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April 3rd, 2017

Delivering Sustainable Energy to Developing Countries

The international NGO, energising development (EnDev), was set up in 2004 by the Dutch and German governments to deal with a pressing global problem: citizens’ access to energy, particularly electricity. It focuses on the development of sustainable energy in the nations and regions that are most in need, and works in partnership with local administrations and agencies as well as other international NGOs. By 2015 it had enabled 15.5 million people around the world to have access to sustainable energy services.

The initiative

This is not a problem that can be addressed by one country alone, and one of the NGOs that is tackling it is “the energising development (EnDev) programme, a multi-donor partnership, currently financed and governed by the governments of the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and Sweden”.[2] It focuses on the development of green energy in the regions that need it most. “EnDev promotes sustainable access to modern energy services for households, social institutions and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The supported energy services meet the needs of the poor, i.e. they are long lasting, affordable, and appreciated by users.”[3]

EnDev began operations in September 2005. “[It] had the initial objective of providing sustainable access to modern energy services to 3.1 million people by the end of 2009. The objective was surpassed with a total number of 5.1 million people. Consequently, the programme has been scaled up several times. The target was increased to 19 million people by the end of 2019.”[4]

Its activities in the African countries Kenya, Mali and Mozambique give an indication of the scale and scope of its work. “EnDev Kenya is composed of three core components: stoves, solar and biogas. The first component facilitates promotion of improved cook stoves (ICS) in the Transmara, western, lower eastern, and central districts. EnDev Kenya supports individuals, institutions or groups involved in the market of energy saving technology by providing training in technical and business skills. The second, [solar] component of EnDev Kenya facilitates access to quality pico photovoltaic (PV) systems in rural areas. For the third component, biogas, the objective is building capacity of local companies, demonstrating technical and economic viability of power generation from biogas technology, focusing on small and medium agro-based enterprises.”[5]

The focus in Mali has been on electricity. “Over the last seven years, EnDev Mali focused on PV-driven communal battery charging stations to provide basic electricity services to households, considering the national grid will not be available in most rural areas for a long time to come. To complement this, EnDev provided stand-alone PV systems to electrify communal social infrastructure (schools, health posts, city halls and solar street lights) and improve the service delivery of local administrations.”[6]

“EnDev Mozambique is involved in grid densification, pico and MHP plants, small PV systems and ICS... EnDev Mozambique provides training for importers, wholesalers and retailers of solar products on technical, quality and business aspects. The solar component focuses on the establishment of training centres, testing facilities and a research centre while supporting marketing and awareness raising campaigns.”[7]

The challenge

What is taken for granted in many countries is not always available in the developing world. “1.1 billion people are still without electricity and 2.9 billion rely on open fires and traditional stoves for cooking. Operating electricity grids in remote areas is not economically viable for many electricity suppliers in developing and emerging countries. Initiatives for disseminating modern stoves, in turn, face numerous social, cultural and economic challenges.”[1] In addition, there is a need to capitalise on the opportunities for more environmentally friendly sources of energy.

The public impact

EnDev's achievement across the globe has been very significant: “between September 2005 and December 2015, EnDev facilitated access to sustainable energy services for 15.5 million people”.[8]

It has succeeded in reducing poverty and increasing productivity. “In cooperation with its partners, EnDev has enabled... 17,878 social institutions and 34,060 SMEs to gain access to energy. EnDev has also has trained more than 37,000 stove builders, craftsmen, vendors, operators and technicians. Stove builders and solar companies being supported by EnDev achieved average yearly revenues of over EUR25.7 million.”[9]

It has helped its private sector partners to build up their companies. “The newly developed energy companies, service providers and professional stove builders supply consumers with clean, affordable energy. Since 2005, solar companies and stove producers being supported by EnDev have achieved a total worldwide turnover of EUR282 million. The average annual turnover of solar companies was 14.8 million, that of stove producers EUR10.9 million.”[10]

EnDev has made a positive impact on the climate as well as on nutrition. “Today, at a conservative estimate, more than 2.7 million stoves are improving the lives of 11.7 million people; almost 3.8 million people are benefitting from modern lighting. Every stove saves up to 0.50 tonnes of CO2 equivalent each year. This adds up to approximately 1,581,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. The wood and charcoal stoves promoted by EnDev save up to 1,509,000 tonnes of firewood each year which reduces degradation of forests.”[11]

It has also made great strides in increasing access to green energy in educational institutions: “to date, EnDev and its partners have supported more than 8,400 schools to gain access to modern and sustainable energy services”.[12]

EnDev has also recognised those projects that failed to deliver public impact, principally because of the problems of developing and implementing leading-edge technology. “EnDev's original approaches for PV-driven communal battery-charging stations in Mali and MHP in Mozambique, for example, proved unsuitable. In response, EnDev Mozambique closed the MHP component and is closing the PV project in Mali.”[13]

Stakeholder engagement

Several stakeholders were involved in this project, from SMEs to NGOs. The primary international stakeholders of EnDev were the countries and government departments that work together on EnDev. “In December 2004, the Dutch Ministry for Development Cooperation (MFA) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) initiated the programme... In 2011, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs joined the partnership. The Australian Agency for International Development, the UK Department for International Development and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs followed in 2012. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency became the seventh partner in 2015. The EU and Irish Aid have joined EnDev as co-financers.”[14]

As regards SMEs, EnDev “helps local SMEs increase their market opportunities. These cooperation partners are active in the villages. They challenge the last mile by directly engaging with households, especially in rural and dispersed areas.”[15] The EnDev workers on the ground are the main EnDev stakeholders in this context.

