Productive uses of energy: what does it take to stimulate demand?


This online event on Wednesday, 23 June explored how productive uses of energy are being promoted and supported in East Africa to help communities develop their economies.

Last updated 23 June 2021
Mechanical workshop

Enyo's workshop is powered by a mini-grid in Tanzania. Promoting productive uses of energy (PUE) establishes more demand for energy, crucial for achieving universal energy access (Photo: Kevin Johnstone, IIED)

Off-grid energy systems are increasingly being used to reach less-densely populated rural areas around the world. Energy access has the potential to transform quality of life – but once the connection reaches, what happens? And what are the impacts over time? 

The world remains far off-track in reaching Sustainable Development Goal 7: access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. One major challenge is financing energy connections to homes and businesses.

Governments are working to expand grids, but in many country contexts the demand for energy systems does not always grow organically or quickly enough. This can reduce the livelihood impacts of energy access and the short-term financial viability of energy system investments.

Promoting productive uses of energy (PUE) – using energy to generate income and add value – has been shown to help communities develop their economies. However, there are important supporting services and elements that must be present for households and entrepreneurs to take full advantage of energy access. These can include access to business inputs, financing, markets, after-sales services, and appliances as well as establishing skills and personal initiatives.

This United Nations High-level Dialogue on Energy Ministerial Thematic Forums side event offered perspectives and lessons from government, the private sector and practitioners on how they are meeting some of these challenges in Ethiopia, Uganda and Malawi.

This event was hosted in partnership with CLASPMinistry of Water, Irrigation, and Energy Ethiopian GovernmentUnited Purpose MalawiEthiopian Women in Energy and Tulima Solar as part of the IIED Debates series.

Event coverage

Watch a full recording of the event below or on IIED's YouTube channel.

About the speakers

  • Makena Ireri (co-chair) is manager East Africa at CLASP
  • Kevin Johnstone (co-chair) is a researcher in IIED's Shaping Sustainable Markets research group
  • Yodit Balcha is a climate change adaptation advisor at the Ministry of Water, Irrigation, and Energy – government of Ethiopia
  • Elizabeth Banda is a mini-grid project manager at United Purpose Malawi
  • Vincent Sseremba is country director at Simusolar Uganda
  • Liilnna K. Teji is senior energy consultant at Veritas Consulting and executive board member at Ethiopian Women in Energy

About IIED Debates

This event was part of the IIED Debates series and was hosted as a side event for the Ministerial Thematic Forums for the High-level Dialogue on Energy. Through the convening of expert speakers and external stakeholders, IIED brings together an international community to discuss critical issues.

IIED Debates encompass both physical and digital events, including critical themes, breakfast debriefs and webinars. These events are public and are hosted regularly throughout the year online and when possible in our London and Edinburgh offices.

IIED events newsletter

Sign up to our mailing list for updates and invitations to events throughout the year, including webinars, critical themes and debriefs.


Juliette Tunstall ([email protected]), IIED's internal engagement and external events officer