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Solar E-Waste Challenge

A program to support innovations in off-grid solar e-waste management.

Kenyan Coast

Off-grid solar technologies provide life-changing access to modern energy services for people and communities currently living without electricity. The global market for these products is nascent but growing quickly. In 2017, the off-grid solar sector provided new or enhanced access to energy for an estimated 73 million households – over 360 million people – with significant year-over-year growth expected into the future.

E-waste generated by the off-grid solar sector represents less than 0.1% of global e-waste streams, but investment now will ensure the industry’s growth is sustainable over the long term and further enhance the sector’s reputation as a leader in environmental responsibility.

Off-grid industry leaders are exploring potential e-waste management solutions, such as product repair initiatives and preventative maintenance, but these efforts remain nascent and under-resourced. The Global LEAP Awards recognizes the role of waste reduction in the initial product design stage, and seeks to support more sustainable product design as part of broader efforts to promote sustainable solar e-waste management across the off-grid sector.

The Global LEAP Solar E-Waste Challenge, supported by USAID, will make up to $1.2 million in grant funding available to support the research and development of more sustainable solar home system and battery technologies for the off-grid solar sector in sub-Saharan Africa. Innovations should extend product and/or component lifespan; enhance product repairability and recyclability; facilitate refurbishment, reuse or repurposing; or reduce rare metal and hazardous material composition.

Grant funding is available for solar home system and battery technology companies pursuing innovations around sustainable product design and waste reduction directly relevant to the off-grid solar sector.

Successful applicants will receive funding to support implementation of their proposed projects over a 18-month period, with individual awards ranging from $50,000-$300,000, The application window closes 15 December 2019.

For further information, please contact [email protected].

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Past Competitions

In 2019, the inaugural Global LEAP Awards Solar E-Waste Challenge made $1.1 million in grant funding, supported by USAID and UK aid through the Scaling Off Grid Energy (SOGE) and Transforming Energy Access (TEA) programs, available to companies with innovative approaches to e-waste management in the off-grid solar sector in sub-Saharan Africa, which includes solar lanterns, solar home systems (SHSs), and solar-powered appliances at their end-of-life. Grant funding was available for recycling and e-waste management companies who work with (or planned to work with) the off-grid solar sector operating across sub-Saharan Africa, other specialized e-waste service providers, and off-grid solar distributors with plans to expand end-of-life operations.

The objectives of the Challenge were to provide funding for pilot or early-stage projects that focused on data gaps, logistical challenges, and operational processes. The competition received 159 nominations to implement projects in 49 countries across the continent. Eight winners representing five countries were selected and are currently implementing diverse projects over a 12-month period. Case studies on the inaugural Solar E-Waste Challenge Winners will be released in mid-2020.