBaker They look very handy. I'll put a link here in case anyone else is interested:

  • @HenryNeondo,Herman Welcome to the course!

  • Welcome to the course Liberty. I hope you find it interesting and useful.

  • #2 Using available technologies and smart grids we can supply household needs using smart/mciro grids. As you point out, it's already been done in many places. It's easy and just needs political will and local action to make it happen. If we wanted to shift to net zero for households we could do it right away.

    The next question is how to power energy...

  • @LornaAllen Interesting question ... small claim to fame... and I once had the opportunity to discuss this with Ian Blackford and gave him the concept of the 'Porter Hypothesis' which he then mentioned in a speech in Parliament. :). I doubt if he remembers the discussion!

    The main point of your question relates to nuclear power. This is much debated. You...

  • I did a quick internet search on fossil fuel subsidies. I have no idea if these are correct or not:

    n 2020-21, Australian Federal and state governments provided a total of $10.3 billion worth of spending and tax breaks to assist fossil fuel industries. The $7.8 billion cost of the fuel tax rebate alone is more than the budget of the Australian Army. Over...

  • Conventional thinking about microgrids is that they are more resilient, so you are correct. However... and the truth is always after the 'but'. Microgrids need a good institutional and governance framework (see my other online courses about institutional economics). So, technically yes, microgrids are the next best thing. But... it needs strong local...

  • I couldn't find the context of the use of the term. Can you give me a bit more info?

  • Many thanks. It's open source so you can adapt it.

  • Good points. High demand users such as heavy industries need to be on grids. But this opens a can of worms to the extent that households are subsidising industry when we're in a cost effective situation with regard to technologies to shift households off-grid or be energy positive. How many household solar panels are needed to power a smelter?

  • It's all about getting the right mix for the local situation.

  • Yes, if you've got the gas.

  • Having a back up is a sensible part of integrated energy generation. Demand is the thing to be negotiated.

  • There is no single approach unless it is to reduce demand. There are lot of cost effective opportunities to generate electricity for household use if demand fits supply. There are other reasons for nuclear power stations. That's a political decision outside the scope of this course. Integrate microgrids in smart energy systems for household use. It's a...

  • In energy supply and demand, nothing is off topic! Thank you for this information.

  • There are many examples of communities who are becoming energy positive, for example in Germany.

    But... the it's important to distinguish between household use and industrial use. A steel smelter or mining operation uses a lot of electricity. It is simple to use existing technology to convert households to...

  • Both good points and examples of the problems associated with local energy supply and tariffs. Vertical integration of generation, transmission and ownership cause local problems.

  • I should also add - there are many farms with microgrids powered by biogas. There were some good case studies in 'Farming Today' recently.

  • That's a very interesting summary, thank you. A strategic rethink and reorganisation of energy generation and supply is long overdue, but it is happening on a local scale already

  • You make a very good point. There are major subsidies for national grid providers and generations systems, but there are not similar incentives for small scale microgrids. The reasons for this are both simple and complex. The simple reason is that that large scale generation and transmission can attract major external and national funding to develop the...

  • Many thanks Charles - you've made some very useful and helpful contributions in the discussion forum.

  • Good summary and you're absolutely right. I'm not even sure that the environmentally friendly criterion needs to be brought in. They are cheaper, more flexible, create local employment, keep money within the local economy etc etc. It's a straight forward business case.

    I also think you're right about them replacing main grids through 'smart grids' which are...

  • Many thanks! You may also be interested in our companion course on bioenergy (search for Bioenergy on FutureLearn). Embedded in the course are a series of worked examples that might help guide the sort of calculations you need to work out the energy gap. It's all about getting the right energy mix! :)

  • You're right. It's a matter of scale. The energy demand needs to be scaled to the ability of the energy generation and transmission system to supply needs. The fossil fuel 'problem' arises because of the superabundance of fossil fuels. Some amazing technology has been developed to extract, transport and convert fossil fuels - a real testament to engineering...

