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Using Low-Cost Energy-Efficient Appliances to Tackle Poverty

2 June 2016

The OU-led Low-Cost Technologies Project, funded by EPSRC-DFID, uses energy as a central theme by which to increase global understanding of the demand from bottom of the pyramid segments – the estimated four billion of the world's poorest citizens who live on less than $2.50 a day – for low-cost energy-efficient technologies. In particular it explores how such products could be sustainably developed and deployed in developing countries for large-scale impact.

To do this, it takes a three-pronged approach:

  • carrying out market research into choice of low-cost energy-efficient technologies in healthcare facilities, farms and households
  • working with innovation hubs to develop sustainable business plans for incubation of the products
  • measuring the products' impact.

A recent survey, conducted with over 700 respondents in Kenya, focused on understanding consumer preferences for key design features of cookstoves, solar / passive fridges and solar water pumps, together with an integrated suite of healthcare technologies. The information the results provided of the technological, financial and practical parameters deemed most important are already allowing the project to move on to stage two – prototyping, fieldtesting, and working with companies to develop business plans. In turn, through this process, a deeper understanding of the barriers and opportunities for commercialisation of energy-efficient technologies in Kenya will be gained.

A seminar held at the Kenya Climate Innovation Centre – in 2014 voted the 'Most Promising Business Incubator' by the University Business Incubators Index – allowed entrepreneurs working in solar PV, cookstoves and other renewable energy industries to discuss the results in depth, with participants providing feedback on how useful these were for their business plans. As one stated, 'This is the first time I have seen a project that starts from what people need.'

Read more about the Low-Cost Energy Project.

Read full results from the survey.

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