A year of progress for decentralized renewable energy and clean cooking

January 7, 2020

Now 2020 has arrived, it is time to look back and proudly share some of the key results from our Green and Inclusive Energy Program in 2019. In the past year, Hivos continued the battle to overcome two major challenges related to achieving universal energy access; putting clean cooking firmly on the agenda and increasing finance for decentralized renewable energy (DRE) solutions.

Including clean cooking in the energy access agenda

Formally clean cooking has always been part of Sustainable Development Goal 7 (ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all), but progress on clean cooking has been low. The share of the population with access to clean cooking fuels and technology has only marginally increased from 57 per cent in 2010 to 61 per cent in 2017 and with population growth the percentage might actually decrease instead of increase in the coming decade. Moreover, finance directed to this specific goal has lagged behind and even declined in the past years – only USD 32 million in 2017 was tracked, accounting for 73 percent of the 2015-16 estimated USD 117 million.

2019 however has marked an important year for the clean cooking sector and hopefully we have set a course of no return.

Coalition of Leaders for Clean Cooking

Although the recognition of the importance of clean cooking for achieving SDG7 is not new, in 2019, several institutions such as the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO) started to ‘walk the talk’. Hivos and Energia played a pivotal role in this regard. Together with Hon. Dr. Kandeh Yumkella – Parliamentary Leader Sierra Leone, first CEO of Sustainable Energy for All and former UN Special Representative and Director General of UNIDO – and UN DESA, we initiated the High Level Coalition of Leaders for Clean Cooking. This coalition, which will be comprised of Heads of State and ministerial level, aims to create the necessary political momentum for clean cooking solutions, increase public support, drive potential solutions and spur investments.

The initiators presented the idea during the Climate Week in New York in September 2019, after which the WHO, UNDP, UNDESA and the World Bank took the initiative forward and now formally host the Coalition – with the WHO acting as secretariat. Several countries have already committed their participation (The Netherlands, Kenya, Norway, and Nepal) or shown interest. The Coalition will officially launch in 2020.

The coalition will be backed by two other initiatives, the Health and Energy Platform for Action (HEPA) led by the WHO and the Clean Cooking Fund of the World Bank. The HEPA aims at strengthening the political and technical cooperation between the health and energy sectors at both global and country level. The initial focus is on clean cooking and energy for health care facilities. The Clean Cooking Fund will provide the much needed financial and technical support to help countries incentivize the private sector to deliver clean cooking services. Both the Fund and the Coalition of Leaders are connected to the HEPA through the strategic advisory group that will advise on ways forward. The strategic advisory group consists of UN entities, including WHO, UNDESA, UNDP, World Bank, civil society organizations, academia, government representatives, and financial institutions.

Beyond Fire

Another important contribution that spurred debate in the clean cooking sector is the research on electric cooking by both Hivos and Modern Energy Cooking Services Program (MECS), a five-year program funded by UK Aid (DFID). Whereas electric cooking before had not been recognized as a feasible alternative to other cooking solutions, the research has shown that electric cooking is now cost-competitive and thus provides, economically, a viable solution. Electric cooking is now more and more seen as part of the solution, building on the progress in electrification.

Increasing finance for decentralized renewable energy solutions

There is a widespread agreement that for achieving energy access for all decentralized renewable energy solutions are crucial. Moreover, institutions acknowledge that there is a huge lack of funding for these solutions. However, investment in DRE continue to remain a small proportion (1.2 percent) of the total finance for electricity tracked. Standing at USD 430 million in 2017, investments in the sector only marginally increased compared to 2015-16.

Finance Workstream

To unlock more finance, in 2019, Hivos together with the governments of Kenya, The Netherlands and Germany initiated a Finance Work stream, as one of the four proposed work streams of the Action Plan for DRE. The Action Plan for DRE is a response to the Global Agenda for Accelerated SDG7 Action, presented at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July 2018, in which the need to strengthen the uptake of DRE solutions was underscored. The Finance work stream is focused on increasing the availability of supportive finance for DRE solutions through sharing of knowledge and best practices, prototyping and developing clear recommendations. Members range from the abovementioned governments to IRENA, World Bank, UNIDO, Selco, KfW, African Development Bank and the European Union.

Exploration of new financing mechanisms

Hivos has also explored funding sources and finance instruments to direct funding towards DRE solutions. This exploration resulted in an often downloaded paper that provides an impetus to the work on accessing affordable credit and to better understand what has worked and what opportunities are worth exploring in the future. The paper can be found here: ‘Financing Decentralized Renewable Energy for the Last Mile – What funding sources and instruments can be applied?’


With the progress made in 2019, we are optimistic about 2020 and look forward to a fruitful last year of the Green & Inclusive Energy Program. Keep following us via this website and on twitter @HivosEnergy.