Solar Appliance Technology Briefs Highlight New Innovations in the Off-Grid Appliances Sector

We delve into how appliances and productive use equipment are key drivers for future energy demand because they deliver the critical energy services households and businesses need to fully unlock the social and economic benefits of electrification

By Yasemin Erboy Ruff, Manager, CLASP

Efficient, affordable and reliable off-grid appliances are an important vehicle for development, touching 16 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Appliances and productive use equipment are key drivers for future energy demand because they deliver the critical energy services households and businesses need to fully unlock the social and economic benefits of electrification.

In recent years, the energy access sector has broadened its focus beyond lighting and mobile phone charging, expanding the narrative of how we deliver energy access. While basic access to lighting remains a critical element of the energy access dialogue, the sector has also set its eyes on increasingly more complicated systems and higher-power technologies capable of supporting multiple appliances.

To keep pace with the growing scope of appliances and productive use equipment, Efficiency for Access has launched the second iteration of its Solar Appliance Technology Briefs. The briefs synthesise the latest market intelligence and chart the pathway to commercialisation for 11 disruptive technologies that are expected to catalyse energy access and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. All these technologies are supported by initiatives within the Efficiency for Access Coalition.

Technologies included in the 2021 Briefs and their relative maturity to other off-grid products

The Briefs build on the market intelligence and insights presented in the first LEIA Technology Summaries. We published this resource at the end of 2017 to help the newly-established Efficiency for Access Coalition navigate a nascent market and make the case for its priority technologies. At the time, there were limited data and reliable research available on the market trends and performance of appliances and enabling technologies suitable for use in resource-constrained settings. Since then, Efficiency for Access, with the help of its partners, has assembled a wealth of information on a number of these technologies across market, consumer and impact research, and its Donor Coalition members have invested nearly £130 million in the high-performing appliances space.

Still, the sector continues to move towards even bigger, bolder solutions. Business model innovations, like pay-as-you-pump, are helping make prohibitively costly appliances like solar water pumps more affordable to more people. New solar alternatives to fossil fuel-powered products are also emerging in the market, from milling (solar mills) to transportation (e-mobility), which we have included in this iteration as the next batch of transformative appliances.

Some recent trends have been surprising — for example, we did not anticipate electric pressure cookers to come out on top among the “advanced electric cooking solutions” identified in 2017. Other innovations align more with the recommendations outlined in the first briefs. For example, improvements in fan efficiency and price were key to unlocking the market globally. Our data now show the adoption of more efficient components — like brushless DC motors — and increased market competition has driven substantial reductions in both fan efficiency and price.

Fan and TV technology trends 2016–2021

We will release a new collection of technology briefs monthly over the summer, with groupings based on our assessment of their market maturity level. Each long-form brief will be accompanied by a short snapshot to provide a quick primer to a wide audience — from interested donors, to new entrants to the appliance sector, to seasoned players who want an easy resource to point their respective networks, too. Each launch will include 2–4 technology briefs and a blog summarising key similarities and differences between the technologies in each grouping. The series will culminate with a synthesis report that will be released in August to bring this whirlwind tour to a close, and provide high-level recommendations and next steps for the sector to consider as a whole, as we collectively seek to bring more off-grid appropriate, quality appliances further up the market development curve.

First up are near-to-market off-grid fans and TVs, which you can find here. Compared to other appliances, the off-grid fan and TV markets are considerably matured due to a high penetration rate, relatively affordable product price, and high efficiency.

Please subscribe to our newsletter to be notified of new releases. All of the briefs and corresponding snapshots will be posted in our publication library. All blog posts in this series will feature a synthesis of cross-cutting trends across four technology categories: near-to-market appliances (televisions, fans), emerging appliances (solar water pumps and refrigerators), horizon appliances (electric pressure cookers, cold storage, milling equipment, and e-mobility) and enabling technologies (permanent magnet motors, ICT equipment, and interoperability).