  • Good points. There are some examples of well established community forestry and these have been subject to quite intensive research. Community forests in Nepal are a good example. Here's a collection of papers from the research of my PhD student...

  • This is a very good point. It's not so much that fossil fuels are totally 'bad'. The problem is the quantity that's being burnt. A massive amount in fact. A mixture of different fuels is the way to deliver sustainable energy generation. If the amount of greenhouse gas produced was around about the same level as the amount naturally absorbed in natural cycles...

  • You are right. Education is important. It is not only people in rural areas though. Many people living in urban areas do not have access to good education. The team at CREEC in Uganda have been producing a series of television dramas and radio podcasts to in an effort to get knowledge of the technology more widely disseminated. Some of their outputs are...

  • Ethanol from sugarcane and maize is produced using a fermentation process in which yeast converts sugars in the plant to alcohol (ethanol). This is the same as the fermentation process used to make alcoholic drinks such as beer, so it doesn't need a biochemical or thermochemical pretreatment. The more complex carbohydrate of starch in maize needs to be...

  • Welcome to the course Sandra, apologies for being rather late in welcoming you, I have been busy preparing our new course on Microgrids ready to launch at the same time as CoP27. You might be interested in that one too if you liked this one.

  • You are welcome Elizabeth, I hope that you found the course interesting.

  • Hujambo! Habari gani? Karibu!

  • Welcome to the course - yes you're right. There are a lot of hidden costs in different types of energy feedstocks. Good insulation is one of the best ways of heating homes - simply preventing heat loss and so reducing energy consumption. That's a different story though and I hope you find something of interest here. You might also be interested in our course...

  • Welcome to the course. You might also be interested in our course on Microgrids. You can can find it using the FutureLearn search with the term 'Microgrids'.

  • Very good points. Oil palm is a flex crop so it can be shifted across different commodity markets. As you say, biodiesel is only a small part of that. Although regional trading blocks such as the EU are looking at oil palm trade restrictions based on sustainability criteria these restrictions won't affect trade to other countries, such as China and India.

  • @LornaAllen It's the camp where the construction team have their headquarters for the duration of the construction. If they are building something like a railway then the construction camp stays in place longer than the construction site, which will move along with the railway as it's completed.

  • Yes, a mix of different types of generating capacity is often needed and this may include diesel generators as well as solar, wind, hydro etc. Batteries are expensive, but the cost is coming down and new battery technologies emerging.

  • You are right. It is also interesting to think about the role played by grids in the national economy.

    One of the main functions of creating expensive grid infrastructure and generating capacity is to stimulate national economic activity. This is why the costs of grids are subsidised by government or international donors/ banks instead of being paid for...

  • Good points! Creating microgrids for remote places such as rural areas and islands to power infrastructure and industry is important for economic development and also for paying the cost of construction, operation and maintenance of the microgrid.

    For example the microgrid on Lolwe Island in Uganda will provide power to 'Agro-processing Hub to deliver...

  • It's amazing how quickly renewables are becoming an integral part of national electricity supply systems. Price is of course a key factor. Having the right energy mix is important though - it will be a while before fossil fuels are eased out of big systems to just be backups, and this will probably need some major changes to demand.

  • Thank you, some very good points.

    There are some interesting and simple initiatives on electric cookers. Here is a video made by our partners CREEC in Uganda promoting electric pressure cookers:

    "Demystifying Ecooking in Uganda | Electric Pressure Cooker Exhibition with MEMD Uganda"

    The health benefits of shifting away...

  • That is a good point, though many of the communities that would benefit from microgrids actually produce very limited amounts of greenhouse gas so they don't have a big influence on climate change. For microgrids to have an effect on reducing greenhouse gas emissions there would need to widespread uptake in countries that already have well established...

  • Economic growth is important for microgrids because there needs to be means for the community to pay for the operation and maintenance, so there need to be businesses benefitting from the presence of electricity supply who are capable of paying tariffs.

  • It means that the consumer of the electricity will reduce their consumption if there microgrid is being heavily used (or increase their consumption during periods when the use is light). So for example, in an island community the households might take turns to run appliances such as washing machines that use a lot of electricity.

