By: Oforiwa Darko
Although access to energy has increased in sub-Saharan Africa in recent years, it remains low, as more than 50% of the region’s population still lacks access to electricity.
This low access to energy has implications on health, education, poverty reduction and sustainable development, according to a report by UNCTAD.
For example, lack of access to clean cooking fuels and technology is a major concern, especially for women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by household air pollution, which caused 700,000 deaths in Africa in 2019.
The report warns that without additional efforts, the region’s population without access to clean fuels could increase from 923 million people in 2020 to over 1.1 billion people in 2030.
The issue is no different in Asia and the Pacific that have majority of the world’s energy poor. More than 350 million people in the region have only limited access to electricity and 150 million people still have no access at all.
They are often forced to live with malnutrition, unhealthy living conditions and limited access to education and employment.
Insufficient energy access limits the development of agriculture and manufacturing, severely stunting economic growth and social development.
To harness clean energy and enable a just and inclusive energy transition, Innovate UK’s Energy Catalyst programme has awarded over £40 million in grant funding to a range of innovative projects in Africa and the Indo-Pacific.
The funding award was announced by the UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak as part of a £316m package of announcements in support of an inclusive and just transition at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai.
The £40m is part of the Ayrton Fund for clean energy innovation, with funding provided by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) through the Transforming Energy Access (TEA) platform, and the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT).
It underscores the UK Government’s continued commitment to support the research development and demonstration of innovative technologies and business models necessary to foster affordable and clean energy for all.
This latest cohort of Energy Catalyst innovators have the potential to make a significant impact for communities across sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and the Indo-Pacific region.
As part of Round 10, 64 pioneering projects with activities spanning 24 countries will work to advance innovation in areas including next generation solar, smart green-grids, hydrogen, clean cooling, and renewable-based alternatives to fossil fuel generators.
Projects to receive grant funding and business support include Achelous Energy, which will demonstrate a floating oceanic solar farm in Indonesia, and ion Venture’s project which will develop an automatic battery swapping cabinet to help scale e-mobility in Uganda.
Energy Catalyst will also support its first projects in Cambodia, Eswatini, Fiji, Malaysia and South Sudan. This includes SDG Changemakers, a project focusing on a feasibility study to increase access and affordability of clean energy on Fiji’s Kioa Island. Energy Catalyst, running since 2014, is today the largest open call within the Ayrton Fund and aims to bolster sustainable energy solutions to reduce reliance on fossil fuels in targeted regions.
This latest round of funding brings the total value of grants provided by Energy Catalyst to over £160m in Overseas Development Assistance, driving impact across 46 countries through 320 supported projects partnering with over 600 organisations.
Previously supported projects have continued to make a significant impact in the sector, having secured an additional £200m in further funding.
“We are proud to see Energy Catalyst scale effectively to meet this increasingly urgent challenge and we look forward to working collaboratively with all the innovators being supported through this latest round. The breadth of technologies and regions represented signifies a crucial step towards achieving a more sustainable and equitable future, extending the benefits of clean energy for all“ Alice Goodbrook, Energy Catalyst Lead at Innovate UK.
Energy Catalyst’s distinctive approach comprises three main elements; grant funding, collaboration building through brokerage activities to build partnerships, and acceleration support which is provided by a Carbon Trust-led consortium, including Mercy Corps Energy 4 Impact, Intellecap, Open Capital, Eigen Ventures, and a range of specialist partners.
Through the provision of both financial and advisory support to innovators, Energy Catalyst plays a pivotal role in creating strategic partnerships, channelling knowledge and insights, and developing business models that will commercialise solutions which improve lives.
Energy experts at COP 28 say, addressing Africa’s energy challenges requires meaningful investment from both the public and private sector.
Currently, only about 3% of energy investments worldwide are made in Africa, even though the continent is home to 17% of the world’s population, over 1.2 billion people, a figure that is expected to double in the next 30 years.