Research

IREK research contributes to answering two groups of questions about renewable electrification with the aim to inform policies that lead to employment opportunities, income generation and household access to electricity. The first set of research questions are related to the role of global technology collaboration, while the second set of research questions are related to the role of local policies and institutions.

The IREK project studies two specific low-carbon technologies – solar photovoltaic and wind power. Although electrification with green energy is not a new phenomenon, the scale and speed of current and forecasted growth in renewables is unprecedented. The project seeks to highlight how solar and wind technologies can be more effectively introduced to and help enhance production and innovation capabilities that can reduce energy poverty in Kenya while also creating domestic jobs and business activity. The project has a special focus on applications in the form of small scale energy production with special relevance for rural access to electricity.

The role of global technology collaboration

The IREK project examines global technology collaborations and how skills and capabilities from external actors may become internalised and shaped to help more appropriate pathways of low carbon development in the local context. In other words, the focus is on local learning in global technology collaborations and the facilitating or inhibiting role that trade and foreign investments may play. Some key questions are:

  • Where will the most relevant technologies for wind and solar driven electrification in Kenya come from?
  • Is South-South technology collaboration more relevant in this respect, compared to North-South collaboration?
  • How important is the ‘software’ element of this technology cooperation (business models and capabilities) compared to ‘hardware’ element (equipment)?

The role of local policies and institutions

The IREK project studies the role of public policies, institutional settings and organisational forms in realising the potential. While global technology collaborations may act as vehicles for technology transfer, a key proposition in the project is that the local innovation systems determine how technologies are absorbed and deployed and with what impact. Key questions are:

  • How to design policies to ensure that the process of renewable electrification in Kenya leads to local job creation and income generation?
  • What incentives will be necessary to make the adoption of these technologies more attractive?
  • What types of technological and soft capacity building are most urgently needed?

Project design and methods

The IREK project brings together two research fields, development studies and innovation studies, to address the problem of access to sustainable energy. The project combines quantitative analysis, including the use of survey data, with qualitative analysis and case studies. Interactive learning with policy makers and other stakeholders is an integral part of the project design.

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