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Increasing clean energy access worldwide

•  New transatlantic partnership aims to speed roll-out of low-energy appliances
•  Targeting poor and off-grid areas which stand to benefit from new tech
•  UK Government funded, Energy Saving Trust join with international experts CLASP

Energy Saving Trust has joined forces with CLASP – an international not-for-profit organisation that promotes energy efficient appliance market development – to increase global access to energy and drive forward the Efficiency for Access Coalition.

Efficiency for access logo

The UK and US Coalition will bring together a range of international governments, co-funders and partners, and will co-ordinate a range of initiatives including the Low Energy Inclusive Appliances (LEIA) programme.

It is backed by £18million of UK aid from the UK Government, to accelerate global energy access through energy-efficient appliances.

LEIA aims to drive the market for highly energy efficient products such as refrigerators, solar water pumps and fans which work off the electricity grid.

It will also support innovation for products and technologies that will benefit energy constrained communities in the future, looking at advanced electric cooking, connectivity, compatibility and how different technologies work together.

We spoke to Stephen Pantano from CLASP about why this action is needed now – and what the implications could be.

Energy efficiency brings big off-grid wins

CLASP’s previous projects have explored the market for highly efficient appliances that are compatible with off-grid energy systems.

The initial findings set the process in motion for this transatlantic partnership.

Pantano said: “CLASP’s research and experience in this area has shown that super-efficient products are in high demand among both people living in areas with limited access to grid electricity and solar companies who want to offer new products.

“Companies continue to look at new markets, and the developing world represents the biggest opportunity both in terms of need and in terms of demand. For many, the solution lies in off-grid or distributed energy and the key to unlocking scale there is efficiency. Unlike grid-connected contexts where customers see the cost savings from energy efficiency over time, in off-grid contexts they save money right up front.”

LEDs light the way forward

The recent growth of markets for LED lighting, solar home energy systems and renewable mini-grids has paved the way for new electrical appliances in the developing world.

Pantano explained: “The viability of off-grid energy systems has been enabled by super-efficient and increasingly cost-effective end-use technologies. For example, in contrast to LEDs, delivering light with inefficient incandescent or CFL bulbs requires significantly greater amounts of solar power and battery storage. This means that either lights can be used for a much shorter time or that the systems required to power them are much more expensive.

“This combination of greater efficiency and lower prices – which LEIA is intentionally targeting – is the key to unlocking higher order services along the “energy access ladder” and enabling the deployment of new types of appliances for domestic and productive use.”

Growing awareness of the role of energy efficiency in development

Pantano notes that a number of major development organisations and funders are showing growing interest and taking bigger risks in the energy access sector, and affirms that additional attention and investment is still needed when it comes to developing sustainable, tailored energy access strategies in pursuit of sustainable development goals.

He points to the Efficiency for Access Coalition – which is bringing together aid agencies, private philanthropies, development banks and other institutions with an interest in energy efficiency as an energy access resource – as the best example of this.

He explained: “Leading development organisations allocate significant amounts of funding towards servicing energy sectors under a framework of climate targets and sustainable development, yet few of them invest heavily in energy efficiency.

“This is a lost opportunity for climate mitigation efforts as these out dated energy sectors will later need to be fixed, probably with top-down energy efficiency initiatives. But we have the means to change that today through initiatives such as this Coalition.”

solar power panels and water pump in india

Where Energy Saving Trust comes in...

Geographically, the project represents a new area for Energy Saving Trust – but the work itself is very much in line with current interests. There is product testing in the field to be done, plus monitoring and evaluation to make sure the project is on track to deliver its objectives.

There will be a period of learning more about the sector required, where CLASP takes the lead, but the plan is for project management and administration to eventually lead to responsibility for research and development work.

Pantano affirmed: “No-one is more qualified to take on this issue than Energy Saving Trust. It’s a great opportunity to bring their expertise in energy efficiency to the sector, and our collective involvement will make a difference, with real implications for global poverty eradication.

Energy Saving Trust chief executive Phillip Sellwood is similarly optimisitic about the link-up. He commented: "We see this important projects as an extension of the product standards and verification work we've been doing in the UK, and indeed Europe, for years. 

“LEIA is highly suited to bringing in what we’ve learned from work like the Topten initiative, which has highlighted the best in class products for energy consumption, and our own product endorsement scheme. Combined with our experience in managing data and testing new technology, we can put this all into action in a way that has the potential to reach billions of people in communities that stand to gain most from energy efficiency improvements."

Evidence to action

Pantano believes the issue is not one of demand, but market readiness and information gaps. He explained:

“Major stakeholders and donors in this sector need information about product energy efficiency, quality and appropriate design in order to change the way they work; so far, no-one had done the analytics. Our work is about filling those gaps, and showing those stakeholders that the information they need now exists and in a format that is easy to work with.”

There’s no doubt that the scope is ambitious. But, what would success look like for the project?

He said: “We would like to see higher-tier products like TVs, refrigerators, fans, and water pumps become just as viable in this market as the LED now is, and that will heavily depend on how off-grid appropriate the products are in terms of design and cost-effectiveness. Partnerships will be key to achieving this goal.

“Once we have curated a list of off-grid appropriate efficient appliances, and once we have the evidence to back up those choices, all stakeholders will need to come together. This means companies designing great products; distributors favouring those appliances in their procurements; governments putting the right policies in place; and commercial financiers and lenders considering the products they are backing carefully.”

Making connections offers brighter future

The programme brings together a number of key global issues, proving that energy is a major area for interconnected thinking.

Pantano added: “People are interested in climate, and in poverty – but not many have connected the dots between the two. If you apply energy efficiency measures in the early stages of developing a country’s energy sector, it will have better results for the climate, and the trade-offs between global development and sustainability are mitigated. This is something for us to be very excited about.”