Sustainable Energy for All: Innovation, technology and pro-poor green transformations, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Sustainable Energy for All

Innovation, technology and pro-poor green transformations, 1st Edition

By David Ockwell, Rob Byrne


214 pages | 15 B/W Illus.

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Despite decades of effort and billions of dollars spent, two thirds of people in sub-Saharan Africa still lack access to electricity, a vital pre-cursor to economic development and poverty reduction. Ambitious international policy commitments seek to address this, but scholarship has failed to keep pace with policy ambitions, lacking both the empirical basis and the theoretical perspective to inform such transformative policy aims.

Sustainable Energy for All aims to fill this gap. Through detailed historical analysis of the Kenyan solar PV market the book demonstrates the value of a new theoretical perspective based on Socio-Technical Innovation System Building. Importantly, the book goes beyond a purely academic critique to detail exactly how a Socio-Technical Innovation System Building approach might be operationalized in practice, facilitating both a detailed plan for future comparative research as well as a clear agenda for policy and practice. These plans are based on a systemic perspective that is more fit for purpose to inform transformative policy ambitions like the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All by 2030 initiative and to underpin pro-poor pathways in sustainable energy access.

This book will be of interest to academic researchers, policy makers and practitioners in the field of sustainable energy access and low carbon development more broadly.


"This book makes a hugely valuable, timely and action-oriented contribution to academic and policy debates about sustainable energy access in what is without doubt the most critical and insightful treatment of the subject to date. Bringing together hitherto unconnected fields of scholarship it moves well beyond the usual preoccupations with the technical and economic to productively explore some of the neglected historical, socio-cultural and political dimensions of energy access. Combining comparative empirical analysis with a very sophisticated and insightful conceptual framework concerned with national socio-technical innovation systems this book is essential reading for anyone seeking a more systematic understanding both of the specific challenges of enhancing sustainable energy access and of wider pro-poor green transformations." – Marcus Power, Professor of Geography, Durham Energy Institute, University of Durham, UK

"This is a highly significant book and should be read by anybody interested in the challenges surrounding the pursuit of expanded access to modern energy services and low carbon transitions in the so-called developing world. Eschewing the dominant foci on hardware financing and private sector entrepreneurship, Dave Ockwell and Rob Byrne call for a much more nuanced and systemic understanding of how transformative change might be achieved. They emphasize in particular that sustainable energy access must be seen as an explicitly political problem "with solutions that are themselves political as much as they are financial, technical or social." I am one hundred percent in agreement with them." – Ed Brown, Co-Chair of the Low Carbon Energy for Development Network and Senior Lecturer in Geography, University of Loughborough, UK

"The book is a must read for all who are interested in the transitions to low carbon economies, especially in the energy sector. The Socio-Technical Innovation System Building proposed provides an alternative theoretical perspective for understanding the dynamics of emerging clean energy technologies in emerging countries." – Kevin Urama, Senior Advisor to the President on Inclusive and Green Growth, African Development Bank

"This book is a thoughtful, timely, and very useful addition to the literature pertaining to the transfer, development, and adoption of sustainable energy technologies (and, indeed, other technologies with similar attributes), which in turn is critical to the attainment of climate and other sustainable development goals. Drawing on detailed empirical research on the solar PV market in Kenya as well as the literature on innovation systems and socio-technical transitions, Ockwell and Byrne's analysis will make a significant contribution both to the theoretical discussions and the growing practical efforts to effectively deliver sustainable energy technologies for the poor." – Ambuj Sagar, Vipula and Mahesh Chaturvedi, Professor of Policy Studies, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, India

"Translating the rhetoric of 'sustainable energy access for all' into reality requires that we understand the political and economic work involved in the process of innovation and the reasons for its success and failure. Sustainable Energy for All gives us a new and unique insight into these processes as they are unfolding in Kenya and beyond, giving us the insights needed to understand how to realise the potential of energy transitions in Africa." – Harriet Bulkeley, Professor of Geography, Durham Energy Institute, University of Durham, UK

"The challenge of progressing towards a pro-poor, green and sustainable energy pathway in Africa is a pressing development question today. And yet, we lack the conceptual tools and empirical analysis that support socially informed policies for transformative change. Ockwell and Byrne have done us a tremendous service in meticulously unpacking the interdependencies between the social context and innovation opportunities for energy access in Africa. This is a must read for anyone concerned with the issues of the African energy project – written with clarity and persuasive logic." – Yacob Mulugetta, Professor of Energy and Development Policy, Department of Science, Technology, Engineering & Public Policy (STEaPP), University College London, UK

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Beyond Hardware Financing and Private Sector Entrepreneurship 2. Innovation Systems for Technological Change and Economic Development 3. Innovation in the Context of Social Practices and Socio-Technical Regimes 4. Emergence and Articulation of the Kenyan Solar PV Market 5. Policy Regime Interactions and Emerging Markets 6. Learning from the Kenyan Solar PV Innovation History 7. Conclusions: Towards Socio-Technical Innovation System Building

About the Authors

David Ockwell is Reader in Geography at the University of Sussex, UK, and Deputy Director of Research in the ESRC STEPS Centre. He is also a Senior Research Fellow in the Sussex Energy Group and a Fellow of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. David sits on the board of the Low Carbon Energy for Development Network.

Rob Byrne is Lecturer in SPRU (Science Policy Research Unit) at the University of Sussex, UK. With David, Rob co-convenes the Energy and Climate Research Domain of the ESRC STEPS Centre. He is also a Research Fellow in the Sussex Energy Group and a Fellow of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. Rob sits on the board of the Low Carbon Energy for Development Network and is a member of Climate Strategies.

About the Series

Pathways to Sustainability

Pathways to Sustainability Series

This book series addresses core challenges around linking science and technology and environmental sustainability with poverty reduction and social justice. It is based on the work of the Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability (STEPS) Centre, a major investment of the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The STEPS Centre brings together researchers at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and SPRU (Science and Technology Policy Research) at the University of Sussex with a set of partner institutions in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Series Editors:

Ian Scoones and Andy Stirling - STEPS Centre at the University of Sussex

Editorial Advisory Board:

Steve Bass, Wiebe E. Bijker, Victor Galaz, Wenzel Geissler, Katherine Homewood, Sheila Jasanoff, Melissa Leach, Colin McInnes, Suman Sahai, Andrew Scott

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Sustainable Development
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Environmental Policy
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Power Resources / Alternative & Renewable