Solar E-Waste Challenge

This is a program to support innovations in off-grid solar e-waste management

Off-grid solar technologies provide life-changing access to modern energy services for people and communities currently living without electricity. The global market for these products is nascent but growing quickly. In 2017, the off-grid solar sector provided new or enhanced access to energy for an estimated 73 million households – over 360 million people – with significant year-over-year growth expected into the future.

E-waste generated by the off-grid solar sector represents less than 0.1% of global e-waste streams, but investment now will ensure the industry’s growth is sustainable over the long term and further enhance the sector’s reputation as a leader in environmental responsibility.

Off-grid industry leaders are exploring potential e-waste management solutions, such as product repair initiatives and preventative maintenance, but these efforts remain nascent and under-resourced. The Global LEAP Awards recognizes the role of waste reduction in the initial product design stage and seeks to support more sustainable product design as part of broader efforts to promote sustainable solar e-waste management across the off-grid sector.

Past Competitions

USAID made $1.2 million in grant funding available for the second Solar E-Waste Challenge to support the research and development of more sustainable solar home systems and battery technologies for the off-grid solar sector in sub-Saharan Africa. The winning innovations extended product and/or component lifespan; enhanced product repairability and recyclability; facilitated refurbishment, reuse, or repurposing; and or reduce rare metal and hazardous material composition.

The Awardees received funding to support the implementation of their proposed projects over an 18-month period, with individual awards ranging from $50,000-$300,000. The application window is now closed.

For further information, please contact e-waste@globalleapawards.org.



2019 Solar E-Waste Challenge

In 2019, the inaugural Global LEAP Awards Solar E-Waste Challenge made $1.1 million in grant funding, supported by USAID and UK aid through the Scaling Off-Grid Energy (SOGE) and Transforming Energy Access (TEA) programs, available to companies with innovative approaches to e-waste management in the off-grid solar sector in sub-Saharan Africa, which includes solar lanterns, solar home systems (SHSs), and solar-powered appliances at their end-of-life.

Grant funding was available for recycling and e-waste management companies who work with (or planned to work with) the off-grid solar sector operating across sub-Saharan Africa, other specialized e-waste service providers, and off-grid solar distributors with plans to expand end-of-life operations.

The objective of the Challenge was to provide funding for pilot or early-stage projects that focused on data gaps, logistical challenges, and operational processes. The competition received 159 nominations to implement projects in 49 countries across the continent. Eight winners representing five countries were selected and are currently implementing diverse projects over a 12-month period.

Case studies on the inaugural Solar E-Waste Challenge Winners were released in early 2021.