Sustainable energy for whom? Governing pro-poor, low-carbon pathways to development: Lessons from solar PV in Kenya

Working Paper
  • Published 26/02/14

Using a combination of insights from innovation studies, socio-technical transitions theory and the STEPS pathways approach, this paper analyses the evolution of the Kenyan photovoltaics (PV) market. Considered by many to be an exemplar of private sector led development, the Kenyan PV market has witnessed the adoption of more than 300,000 solar home systems and over 100,000 solar portable lights. The notion of an entrepreneurially driven unsubsidised solar market has proved to be a powerful narrative amongst development actors who, paradoxically, have provided millions of dollars of funding to encourage the market’s development.

We argue that this donor support has been critical to the success of the market, but not simply by helping to create an enabling environment in which entrepreneurs can flourish. Donor assistance has been critical in supporting a range of actors to build the elements of a PV innovation system by providing active protection for experimentation, network-building, and the construction of shared visions amongst actors throughout supply chains and amongst users.

This analysis gives important clues for designing climate and development policies, with implications for the governance of energy access pathways that are inclusive of poor and marginalised groups in low income countries.

Published as part of our project Pro-poor, low carbon development: Improving low carbon energy access and development benefits in Least Developed Countries