Thinking outside the box for SDG 7

What is important about innovation in terms of reaching SDG 7 until 2030? The year 2020 is passing over to 2021 and we gave the topic some thoughts about the relevance of innovation for energy access for our work at WISIONS and our partnership networks in the Global South and put them together in this short blog entry.

The latest data on progress towards SDG7, which was published before the onset of the pandemic, revealed that the number of people across the world who lack access to electricity fell to 789 million in 2018. However, the global population without access to clean cooking solutions remained unchanged at 2.8 billion. The increase in the share of renewables in the global energy mix showed signs of slowing down and energy efficiency gains still failed to reach their potential. We have also recently learnt that finance for energy access remains far below the investment needed to achieve SDG7 by 2030 and that this gap is likely to widen as a result of the pandemic.

With less than a decade left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, thinking “outside the box” with regards to sustainable energy in the Global South is crucial. It is widely accepted that innovation can help to overcome technological and financial barriers. Specifically, adapting to local needs is at the core of innovation efforts in energy access.

But what does this look like in practice? Many of our partners have developed tools to facilitate innovation in the context of WISIONS-supported initiatives. For instance, the MHP (Micro Hydropower) Toolkit by the Hydro Empowerment Network facilitates access to technical blueprints, Do-It-Yourself instructions, simulation tools, databases and much more. This provides local MHP practitioners with the opportunity and know-how to become innovators for off-grid energy solutions.

RedBioLAC also pursues bottom-up approaches to innovation. Central to this network’s vision is the use of innovation to develop biodigester designs and implementation concepts that better respond to local needs across Latin America and the Caribbean. For example, a biodigester blueprint from Costa Rica might not fit the specific environmental conditions in Colombia. A WISIONS-supported webinar gave insights into technological advances that were particularly important over the last decade (such as the design of low-cost tubular digesters and the adaptation of designs to suit cold climates). RedBioLAC has also produced a biogas wiki library to support innovation in biodigester technology.

Lastly, financial innovations also bring us closer to achieving SDG7. The Finance Solutions Map by Nexus for Development has created a rich and publicly available database on a range of innovative finance instruments and case-studies geared towards local energy access practitioners in South and Southeast Asia.

To sum up, innovation in energy access does not only mean more sophisticated technology. It is also about tailoring solutions to meet diverse needs and adapting them to local conditions. Sharing knowledge and experiences also lies at the heart of innovative thinking and contributes to the empowerment of local energy practitioners across the Global South.

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