Stimulating Technology Innovation by UK Enterprises

Sustainable Energy Access

Benefits of access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy

According to SDG7 tracking report, an estimated 1 billion people – 13 percent of the global population – do not have access to any electricity and 3 billion people have no access to clean fuels for cooking.

And many more people more suffer from a power supply that is of poor quality.

More than 80 percent of people living without electricity are in countries in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia, predominantly located in rural areas. Not only do these areas lack electrification but people living in rural off-grid areas often rely on expensive or unhealthy solutions like kerosene and use traditional cookstoves that run on manure. In fact, it is estimated that 3 billion globally people rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating (UNDP).

The ability to provide a secure supply of clean energy can have a positive impact on the daily lives of these people across a number of important areas including economic development, education and health.

An international committment has been made to address this: Sustainable Development Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

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The lack of access to a reliable energy source is also a primary barrier to growth for many African businesses and economies.

Large-scale, grid-based systems can face economic and governance barriers, which opens up increasing opportunities for decentralised and smart energy systems.

However, despite international will, barriers remain to achieve the ambitions set out in SDG 7. 

Making sure that this electricity comes from clean sources of energy will also directly contribute to meeting international ambitions on reducing carbon emissions, helping to mitigate the impacts of dangerous climate change, which would otherwise intensify many of the other development issues already faced by people across these regions.

The TEA programme directly supports SDG7.

Challenges to delivering sustainable energy

Following from an initial scoping phase, challenges to delivering affordable, reliable and sustainable energy were identified by the TEA  programme which need to be addressed. These include:

  • Financial barriers: The decentralised energy sector has a high cost of finance and there is a lack of private finance availability as well as lack of consumer capital able to cover costs. Additionally, early stage innovators serving low-income communities in emerging markets are facing strong barriers in building teams, securing their customer base and raising investment at scale.
  • Scalable business models barriers: There is a lack of evidence base in business models. Scaling barriers extend at a wider systemic level within the decentralised energy sector to include the entire local supply chain, including at a policy level in a way that it supports local contexts. Opportunities to bring productive use solutions to provide economic growth to poor customers need to be realised.
  • Enterprises and skills barriers: There are difficulties in competing with other sectors for talent and difficulties in hiring local talent with practical experience at a mid-management level. Universities lack resources and practical experience to adequately train people and address the mismatch between tertiary academic offerings and practical market needs.
  • End-user trust: Lack of product awareness for off-grid products and services as,  perceptions that have been damaged due to poor quality products in the past and a lack of general awareness on product standards have resulted in low trust or uptake in some areas of the off grid energy sector.


Overall, the five main work areas have been designed to address these barriers and focus on answering the need for technology innovation, finance and business model, strategic partnerships, skills and expertise development and to increase productive use energy.


The Sustainable Development Goals

On 1 January 2016, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by world leaders in September 2015 at a historic UN Summit — officially came into force. 

Over the next fifteen years, with these new Goals that universally apply to all, countries will mobilize efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind.

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