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IDRC announces investment in clean energy for development

IDRC is investing CAD18.4 million in 27 countries under the Clean Energy for Development: A Call for Action initiative. Twelve research teams are investigating how small businesses can drive and benefit from energy transitions while enhancing economic prospects for women and youth. Some research projects work directly with implementers, investors and funders of low-carbon energy projects.
A woman uses a solar-powered tent to dry fish in Malawi.
IDRC/Asafu Chijere
More evidence is needed to scale clean energy solutions like this solar-powered fish dryer.

The Clean Energy for Development: A Call for Action (CEDCA) initiative aims to fill important knowledge and capacity gaps in the clean energy field in the Global South. Investments in sustainable energy transitions in low-income countries are already large. International organizations and private impact investors — seeking to act on the climate emergency and generate positive benefits to society as well as financial returns — are growing their portfolios. 

But the bulk of these efforts still need to go to scale and will benefit from lessons learned on scaling. To succeed, governments, international organizations and public and private investors need evidence on useful business models, financing instruments and policy innovations.

There is also growing interest to explore the intersection of climate action, inclusion and gender equality, but evidence is needed on what does and does not work to promote clean energy transitions that benefit all, including women and marginalized groups.

Read about the CEDCA projects:

Led by the Institute for Economic Justice, this project takes a supply approach to clean energy, contributing new knowledge on how public policy can foster decent work and sustainable livelihoods for workers — particularly women and youth. The research will focus on strategies to locally embed the transition to clean energy with measures that include micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.

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Catalytic Climate Finance Facility (CC Facility) aims to help close the finance gaps that currently hinder effective and inclusive climate action, including access to clean energy. A partnership between Convergence and the Climate Policy Initiative, the CC Facility will develop a learning hub to generate new evidence and highlight existing evidence on best practices for mobilizing private capital investment in support of climate action, gender equality and other social inclusion goals. Expected results include better financing instruments, improved measurement tools and impact reporting, and more bankable solutions in the pipeline. 

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Some Bolivian enterprises in rural and peri-urban areas are adopting innovative solutions through non-conventional renewable energy, including solar and biomass technologies. Fundación Bariloche will study how to incorporate these kinds of decentralized and inclusive renewable energy systems into the country’s production chain and plans for clean energy transition. The researchers are engaging stakeholders by testing and implementing innovative solutions in the field, with particular attention to integrating women and young people along the clean energy value chain.

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The African Centre for Technology Studies will generate evidence on policies to support youth- and women-led clean energy enterprises in sub-Saharan Africa. The research will analyze the systemic factors that enhance or constrain women and youth’s access to business opportunities in clean energy innovation and entrepreneurship. The project will also create incubation hubs to pilot and scale enterprises and business models that have empowerment and transformational potential for women and youth, while promoting learning. 

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Through this project, the Aspen Institute and 2XGlobal seek to improve pathways to growth for women-led enterprises in clean energy. The project supports the creation of a collaborative research fund for partnerships between local researchers and organizations that support entrepreneurs. The partnerships will improve understanding and reduce barriers to women’s participation in clean energy. The research will also generate knowledge on the gender-smart solutions developed by Southern investment funds active in the sector.

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Smallholders produce approximately 85% of Africa's agriculture, but agricultural mechanization is low; farmers typically cultivate their land by hand and only 5% of land is irrigated. The United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa aims to improve the productivity and income of rural smallholder farmers through research on low-cost, clean-energy powered technology solutions and enhanced prospects for clean power innovations in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Senegal. 

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Econoler will carry out an analysis of the energy-efficiency market and policy framework in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia to identify avenues for a just transition. The research will generate policy recommendations to address the regional and gender-based barriers to energy efficiency investments. The knowledge will also inform investors’ design of sustainable, energy-efficiency investment vehicles that are accessible to women and youth entrepreneurs, and that finance innovations to meet the needs of women and youth, such as clean cooking solutions, efficient lighting and energy for income-generating activities. 

The Government of Senegal has committed to increase the share of renewable energies in the national energy mix to 40% by 2035. But, despite the growing availability of affordable technological solutions, the transition is slow to materialize. Développement international Desjardins leads this collaborative project with Senegalese and Canadian partners to support the transition by increasing the participation of women and youth in renewable energy value chains. The research will investigate the systemic barriers women and youth face to access business opportunities in this sector and facilitate and mobilize their involvement. 

The Partnership for Economic Policy will focus on small-scale, off-grid, low-carbon technologies in agriculture in Burkina Faso, Kenya, Uganda, and Vietnam. The research will generate evidence-based policy recommendations on best practices for MSMEs to become resilient and adapt to climate change. It will identify country-specific challenges to adopting renewable energy solutions and their potential for social inclusion and impact at scale. 

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The Economic Research Forum leads research to assess existing policy frameworks and impediments to adopting renewable energy in six energy importing countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Through case studies, and by documenting obstacles to renewable energy adoption by MSMEs, the research aims to foster a clean energy transition that helps generate more and better employment opportunities for women and young people.

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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) aims to achieve gender balance in the energy sector by 2030. To help ensure that women and men have equal opportunities to enter and succeed in energy-related fields in the private sector, ECOWAS is evaluating its current strategies and testing innovative approaches to inform the creation of new programs for business start-ups as well as for technical, vocational, entrepreneurship and business management training in the sector.

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The Government of Bhutan has identified sustainably powered lift irrigation — systems that lift water from low-lying areas to mountainous terrain — as key to increasing agricultural productivity and for the country to become self-sufficient in food. The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development will assess the potential scale and scope of renewable energy solutions to power these irrigation systems and uncover the specific community-level barriers that can prevent women from taking part in this transition. Women represent 53% of the Bhutanese population employed in agriculture. 

Some of these selected projects have yet to complete IDRC’s administrative grant-approval process.

These 12 projects will be announced on Sunday, December 3, 2023, at the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. 

The initiative builds on previous investment in climate finance, the Gender Equality in a Low Carbon World initiative and the Transforming the Care Economy through Impact Investing initiative.