  • I was talking to an energy engineer recently in London and his group were looking into the possibility of construction camps in the UK using microgrids. So it looks like they are attracting attention for a variety of uses not just remote communities.

  • St Kilda has an incredible and poignant history. I'll put a link below here for those course participants who are not familiar with it.

    "The decision to evacuate the island archipelago was taken because life there was becoming untenable. So many islanders had left that the traditional livelihoods of raising sheep for wool, spinning and weaving tweed,...

  • Welcome to the course. I hope you find the microgrid design tool PyEPLAN useful.

  • Welcome to the course Carole. I hope that you find it useful for your professional work. We cover quite a range of topics.

  • Welcome to the course. I hope that you find it useful in your quest for solutions.

  • In some ways it's a conundrum. Oil palm is a very productive way of producing vegetable oil. Perhaps the solution would be to grow it in less intensive plantations so that wildlife can coexist with food production. Here are some ideas:

    "HUTAN is working with plantation owners, local communities and the Sabah Wildlife Department in the Kinabatangan forests...

  • You make a very good point. It's hard work running and maintaining a biodigestor. They work best when they are part of an integrated farming system. The farm needs to be big enough to supply the biodigestor feedstock and use or sell the high quality digestate left over from the fermentation process. This fertiliser is wonderful for growing high value...

  • Great information and you are absolutely right. Algae are an interesting source of biofuels because there are many different types of algae and many different ways of growing them. Perhaps two extremes would be growing micro-algae in controlled conditions vs growing kelp in the open ocean. We tend to think about 'algal biofuel' as being a single category, but...

  • Compounds derived from seaweed are in fact an important components of food. Production of seaweed for the food industry is booming:

    An interesting research project would be to combine seaweed production waste products with energy generation.

  • Good analysis. Bioethanol from Brazilian sugarcane has always been regarded as a good example of efficient integrated use of bioenergy. Though using sugar for bioethanol is a food-fuel competition. In contrast the example of intensively grown maize being converted into bioethanol has attracted a great deal of criticism.

    However, sugarcane for biofuels has...

  • I agree. Fossil fuels will be in the 'energy mix' for sometime to come in energy-intensive societies. Although fossil fuel use is global, it is also worthwhile bearing in mind that relatively few countries in the world are major users of fossil fuel energy. It will not be easy for those countries to quickly shift away from fossil fuels because they have a lot...

  • You raise a good point about the percentage of biofuel in the energy mix making a significant contribution. Fossil fuels were laid down over geological time periods, where-as we need to rely on 'real-time' production for biofuels. Energy-intensive countries have developed energy systems that use very large amounts of fossil fuels and it is not easy (perhaps...

  • Good points. The case of Drax power station is interesting and controversial. The team at Drax have put a lot of work into the question of sustainability, and it is worthwhile looking at what they say before reaching a conclusion. Here is their website:

    In contrast there are some strong voices against the idea that...

  • Hi Rachel - welcome to the course!

  • Hi Amy - welcome to the course :)

  • That is a very good point. Also, to make microgrids work effectively, communities need to cooperate and work collaboratively to create good governance, operation and maintenance systems. Local community collaboration is more likely to lead to peaceful outcomes than top-down control over energy.

  • Here's an interesting article about discussions at CoP27 that shows that the controversy on the Isle of Lewis about community control over renewable energy is common to many countries.

    "But the climate justice movement’s message is clear: community-based renewable projects that work for the people, not corporations, are a necessity, according to Dipti...

  • Welcome to the course, I hope you enjoy it.

  • Welcome to the course. I hope you find it interesting.

  • Yes, its important to be aware about how the majority of the world's population live. This has important global implications. For example, the majority of the world's population do not contribute much to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. These are the responsibility of only a small proportion of Earth's humans.

  • As we'll see later in the course, one of the features of micro-grids is that they need to be (as much as possible) self-contained in terms of financing, operation and maintenance. There is no permanent population on St Kilda, so consistent payments for electricity might difficult. Pico-grids using small very small scale solar and wind with batteries would work...

