The Challenge

Clean energy access is a major constraint for the world’s poor. Over a quarter of the world’s population lacks access to electricity, while some 2 billion people are forced to spend disproportionate amounts of time and resources on traditional biomass for cooking and heating. Where modern energy services are unavailable, people resort to expensive and unsustainable systems, which can exacerbate energy insecurity and leave communities more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In many countries however, thanks to recent technological developments, efforts to widen access to clean energy now depend less on technology and more on financing arrangements, backed by a policy environment that is focused on serving the poor.

How We Are Helping?

The CleanStart Programme supports low-income consumers to transition to cleaner and more efficient energy through microfinance. CleanStart is a global UNCDF programme helping to lift at least 2.5 million people out of energy poverty by 2017. This will help contribute to achieving development goals on poverty and hunger, education, gender, health, and environmental sustainability. To achieve this vision, the programme provides risk capital and technical assistance to competitively selected financial service providers and energy enterprises to:

  1. Develop and refine scalable consumer financing models (Output 1: Finance for Clean Energy);
  2. Increase the ‘scale’ potential of these models by tackling critical bottlenecks in the value chain, for e.g. distribution, consumer awareness (Output 2: Technical Assistance for Clean Energy);
  3. Make research and tools generated in the process widely available to the industry (Output 3: Global Knowledge and Learning);
  4. Advocate for positive industry-wide changes and broker partnerships with upstream value chain actors, for example e.g. investors, policy makers (Output 4: Advocacy and Partnerships).

It partners with microfinance institutions and energy enterprises – offering seed capital and advice – to test scalable financing solutions in varying market conditions. At the heart of the CleanStart approach is brokering risk-sharing partnerships between downstream as well as upstream value chain actors, and de-risking some investment opportunities. Of particular value to CleanStart is developing partnership and financing models that can be replicated and scaled-up by other public and private actors working towards a common vision of expanding energy access for the poor. Through CleanStart, UNCDF contributes to the global Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative.

To learn more about CleanStart, please download the CleanStart brochure

In Detail

Additional Information



GoalTo help poor households and micro-entrepreneurs to access financing for low-cost clean energy.
  • Strengthening capabilities of financial service providers to provide microfinance for clean energy;
  • Removing barriers to the successful deployment of those technologies and services;
  • Enhancing awareness globally of the potential for microfinance to scale-up access to clean energy;
  • Creating an enabling policy and business environment to expand microfinance for clean energy.
Period2012 – 2017
Active InNepal, Uganda.
PartnersADC, Norad, Liechtenstein, Sida, UNCDF
Total project cost and UNCDF contributionUSD 26,193,525
USD 1,000,000