WISIONS newsletter is the regular overview of WISIONS activities, news, publications and events.
What does “open source” mean in practice for off-grid challenges on the ground? How can people benefit and what does it imply for access to energy? Watch the recording of our WISIONS webinar where four experienced energy practitioners discussed this exciting topic with us.
Open source, open innovation, open collaboration: most of us access information daily based on an ‘open’ approach. Open source technology – which emerged as a radical new approach to software – benefits from a collaborative and transparent approach. It allows people to adapt and improve technology according to their needs. An open source approach can progress more rapidly thanks to the crowd-based model that encourages experimentation. Open source technology is flexible and can even be more reliable.
But how can this revolution in “openness” benefit people who need access to energy?
We invited four experienced energy practitioners to discuss with us on that topic:
Luiz Vila, Wind Empowerment
During the webinar we learned how energy practitioners are applying the open source approach to deal with concrete challenges to energy access. We heard about the great potential offered by the open source approach; for instance by increasing adaptability to specific local conditions, reducing costs, allowing for the establishment of local entrepreneurship, facilitating technology transfer in comprehensive ways and fostering cooperation.
However, applying the open source approach is still not a streamlined process and practitioners who choose this path face difficulties and contradictions. Two important issues we heard about are:
1. What form can economically viable business models based on open source technology take? Conventionally, the protection of intellectual property is one of the most important assets of technology firms. Developing open source technologies requires the focus to shift to other types of assets. Some existing examples point at increasing the focus on the quality of products and services and another option is the differentiation of clients and portfolios.
2. How can the skills and conditions needed to effectively exploit the potential of the open source approach be developed locally? Conventionally, the role of local entrepreneurs in energy access businesses is that of re-sellers and distributors. The open source approach opens up the possibility for deeper involvement in the value-added chain, but this requires creative and skilful people at local levels. Some experiences in countries in the global south demonstrate that effective and long-lasting education and training programmes can be fruitful in this regard.
Wuppertal Institute for Climate,
Environment and Energy GmbH
Postbox: 10 04 80/ D-42004 Wuppertal
Tel: +49 (0) 202. 2492 252
Telefax: +49 (0) 202. 2492 198