There are also a number of local government agencies engaged in EnDev projects. “These included, in Mali, the Agency for Domestic Energy and Rural Electrification (AMADER); in Mozambique, the rural renewable energy agency (FUNAE; Fundo de Energia); and in Kenya, the Ministry of Agriculture.”[16]

There are also other international NGOs working on the projects as partners. “In 2014, EnDev worked on the implementation of project interventions with the national and international NGOs: Stichting Nederlandse Vrijwilligers (SNV), MAEVE, Humanistisch Instituut voor Ontwikkelingssamenwerking (Hivos), PracticalAction, Association pour le Développement de l'Energie Solaire (ADES), Collaborative Labeling and Appliance Standards Program Inc. (CLASP).”[17]

Political commitment

The national governments engaged in EnDev, particularly the Dutch and German governments that initiated the organisation, have demonstrated their commitment to international development and sustainable energy. They have been followed by Australia, the UK, Sweden, Switzerland and Ireland, as well as the EU at supranational level.

There has also been commitment from national governments in the countries receiving EnDev support, for example that of Kenya, which aims to have all villages connected to electricity by 2022 and has shown a willingness to promote green energy. “In 2012, the government zero-rated the import duty and removed the value added tax on renewable energy equipment and accessories. Kenya now has one of the most active commercial photovoltaic (PV) system markets in the developing world.”[18]

Public confidence

Many of the beneficiaries of EnDev support are very positive about the impact of its projects, for example Bangladesh and Rwanda:

  • "In Bangladesh, “88 percent of Solar Home System Users (SHS)... confirm that electric lighting in households has improved their working comfort.”[19]
  • “In Rwanda, interviewed owners of electrified SMEs stated that they work faster and more efficiently now that they have electricity.”[20]

Clarity of objectives

The initial objectives of EnDev were quantifiable and measurable, and steps were undertaken to achieve them throughout the project. After meeting a particular set of objectives, the scope was diversified. This shows that proper planning was made to achieve the goals and these were further diversified subsequently.

As an international organisation, it is committed to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and these inform EnDev's own objectives. “Thus EnDev supports the SDGs in creating markets for energy services to supply people, institutions and SMEs. With modern energy services, people can improve their livelihood and save money. Moreover, modern energy is a tool to create jobs and business opportunities. Finally, energy services can improve productive processes in agriculture as well as in manufacturing and services.”[21]

It has defined clear and measureable objectives throughout its existence. “It had the initial objective of providing sustainable access to modern energy services to 3.1 million people by the end of 2009. The objective was surpassed with a total number of 5.1 million people. Consequently, the programme has been scaled up several times. The target was increased to 19 million people by the end of 2019.”[22]

Strength of evidence

The use of evidence is a key feature of EnDev's work (see also Measurement). “EnDev's detailed monitoring system delivers evidence about projects' progress. Without these data, the programme could not validate the impact of activities or confidently reallocate funds. Successful approaches are scaled and transferred across countries. As new interventions are pursued as small-scale pilots, EnDev also commits to experimentation with innovative approaches.”[23] This applies to its failures as well as its many successes (see Public Impact above).

EnDev makes substantial use of pilots to assess the viability of technologies, as in Mali. “EnDev provided stand-alone PV systems to electrify communal social infrastructure (schools, health posts, city halls and solar street lights) and improve the service delivery of local administrations. For this, EnDev designed pilot mini-grids and the accompanying business plan, and obtained permission for required ‘tarification'. Finally, the country project selected the operator and installed the pilot mini-grid.”[24]

Another example is the green energy project undertaken in Kenya, which made use of a previous collaboration between the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, called the Private Sector Development in Agriculture. “Before starting its activities, EnDev conducted an assessment of what remained of the previous GIZ programme on energy and cook stoves, as it had used approaches similar to the ones EnDev planned to implement.”[25]


The financial feasibility of EnDev is guaranteed by the major national donors. “EnDev has a clearly defined global outcome goal and a global budget - country goals and budgets remain flexible. The overall budget contains a budget to finance promising pilot projects at the country level and a budget dedicated to scaling up successful projects.” The flexibility allows for modifications in funding from year to year. “The financial mechanism comprises financing pilot projects for 2-3 years, rough guidelines determining where funds are to be disbursed, and an accumulation of successful projects. Its dynamic organisational structure allows for additional donors to join.”[26]

