The Challenge

Every hour, enough energy to power the earth for an entire year comes from the sun.

New technology is ready to harness that power as the global community transitions to alternative energy sources. For many (but not all) in developing countries, access to energy is an afterthought. Most people don't stop to think about the energy that powers their homes or charges their phones.

For over a billion people in Africa and Asia, access to electricity is a distant dream. Without access to energy, people have to struggle to complete daily tasks. Children can't study longer when their only source of light is daytime. Communities can't rely on health services when equipment does not work due to power cuts. Countries cannot achieve the Sustainable Development Goals if their citizens cannot power their dreams.

UNCDF’s Work on Energy Access

The UNCDF programme focused on energy contributes to achieving SDG 7 on affordable and clean energy for all, and SDG 8 focusing on decent inclusive work, economic growth and, more specifically, financial inclusion. The Programme aims to improve access to clean energy finance for poor and low-income people.

By partnering with energy and financial service providers and offering capital, data analytics, capacity building and policy advocacy services in the off-grid energy finance markets, UNCDF CleanStart has scaled energy business models for cleaner, efficient and more effective sources of energy for poor people.

This work leverages The UNCDF strategy ‘Leaving no one behind in the digital era’ is based on over a decade of experience in digital finance in Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

Our Vision:

To dramatically scale up energy financing for the poor through a market-based approach that builds on:

  • validated financing business models
  • commercialization of technologies and services that offer value to low-income consumers
  • new learning about the energy access market, in particular consumers, through research and knowledge exchanges between market actors
  • network of technical experts experienced in supporting energy access market development
  • advocacy for market-wide changes, such as policies and standards

Our Services:

  • Investment in Innovative Solutions
  • Technical Advisory Services
  • Knowledge and learning
  • Advocacy and Partnerships

Our Value Add:

  • Extensive experience in energy financing
  • Market presence, knowledge, and networks
  • Pipeline of investible enterprises
  • Neutral market player
  • Cross-sector synergies
  • Strong bi-lateral relationships in country

Our Impact on the SDGs:


  • Access to energy supports poverty alleviation through fuel-efficiency gains leading to monetary and time savings, increased income generation through productive uses of clean energy, employment creation, and improved labour productivity.


  • Access to clean energy results in several health benefits. Customers, in our Uganda research initiatives, have highlighted improved health as a key benefit of clean energy access. In addition, our investments have helped power health clinics to ensure reliable electricity as they provide health services to their communities


  • Energy products sold by partner companies reduce time spent on unpaid domestic work, including collecting firewood. These activities are mainly women-led tasks in countries UNCDF operates in, thus clean energy solutions reduce the domestic work burden for women.


  • SDG 7 is our primary SDG contribution. UNCDF’s Energy Access work invests in market-based innovative clean energy solutions. We foster access to electricity for underserved populations through off-grid solar products and clean cooking solutions.


  • Supporting the development of the clean energy market contributes to job creation and investment in the energy sector and to the GDP of countries we operate in. In addition, on the consumer level, productive uses of clean energy products have been linked to increased hours of economic activity and increased productivity.

SDG 13:

  • Our work fosters clean energy product uptake in least developed countries. The shift from traditional fuels such as firewood, charcoal or kerosene directly contributes to mitigating deforestation and CO2 emissions.

SDG 17

  • We partner across the spectrum to advance clean energy solutions. This includes working with private sector to reach markets traditionally left behind, partnering with associations to advance the clean energy industry, and supporting government in creating an enabling environment.

Where This Programme Works

CleanStart by the Numbers (2019)


people now benefiting from
clean energy solutions


tonnes of Co2 emissions offset


tonnes of wood energy saved



Bangkok, Thailand

Vincent Wierda

Programme Manager

Julius Magala

Energy Access Coordinator

Benjaporn Yenseranee

CleanStart Project Associate