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New book about Innovation and Renewable Electrification in Kenya

24-02-22

The Danida funded research project on Innovation and Renewable Electrification in Kenya (IREK) came to an end in 2021 and the process culminated with the publication by Routledge of a new book called ‘Building Innovation Capabilities for Sustainable Industrialisation. Renewable Electrification in Developing Economies’. Elena Adamo interviewed the authors, Margrethe Holm Andersen, Rebecca Hanlin, Rasmus Lema and Charles Nzila, about why they wrote the book.

What was your motivation for writing this book?

Ultimately, we want to support local and global policymaking and choices by showing which renewable energy pathways may promote inclusive and sustainable development. The intention was to give specific recommendations on how countries can ensure transformative innovation policies, recommendations based on a thorough analysis of renewable energy policies and practices in selected developing economies. We wrote the book to make the key findings from our interdisciplinary research on renewable electrification and sustainable industrialisation in developing economies available to a wider public. We focus on renewable energy projects and their linkages, covering both small and large projects using mainly solar and wind energy, and we present lessons learnt on what works and what may not work so well based on our research in Kenya, Ethiopia and a few other countries.

What are the main messages you want to transmit in the book?
While renewable energy projects can help develop capabilities useful not only for enhanced access to energy but also for sustainable industrialisation, this is not something that happens automatically! It requires deliberate policies that help support the development of innovative capabilities, and local content requirements in renewable energy projects can be a helpful tool in this context. A broad and holistic approach is required, where energy policies are supplemented by policies in education and industrialisation to facilitate interactive learning at many different levels and with many different actors. Local content requirements are a particularly interesting tool in this context.

How do you think the implementation of the key recommendations will influence Kenya and other countries?
If implemented, the recommendations may help build more innovative capabilities in renewable energy and sustainable industrialisation in Kenya. When capabilities to install and maintain new types of technologies in the wind and solar energy sectors are developed among local stakeholders, they are also more likely to use their knowledge, skills and resources in other projects or activities. We have seen examples of companies using experience from renewable energy projects in Kenya to engage in other projects in Kenya and even, in some cases, in other countries in the Southern African region. A prerequisite for this to happen is that local actors are engaged in the design and implementation of renewable energy projects. This can help develop their capabilities and increase their chances for winning new contracts for other projects. For stakeholders from the public sector, it is important to know about the opportunities that renewable energy projects provide.

More renewable energy projects and more innovative capabilities in Kenya will also help Kenya keep emissions of CO2 low. Lessons learned may also help other countries when following up on the promises made in connection with COP26 on combating climate change. For countries like Denmark, where both public and private actors are involved in renewable energy projects, it is important to understand the barriers and opportunities that exist for partners to develop their capabilities. Improving the design of projects so they facilitate more learning is key – and it should be a shared responsibility.

Reference:
Lema, R., Andersen, M. H., Hanlin, R., & Nzila, C. (2021). Building Innovation Capabilities for Sustainable Industrialisation. (R. Lema, M. H. Andersen, R. Hanlin, & C. Nzila, Eds.). London: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003054665

About the Authors:
Rasmus Lema is Associate Professor at UNU-MERIT, United Nations University and Aalborg University Business School, Denmark
Margrethe Holm Andersen is Senior Advisor at the Department of Political Science, Aalborg University, Denmark
Rebecca Hanlin is Senior Consultant at the African Centre for Technology Studies in Nairobi, Kenya
Charles Nzila is a Senior Researcher at the School of Engineering, Moi University, Kenya

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