Stimulating solutions to energy access through the use of innovation prizes

Abstract

This paper examines the major problems relating to energy access and the potential application of innovation prizes to these challenges. Key barriers to scaling up access to clean, modern energy were analysed through conversations with around 120 sector experts. The major problem areas were then evaluated using a Technology Innovations System model to identify specific factors blocking wider access to technologies and fuels. The potential application of innovation prizes to these challenges was then considered, based on lessons from the literature on innovation prizes and dialogue with sector experts. A number of areas of potential intervention were identified, including some aspects of clean cooking, mini-grid development and raising public awareness of the value offered by certain technologies. Areas where innovation prizes might not be effective were also identified, including mobilising finance – an issue faced by many technologies – and policy reform.

The major conclusions from this analysis were:

  • In most cases the factors limiting access to cleaner and more efficient energy supply are at the level of market formation, financing and policy. The challenges are not primarily of a technical/engineering nature. This means that the challenges lie in areas where historically innovation prizes have not been widely used.
  • In spite of this, we were able to identify a number of aspects of the problems where innovation prizes might be useful.
  • Few, if any, of the problems lend themselves to ‘global’ solutions. The specific manifestations of a lack of access to energy vary from country to country, market to market, technology to technology. A detailed analysis of each specific context is required, followed by careful and appropriate prize design if an innovation prize is to be effective.

From this first phase of the research we believe that innovation prizes may be a useful tool to use alongside other types of intervention in specific contexts. Prizes linked to increased liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) access in Ghana will be run as a way of testing the usefulness of innovation prizes as a development tool.

Citation

Collings, S. Stimulating solutions to energy access through the use of innovation prizes. Ideas to Impact, London, UK (2015)

Stimulating solutions to energy access through the use of innovation prizes

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