WISIONS presenting at ICSD 2020

Last week, on September 22, WISIONS coordinator Carmen Dienst presented at this years International Conference on Sustainable Development 2020, which took place online this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the theme “Local Energy Practitioners and new forms of knowledge exchange can be change-maker in achieving SDG7” and by reference to research of WISIONS the importance of alternative approaches such as empowerment of energy practitioners to enable energy access. ICSD 2020

The figures of global energy access improve, but not fast enough to achieve SDG 7.1 – Access to universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030. And SE4All is right in saying that “the renewable revolution appears to be slowing down at a time when it needs to speed up” (SE4All, 2019). So despite the impetus of the global goal as well as the availability of appropriate and financially viable technical solutions, the implementation is still challenging.

In the last decade, Wuppertal Institute gained experiences on how local energy transitions at the community level can be realised and which factors are key for a long-term success and real pushing of development. This was possible through an initiative that combines grants with exchange of knowledge and research (WISIONS initiative). The implicit long-term objective of these energy projects was to contribute to local energy transitions and ultimately to the achievement of sustainable development goals (SDGs).

In different systematic analysis and ex-post-evaluation of small-scale energy projects, we could contribute to the proof of key elements of successful and promising energy delivery models (Terrapon-Pfaff et al. 2014). In a Theory-of-Change for productive use of energy (Terrapon-Pfaff et al. 2018), we lined out that (sustainable) energy access does not automatically result in productive activities as energy is only one of the input factors required to foster socio-economic development.

What we in particular learned and will be focus of the paper is the crucial role and importance of local energy practitioners working in regional rooted organisations.

There is tremendous knowledge and expertise among the local practitioners not only on technical issues, business models and strategies for capacity-building, but also on how to motivate and involve the communities to sustain the projects beyond the starting phases. The critical challenge is how to leverage this know-how and expertise within regions and across countries in the global South?

Of great important is enabling and improving knowledge mobilisation (i) among the energy practitioners (e.g. in networks and mutual exchange formats) as well as (ii) exchange with decision makers and financiers needed for scaling-up successful models.

Our paper will showcase experiences with different forms of South-to-South and Peer-to-Peer knowledge exchange that we initiated and accompanied. Due to the current pandemic, we will also discuss ideas and potential for new modes of exchanges and innovative online formats (like the Mini-grid-Game).

Next to experiences from individual knowledge exchange activities of our partners – like practice-to-policy approaches or learning across projects – we will also show the impact of long-term exchanges within practitioner networks. The latter is based on close cooperation with four networks, each focusing on a specific technical solution for a region. These networks have high potential to facilitate knowledge development and sharing but also for joint advocacy. We will shed light on their value to induce the broader dissemination of decentralised renewable energy solutions.

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