The IREK project brings together two research fields, development studies and innovation studies, to address the problem of access to sustainable energy.
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 production and innovation capabilities that can reduce energy poverty in Kenya while also creating domestic jobs and business activity. There is a special focus on applications in the form of small scale energy production with special relevance for rural access to electricity.
To begin with, the project will examine 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 order words, the focus will be on local learning in global technology collaborations and the facilitating or inhibiting role that trade and foreign investments may play in this respect.
Secondly, it will study the role of public policies, institutional settings and participatory organizational forms in realising this potential. While global technology collaborations may act as vehicles for technology transfer, the local innovation systems determine how technologies are absorbed and deployed and with what impact.
The project will combine 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.
It contributes to answering two groups of questions about renewable electrification.
Questions about the role of global technology collaboration:
- 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)?
Questions about the role of local policies and institutions:
- 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?
Through answering these questions, the project aims to build capacity and new insights with the ultimate objective to inform policies that leads to employment opportunities, income generation and household access to electricity.