In the last 20 years, energy innovation has become a global process in terms of education, finance, technology, and markets. At the 2013 MIT Energy Conference a panel of experts discussed pros and cons of innovative energy solutions in emerging markets.

Emerging markets provide attractive opportunities for innovative energy systems. The competitive advantage of renewable over traditional energy sources is greater than in developed countries. However, socio-economic, cultural, and policy issues might interfere with the innovation process in these countries.

The green revolution must include and empower women. According to Katherine Lucey, founder & CEO of Solar Sister, the main cultural barrier for energy innovation in Africa is gender. Women need access to electricity to bring progress in the community.

Another example of cultural barrier to energy innovation is represented by the working hours in Myanmar. Adam Pool, CEO of Environmental Investment Partners, analyzed his experience in the region characterized by disconnected and inefficient local grids. The solution provided by his company consists introducing PV systems and balancing them with existing diesel systems. This change brought a huge cultural change in the community since workers needed to operate the systems during hours of the day traditionally dedicated to siesta.

Brazil is an emerging global leader in the renewable energy industry, gaining this position by implementing favorable policies and market mechanisms, such as reverse auctions, aimed to remove financial barriers for the energy innovation progress. Today, wind energy represents 25% of Brazilian market share and Lauro Fiuza, VP for International Relations of ABEEolica, said the next step will be bringing solar to the same level, thus creating a complementary system that will make renewables a major power generation source in Brazil.

In developing countries, solar and wind energy are already cost competitive. Technological, financial, and policy innovations are creating win-win conditions for renewables and bringing national energy independence. Although there is not a right set of energy policies for every country, Dr. Kelly Sims Gallagher, associate professor of energy and environment policy at Tufts University, said those countries experimenting with policy solutions – e.g. China – are better positioned than countries spending too much time deciding the right strategy to implement.

Energy Solutions Forum is an energy policy research and data company based in New York City. Follow @EnergySolForum for policy research and stay plugged in with ESF Calendar, the industry’s go-to resource for energy business events in and around NYC.

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