  • Welcome to the course :)

  • The food vs fuel debate is indeed controversial. But just for clarification, peanut oil is not converted to bioethanol. That is a different conversion pathway.

  • I'm very pleased you've enjoyed it. I've just posted the end of week reflection in Step 2.12 if you're interested to come back and have a look. I'm running a bit late this week because I've got a lot of classroom teaching to do! :)

  • @CarolynWarburton Many thanks, that's an interesting case. But have a look at the Heathrow noise case: Hatton and others v United Kingdom, 8 July 2003 (ECHR). 'Modern life is beset with inconveniences'.

  • Many thanks for these interesting points and you are quite right to raise them. I'm a bit behind on answering comments this week because I have a lot of other teaching to do, but you might be interested in the end of week 'reflection' that Laura has just posted in Step 2.12 of the course on 'Hierarchy of Property Rights' that follows this one on 'Rights and...

  • You've raised some very interesting ideas. Is it really possible to value ecosystem services in money when they provide so much more to human welfare that cannot be quantified.

  • What you say is true. However, the UK government is planning to implement a 'public money for public goods' scheme that includes payments for ecosystem services. This link contains some information and reports:

  • @CarolynWarburton the paper presents evidence from a series of legal cases about the extent of evidence needed to demonstrate harm, and concludes that causal links need to be clear and strong. This is hard to do with something as diffuse and pervasive in the environment as low level radiation.

  • @MarybelMM I learnt a lot from finding out about the distinction between the 'giving spirit' and 'controlling ancestor'. It shifted my perception of the world. I hope you enjoy the other courses.

  • @LindaNicklin That's a good point, but I think there is also a fundamental difference in how nature is perceived. As Paul noted, the two are not mutually exclusive. My own thoughts are that we are culturally conditioned in economic reciprocity and the property rights that entails, and have to make a mental adjustment to appreciate the 'giving spirit'.

  • Thank you! I'm pleased you enjoyed the course, and please do share it with your team. It's free of charge :)

  • Thank you for those very good points. They are also all important when considering implementing land use changes that might lead in the future to ecological restoration. The costs of restoration are rarely included in initial planning - except in some cases such as mining.

    Here's an interesting article about mining in Madagascar and biodiversity...

  • @CarolynWarburton Yes you are right, taking Russia to court over the Chernobyl disaster would be impossible - especially now! But also I'm not convinced it would be possible to prove harm. In legal cases there has to be a direct cause and effect link.

    If you can access it, this is an interesting article:

    Is the Precautionary Principle...

  • @MarybelMM Many thanks and I pleased you're enjoying the course. There are five two-week courses in the series in case you haven't seen the others.

    Links to the other courses can be found here:

  • You are right, the idea of imperialism comes first. This can be described in an institutional economics frame.

    Imperialism is an informal institution that represents what Douglass North would call a tribal culture (see the first course in the Environmental Challenges series). Organisations form under the institution to reflect and implement the social norms...

  • Just a quick note to say that I'm just waiting for Laura to post the reflection when she's ready :)

  • @bedefox Military activities appear to operate by a different set of basic principles. For example, the basic principle of murder being against the law is put to one side in military operations. Similarly matters of property rights, precaution etc are not the same as in peace time. It's an interesting question.

  • Welcome to the course I hope you find it interesting.

  • There are is a lot of good work going on in many parts of the world. We tend to hear mostly about disasters, but as you say, NGOs, communities and non-profits are stepping up.

  • What are your thoughts on the ‘giving’ perception of nature practised by hunter-gatherer societies and the ‘controlling’ ancestor nature of agriculturalists? The later is the basis for economic reciprocity and so the underpinning of modern economic activity, where-as the former is the essence of our relationship with the natural world.

  • That is very interesting. Most people have a very limited understanding of what 'property' is and the responsibilities and rights associated with it. I find the many nuances of property rights fascinating.