The IREK project brings together two research fields – development studies and innovation studies. Based on research at various levels (project, (sub) sector and national levels and including interactions with global value chains (the international level), IREK seeks to provide a better foundation for selecting and deploying available technologies in a way that increases inclusiveness and contributes to poverty reduction. IREK research contributes to answering two groups of questions about renewable electrification: The first set of research questions relate to the role of
global technology collaboration, while the second set of research questions focus on the role of local policies and institutions.
The IREK project studies solar photovoltaic and wind power technologies. 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 used to 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 small-scale energy applications with special relevance for rural access to electricity. The project is placed at the intersection of SDG 7 (clean energy) and SDG 9 (sustainable industrialisation).
The IREK project engages substantially with debates about directions of development by examining distinct pathways of electrification with differing transformative potentials when it comes to wider benefits (beyond electricity) from electrification processes. It addresses local sustainable industrialisation ‘outcomes’ arising from renewable electrification processes and examines underlying explanatory factors such as the ‘social choice’ underlying particular directionalities in techno-economic progress and associated circumstances such as unequal distribution of technological capability and economic power between different actors.
For example, our project’s findings highlight the importance of developing energy policy in consultation with education and training policies and local content policies. That without these, the results of various electrification pathways will be not always lead to long term clean energy security or a manufacturing and services sectors that supports the development of clean energy solutions. We find that there are significant differences in the opportunities and challenges facing electrification pathways in Kenya focusing on small scale as opposed to large scale wind or solar projects. Specifically, small scale projects are most likely to have more opportunities for developing local manufacturing and services sector capabilities than large scale. In both large and small scale project across both energy fields, there is the opportunity to build significant engineering expertise and for large scale solar and wind projects, also engineering, procurement and construction management capabilities. We find that not all projects were conceived with the issues of capability building in mind. This was also not helped (until recently) by facilitatory policies that assist in ensuring energy policies around the energy mix focus on a wider set of development outcomes (beyond only clean energy production).
The project includes a trans-disciplinary team of 12 researchers from the social sciences and from the field of engineering/technology and includes staff from the following institutions: Aalborg University; African Centre for Technology Studies:; Moi University, Kenya: and finally, from DTU Management Engineering (a UNEP/DTU partnership). We have extensive interaction with a range of stakeholders.
For more information on the project, please see https://www.irekproject.net/ The project runs until mid-2020 and is funded by research grant from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Grant: