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David Ockwell and Robert Byrne (University of Sussex/ STEPS Centre) gave this presentation at King's College London on 25 February 2014 as part of the Environment, Politics and Development Research Group seminar series.
Despite the potential development benefits of low carbon energy technologies, existing international policy has failed to deliver against the needs of low income countries or poor and marginalised people therein. This seminar presents (and seeks feedback on) preliminary findings from a CDKN-funded project on off-grid solar electrical services in Kenya (see http://steps-centre.org/project/low_carbon_development/ ). Utilising the STEPS Centre’s Pathways Approach, it is argued that the failure of existing policy stems from its tendency to frame low carbon development as a problem of financing low carbon hardware transfer to developing countries. Alternative conceptual framings, building on insights from innovation studies and socio-technical transitions, applied to in-depth historical analysis of the successful adoption of off-grid solar in Kenya, suggest neither hardware financing policies nor the free market are likely to result in widespread uptake of low carbon energy technologies amongst poor countries and poor people therein. Instead, interventions should seek to act as “innovation system builders” with an explicit focus on building inclusive innovation systems via a range of specific capacity building approaches.
Dr David Ockwell is a Senior Lecturer in the Dept of Geography at the University of Sussex and co-convenes the STEPS Centre’s energy and climate domain. He’s also affiliated to the Sussex Energy Group and the Tyndall Centre. David’s research focuses on low carbon development with particular recent emphasis on the implications of international policy in terms of poverty and social justice.
Dr Rob Byrne is a Research Fellow in SPRU (Science and Technology Policy Research) at the University of Sussex. He co-convenes the STEPS Centre’s energy and climate domain with David and is also affiliated to the Sussex Energy Group and the Tyndall Centre. Rob’s research focuses on low carbon development with a particular empirical focus on off-grid solar electrical services in East Africa where he has worked both as a practitioner installing solar home systems as well as conducting academic research on this issue