Clean Energy Innovation in the Developing World

Andrée Carter giving the Welcome Address. Photo: The Wellcome Trust


On 29 September LCEDN organised a workshop to discuss challenges and opportunities for SMEs and social enterprises providing clean energy products or services in emerging market.

The event was hosted in partnership with the UK Collaborative on Development Sciences, the Department for Energy and Climate Change, the Knowledge Transfer Network and Loughborough University, and brought together businesses operational in the global South, businesses interested in accessing developing world markets, members of the private finance community, policy makers, civil society actors and academic researchers. The event aimed to examine the unique opportunities for UK-based SMEs to drive innovation and forge public-private partnerships to support low-carbon, climate resilient growth in emerging economies while providing significant opportunities for networking and partnership building.

The workshop opened with a Welcome Address delivered by Dr. Andrée Carter (UKCDS) and Dr. Danielle Gent (DECC), and included four plenary sessions and a panel:

1. What and where are the global opportunities?

The first plenary discussed the global opportunities for SMEs and social enterprises seeking to expand their products and services in emerging markets.

Chris Bagley (Knowledge Transfer Networks) provided a high level backdrop to the keynote speech, giving a broad overview of the technological innovation landscape, and discussing the increasing interest in looking beyond traditional UK and European markets. Frans van den Heuvel (Solarcentury) and Tessa Kipping (SolarAid) delivered a joint keynote speech where they discussed the global shift to clean technology and the opportunities afforded by the expected rise in renewable energies over the next few decades. They addressed the role of solar energy in this transition and shared insights from their successful experience spreading solar energy in African emerging markets.

2. Innovation and energy services for emerging economies

The second plenary session was dedicated to exploring how UK businesses are innovating to reach emerging markets and new market segments.

Stephen Croshner, Commercial Director of X-Wind Power Limited, presented X-Wind’s approach to provide renewable energy generation in UK communities vulnerable to power outages, and discussed how this solution could become valuable to off-grid communities in developing economies.  Daniel Becerra, Buffalo Grid’s managing director and co-founder, discussed an innovative business model to bring power to off grid communities in Sub-Saharan Africa through the deployment of a small solar-powered mobile telephone charger, while John Hingley, founder and CEO of Renovagen Ltd., talked about the deployment of PV Micro-Grids and rollable solar arrays as a rapid, reliable and easily transportable solution to provide power in remote areas and conflict zones.

3. Accessing finance and support services

The panel on finance and support services brought together a number of experts to discuss the challenges that UK SMEs face in delivering renewable energy products and services in emerging markets, providing a platform for the audience to learn more about financing for penetrating/scaling up operations in emerging economies. Speakers in this panel included Simon Desjardins (Portfolio Director at Shell Foundation), Nigel Peters (Director of the Aid-Funded Business Service at UK Trade & Investment and of British Expertise), Ian Callaghan (Managing Director at Enclude Capital Advisory Services, an FCA-regulated specialist intermediary in inclusive investing) and Sebastian Meaney (Senior Private Sector Development Adviser at the DFID Climate and Environment Department).

4. Energy services for emerging economies: on the ground realities.

This plenary session discussed what are the challenges and obstacles SMEs face on the ground, incorporating the perspectives of a variety of businesses and organisations working in developing countries with different types/scales of technology.

Meera Shah (Shell Foundation) presented a summary of the lessons learned by the Shell Foundation over fourteen years of experience working on energy access in emerging economies. Mary Roach (GSMA MECS) discussed the Mobile Enabled Community Services, a programme that aims to use mobile technology and infrastructure to enhance access to affordable and reliable energy and clean water in underserved communities. Johnnie Andringa (Gaia Wind) presented a project recently implemented in Tonga involving the deployment of wind turbines for sites with difficult access. Chhavi Sharma (Ashden) discussed the Ashden Awards Programme and the challenges faced by participating SMEs in emerging economies, while Divyesh Thakkar  (Sunlite) discussed the obstacles faced by renewable technologies SMEs seeking to access the Humanitarian and Aid Sector.

5. How can the research and evidence community support the activities of SMEs working in emerging economies?

The final plenary session explored the interconnections between the private sector and the research and evidence communities, highlighting both the different ways in which research can contribute to the development of SMEs and social enterprises in emerging markets and how SMEs can benefit from outputs produced by research and evidence communities. In this plenary, Elly White (SolarAid) presented the ‘Light Library’ report, a project that SolarAid ran in collaboration with the World Bank in Senegal which gives research evidence of the potential for the emerging solar market in Africa. Dr. Malcolm McCulloch (Oxford Energy) discussed how to build successful partnerships between researchers and businesses, and where the focus of collaborative efforts should be placed. Finally Leanne Jones and Alistair Wray  (DFID) shared with the audience their new research project on Renewable Energy, Smarter Electricity Systems and Storage (RESESS), intended to be an important response to addressing the challenges of scaling up the sustainable use of renewable energy in the developing world.

The event came to an end with Andrée Carter’s (UKCDS) Closing Remarks, followed by a wine reception in the exhibit and networking area, where businesses were invited to showcase their clean energy products and services.


You can view and download the programme for the event here, and full audio recordings of the event are available in the UKCDS’ online coverage of the event. The speaker’s presentations are available below.

Scene setting and overview of opportunities in non-traditional markets -Chris Bagley
A success story. Spreading solar in emerging markets -Frans van den Heuvel (Solarcentury) and Tessa Kipping (SolarAid)
Resilient Intelligent Community Energy -Stephen Crosher (X-wind)
BuffaloGrid-Electrical power and internet connevtivity as service to the off grid world -Daniel Becerra (BuffaloGrid)
Fast Deployment of PV Micro-Grids for Remote Off-Grid -John Hingley (Renovagen)
Challenges and opportunities in accessing finance -Ian Callaghan (Enclude Capital Advisory)
Aid-Funded Business -Nigel Peters (UK Trade and Investment)
Meeting the energy needs of low-income consumers -Meera Shah (Shell Foundation)
Lessons from early pioneers in the mobile-enabled energy sector -Mary Roach (GSMA MECS)
Distributed generation with small wind turbines -Johnnie Andringa (Gaia Wind)


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