12 October, 2018 Press release

Innovation and entrepreneurship needed to fully deliver on clean energy access goals

Vienna, 10 October 2018 – On 3 October 2018, a high-level conference on “Regional Cooperation to Accelerate Sustainable Energy Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries” was organized by the Austrian EU Presidency and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in conjunction with the Informal Meeting of the EU Directors General for Development Cooperation. The meeting discussed how regional approaches and tools could be used accelerate the uptake of decentralized renewable technology markets in low-income countries.

Prior to the conference, technology start-ups and businesses from Africa and Europe were invited to a Business Forum to discuss the practical barriers they are facing in making access to decentralized renewable energy solutions in rural and remote areas a reality by 2030. The forum was organized by the Africa-EU Energy Partnership (AEEP), the Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE), the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs (BMEIA), the European Commission, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and UNIDO.

Wolfgang Moser, Director at the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs of Austriasaid: “860 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa still depend on fuel-wood and kerosene for their daily cooking. A change to sustainable uses of energy such as hydro-, wind- and solar-power would not only reduce carbon-emissions but provide people with reliable and affordable energy. This change needs to be lobbied globally.”

Martin Lugmayr, Sustainable Energy Expert of UNIDO explained: “UNIDO assists the regional commissions in Africa in the establishment of sustainable energy centers. The centers are important drivers for the uptake of decentralized renewable energy technology markets. The promotion of domestic clean energy innovation and entrepreneurship is an important priority for these centers.”

As a result of the interactive panel discussions with 10 start-up and SME companies from and active in Africa, the need for support to the private sector to deliver clean energy access solutions in a timely and efficient way was highlighted. The following key recommendations were made:

  1. Large, donor supported patient debt, equity and results-based financing tools are needed to bring in other financiers and to allow proven models to scale;
  2. Donor support is needed to de-risk tools such as off-taker risk guarantees, and political and forex risk mitigation, to allow companies to truly deliver last mile / universal energy; and
  3. Strong focus on the supply(ier) side complementary to the demand-side is needed. Donor support for economically productive local activity is urgently needed in the form of microfinance and entrepreneurship support. 

At the same occasion, ARE and AEEP launched its latest publication on “Energy Access from the Bottom Up: Start-up and SME Showcase 2018,” where Marcus Wiemann, Executive Director of ARE emphasized that that the private sector was well prepared to pick up its role.

 “Given that mini-grid companies are central to Africa’s energy future to achieving global goals a reality by 2030, we strongly recommend that policymakers take note of the sector’s needs. Decisionmakers can consult the summary which has been developed together with the companies working on the ground for further information.” Marcus Wiemann said.

The Business Forum and the High-Level Conference was an important preparatory meeting for the EU-Africa Summit to be organized in December in Vienna.


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