The technical feasibility has been demonstrated by EnDev's ability to meet and surpass its objectives (see Public Impact and Clarity of Objectives above). There is a careful and precise analysis of funding requirements based on a cost benefit analysis with an eye to likely public impact. “Projects at the country level are evaluated based on the cost of access per person with access to modern sources of energy. On average, EUR20 is allocated per person for sustainable access to energy. Hence, country-specific measures compete with one another. In order to identify projects that promise success, EnDev supports projects that can prove successful strategies (performance), meet criteria determined by a needs assessment, and match focal areas defined by financiers. This approach allows implementers to quickly and efficiently scale up successful activities and be flexible in reallocating funds among countries according to performance.”[27]


There are several bodies, which have a particular management role assigned to them. The EnDev programme was initiated by the MFA and BMZ. The executive organisations are GIZ and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO). “Country activities are implemented in addition to GIZ by a broad spectrum of organisations among them SNV, Hivos, Practical Action, MAEVE, ADES, AVSI and CLASP.”[28]

At the national level, the Kenyan experience of EnDev indicates the benefits of sound management. “EnDev Kenya's cook stove activities have been very successful: project implementation can be seen as a showcase for good project management and well-established delivery structures... Success partly reflects the programme planning and implementation structure: the country office in Nairobi centrally manages the project. EnDev's activities in the stove sector are divided into western, central, and northern clusters. The three cluster managers lead teams that directly interact with stove operators.”[29]


EnDev makes monitoring and metrics an important component of its role (see also Evidence above), measuring the impact and sustainability of energy access. “EnDev invests about 5 percent [of its funds] in monitoring and evaluation. It conducts baseline studies before project intervention and systematic impact studies after programme beneficiaries gain access to modern energy. Every six months it looks at results and updates its data.”[30] This means that projects have to report within these timeframes. “Another unique feature of EnDev is methodical monitoring. Each project has to report outcome figures every six months. How many stoves were sold? How many companies and schools were electrified?”[31]

It is not just about process. EnDev projects also engage in stringent and realistic data analysis. “The numbers are checked for plausibility and validity. EnDev gathers the figures based on standardised approaches and deliberately uses conservative calculations... The figures are generously adjusted downwards to account for several aspects, such as ‘freerider' effects (people who would have gained access anyway) or to prevent double counting of beneficiaries with access to both energy for cooking and electricity. A sustainable adjustment factor, for example, takes into consideration that the access provided to modern energy technologies might not be sustainable in all cases.”[32]

EnDev applies this degree of care to measuring impact and sustainability. “Measuring sustainability is complex. Only figures that can be fully attributed to EnDev are reported. Hence, EnDev takes into consideration the ‘replacement factor' (the fact that, for various reasons, people do not keep using modern energy services), the 'windfall gain factor' (the fact that some households would have gained access to modern energy services without EnDev), and the “double energy factor” (the fact that some households and social institutions were already benefiting from another modern energy service).”[33]


EnDev cooperates closely with its partners. “The success of EnDev... is only possible with strong local partners. Therefore, EnDev cooperates with government institutions as well as with NGOs, universities, financial institutions and private sector companies.”[34] The flexibility of the funding mechanism means that “EnDev is an example of successful donor harmonisation”.[35] It has also, in cooperation with energy providers, introduced credit schemes for people with low incomes.

One of the most important aspects of EnDev's unique approach to in development cooperation is its focus on training:

  • “To enable efficient manufacturing, operation and distribution of the products, EnDev has, for example, initiated training courses for hydropower operators, biogas digester builders, grid technicians, stove builders and solar technicians, and also provided coaching for future entrepreneurs in marketing and business skills.
  • “EnDev supports the training of vendors for biogas appliances and cook stoves in Peru and Bangladesh, operators of hydropower plants in Indonesia, engineers for grid extension in Nepal and sales people for solar lanterns in Kenya and Burundi. The aim of the training is to create markets for energy services by teaching participants about producing, installing or selling energy products. Thus EnDev focuses not only on technical capabilities, but also teaches business skills.”[36]

EnDev is also focused on information sharing and runs many campaigns:

  • “Many producers as well as customers are not aware that there are appropriate, robust and inexpensive technologies to meet their requirements. Therefore EnDev initiates information and marketing campaigns.
  • "EnDev also focuses on grid extension and mini grids, and provides its partners with information and know-how. One example of an efficient strategy is to connect people who live close to grids but cannot afford the one-off connection fee.”[37]

There are many instances of EnDev developing financing concepts in cooperation with branch organisations, banks and government agencies. “[They] enable communities in Nepal to electrify their villages. In countries such as Bolivia, EnDev has, in cooperation with energy providers, introduced credit schemes for people with low incomes. Thus people can finance the high connection cost and pay back the credit step by step as they spend less money for candles, kerosene or batteries.”[38]


Empowering People: Report on Impacts, 2015, energising development


Modern Energy Services in Low- and Middle Income Countries: How to Facilitate Sustainable Access to Electricity, Linda Berk, August 2016, Global Delivery Initiative


Kenya: Energy Situation, energising development


Mali: Energy Situation, energising development


Mozambique: Energy Situation, energising development


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