Building pathways of pro-poor energy access

The misconception that developing countries can plump for either increasing access to energy, or low carbon development, but not both, is exploded in a paper presented by Dr Rob Byrne, STEPS Centre energy and climate change co-convenor, at the Poverty Reduction, Equity, and Growth Network’s (PEGNet) conference this week.

Because conventional high carbon energy options are often seen as cheaper they are also often seen as the most appropriate solutions for developing countries to adopt. However the discussion paper by Dr Byrne and Dr David Ockwell, Building pathways of pro-poor energy access: PV-powered electricity services in Kenya (pdf 973kb), argues that this is not the case. In fact, access to low carbon technology could be key to meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

“Multiple synergies potentially exist between human and economic development priorities and access to low carbon energy technologies. Renewable energy can facilitate access in areas where grid-based provision is prohibitively expensive and unreliable, energy efficient technologies can improve availability of energy services, such as lighting and heat, and a combination of the two can increase local and national energy security and economic resilience by reducing exposure to the price fluctuations and political constraints of fossil fuel imports.”

The paper explores concepts of development pathways, technology and innovation systems, and the building of low carbon innovation systems, illustrated by a discussion of the pair’s research on the evolution of the Kenyan solar home system (SHS) market, now worth USD 6million annually.

The SHS market in Kenya is the subject of a CDKN-funded project, Pro-poor, low carbon development: Improving low carbon energy access and development benefits in Least Developed Countries (LDC), which Drs Byrne and Ockwell are working on with partner the African Technology Policy Studies Network in Kenya. New resources, including papers, presentations, books and briefings (in English and Kiswahili), are available on the project page.

Dr Byrne presents Building pathways of pro-poor energy access: PV-powered electricity services in Kenya on October 18 at University Copenhagen in Denmark as part of the PEGNet conference, How to Shape Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Economies in the Developing World ─ Global, Regional, and Local Solutions.