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The UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, is offering £20 million ($26 million) to innovative solutions that are tackling energy poverty by providing clean, affordable and secure energy access in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia or South East Asia.

The competition, Energy Catalyst round 8 – which is open now and runs until 16 September 2020 – seeks to encourage the development of products and services that help countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, South East Asia or multiple regions access secure, low cost and low carbon energy.

They must be targeted at people, public services and local enterprises who are unable to afford or access existing solutions, or who lack the time or expertise to successfully use those solutions.

Read more: Energy access to address the great divide

Providing background on the competition, Innovate UK explained: “The Energy Catalyst’s mission is to accelerate the innovation needed to end energy poverty. By providing financial and advisory support to innovators we help create strategic partnerships, uncover insights and develop business models to improve lives in Africa and Asia.”

The challenges of energy poverty include:

  • over 1 billion people do not have access to electricity
  • over 3 billion people rely on solid fuels and kerosene for cooking and heating
  • grid based systems face economic and governance barriers
  • vast majority (80%) of those gaining access to electricity worldwide are in urban areas

Funding is available through Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). To be eligible projects must address:

  • energy access needs of sub-Saharan Africa / South and South-East Asia
  • all three areas of the ‘Energy trilemma’ – cost, emissions, and security of supply / energy access
  • gender equality and social inclusion.

Clean energy technologies

The competition is also co-funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (Dfid). Up to £3 million will be prioritised for projects specifically for energy storage. Dfid is also particularly interested in supporting projects in the areas of:

  • modern cooking
  • sustainable cooling
  • next generation solar
  • efficient and productive appliances
  • technologies and business models that help leave no-one behind

Commenting on the announcement, international environment minister Lord Goldsmith said: As we recover from coronavirus, it is vital that we prioritise changing our relationship with the planet for good. Finding innovative and affordable ways to help people use clean energy will make a real difference in this mission.

As COP26 president, the UK will be bringing countries together to take action on climate change, including by committing to greener energy sources.

The previous seven rounds of the Energy Catalyst has seen a commitment of £140 million funding – with an additional £60 million of co-funding and £75 million private funding– of 345 projects with 1,040 partners of which 113 have been non-UK based.

Read more about Energy Catalyst round 8