MEC Africa Program: Project Additionality- Common Practice Analysis to Bolster Integrity of Carbon Credits

Posted: January 15, 2024

The concept of common practice in additionality is a critical component in bolstering confidence in carbon offsets and their integrity. MicroEnergy Credits follows a robust process to ensure that all its carbon projects are strictly additional and not common practice.

Common practice analysis helps determine the extent to which a technology is business as usual i.e. has already diffused in a sector and region. Distributed clean energy products in Uganda and Kenya have been able to be deployed only through carbon finance. Several programs by multilateral banks, government initiatives, etc. have had limited success for various reasons, elaborated upon extensively later in the article.

In the context of energy access and clean cooking/lighting services in Kenya and Uganda, challenges and opportunities converge to shape the landscape.

About 0.7% and 20.40% of the populations of Uganda and Kenya, respectively, have access to clean cooking[i], Significantly contributing to indoor air pollution, fire hazards, and adverse health impacts. No or limited access to modern and clean energy sources, such as electricity and clean cooking technologies, remains a pressing issue.

The applicable geographic areas for interventions (rural areas of Uganda and Kenya) are characterized by diverse challenges including economic constraints, lack of infrastructure, and geographic remoteness. Many households face challenges in adopting clean cooking technologies due to high upfront costs, limited awareness, and insufficient supply of products.

MEC’s clean energy program reduces emissions by facilitating a transition from conventional fossil-fuel technologies to more energy-efficient alternatives. Collaborating with our partner microfinance institutions, MEC has identified products that meet the specific requirements of each community. These products include solar lighting systems and improved cookstoves (ICS).

In the period preceding the project's commencement, there was a lack of infrastructure and supportive conditions[ii] for the adoption of renewable technologies such as solar home lighting systems, and improved cookstoves (ICS). The community that the project aimed to assist had limited awareness about these cleaner technologies. Further, the essential products were largely unavailable in the local market, making it challenging for the targeted population to access and benefit from these sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions. Besides that, there was no financing[iii] available for the mentioned products, The upfront cost of these clean technologies was high for a low-income remotely located household. MEC, partnering with MFIs, sought to address these gaps by creating awareness, establishing a supportive ecosystem, enabling financial assistance in the form of microfinance loans, and making these technologies more accessible to the community, thereby contributing to a more sustainable and environmentally conscious way of living.

Projects implemented without carbon finance

Initiatives by the Governments of Uganda & Kenya and multilateral organizations have focused on the implementation of biomass cookstoves. Unfortunately, many of these efforts faced challenges and were largely unsuccessful due to a lack of a comprehensive ecosystem development approach. Most of these programs involved the free distribution of improved cookstoves among low-income households. The key issues contributing to their failure included an insufficient emphasis on behavioral change among end-users, limited access to repair and maintenance services, the inadequate establishment of local supply chains, and the provision of technologies not well-suited to local food habits and cooking styles.

Here is an example of a past program initiated by the Government of Kenya:

Name of ProgramObjectivePeriodNumber of Clean Energy Technology Products Distributed
The Kenya Off-Grid Solar Access Project (KOSAP)To increase access to modern energy services – electricity and modern cooking solutions– in households, businesses, and community and public facilities in fourteen underserved counties in Kenya2018-20232,50,000 solar home lighting systems 1,50,000 improved cookstoves

A study[iv] conducted by the Lund University suggests that the failure of previous clean cooking programs is attributed to a lack of understanding of user needs. The conventional utility-based model focusing on benefits and price may overlook competing priorities. The cooking needs of stove users are diverse, extending beyond smoke reduction and fuel efficiency. The study underscores the necessity for stove design and dissemination methods to align with features valued by users, even those unrelated to health and environmental impacts. Recognizing user perspectives is vital, as users must value and find their needs met for sustained stove adoption and usage.

Similarly, a study[v] conducted by the Stockholm Environment Institute suggests that the use of carbon finance can benefit – and sometimes even strengthen – improved cookstove projects in several ways. Most cookstove projects using carbon finance are still in the early stages. However, by examining how various types of actors are using (or plan to use) carbon finance within their business models, and how these fit with what the literature tells us about the core ingredients for cookstove market transformation.

Additionally, a study[vi] conducted by the United Nations University, Institute for Advanced Study of Sustainability (IAS) in Machakos and Laikipia counties of Kenya, investigated women's perceptions of health risks related to firewood dependence, their attitudes toward improved cooking charcoal stoves (ICS) as cleaner alternatives, and barriers to adoption. Despite awareness of health risks, there is a projected upward trend in firewood demand. Barriers to ICS adoption vary socio-culturally. The study recommends stakeholder involvement, participatory designs, and leveraging SDG 7 to promote cleaner and sustainable energy sources for cooking.

Overcoming barriers to clean energy adoption with MEC’s carbon funding

There is also evidence to suggest that giveaway programs (i.e. where clean energy products are given for free) are not successful for several reasons, e.g. limited to no focus on end-user awareness, lack of after-sales service, and no capacity development at an individual or institutional level.  

The MEC program is not common practice as it utilizes carbon finance to overcome challenges, empowering microentrepreneurs to invest in clean energy products. Initially, MEC collaborates with the microfinance institution to devise an appealing clean energy product offering for its microfinance client base, addressing obstacles such as education, pricing, financing, and the availability of supplies and after-sales service. Subsequently, MEC provides training to the microfinance institution for the implementation of the clean energy-lending program. This training encompasses aspects like business planning, capacity building, marketing and awareness campaigns for client education, and supply chain processes. MEC establishes a robust and transparent system for monitoring and tracking carbon credits, quantifying, and documenting the number of emissions reduced by the clean energy program. Lastly, the carbon finance is employed to expand and sustain the clean energy program through activities such as:

  • Client education and marketing
  • Internal training and capacity building
  • On-lending funds to local SMEs producing clean energy systems
  • Aftersales service and maintenance
  • Lowering the interest or principal cost to the client

The common practice analysis conducted in the context of MicroEnergy Credits' carbon programs in Africa underscores the pivotal role of additional practices in ensuring the integrity of carbon credits. MEC's approach, leveraging carbon finance to overcome barriers to clean energy adoption, stands out as a distinctive and effective strategy, addressing challenges ranging from lack of awareness and infrastructure to financing constraints. By integrating microfinance institutions, client education, and comprehensive monitoring systems, MEC not only reduces carbon emissions but also establishes a sustainable and environmentally conscious pathway for rural communities, thereby contributing significantly to the broader goals of carbon mitigation and sustainable development.







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