Karen, cafe owner, Kombewa market. Angaza Design customer. Credit: Martin Wright/Ashden

From removing dangerous, polluting fumes to providing electricity to power homes and businesses, and reliable light by which children can study, clean energy has economic, health, social and environmental benefits. According to The World Bank and the International Energy Agency’s Sustainable Energy for All Global Tracking Framework Summary, about 80% of the 1.06 billion people without electricity live in just 20 countries, known as “high-impact” countries. Over half of the global population living without electricity access are in 13 sub-Saharan Africa countries, according to SEforAll’s Energizing Finance report.

So what’s standing in the way of universal energy access?

Short answer: Finance.

One of the biggest challenges to addressing the problem of energy access is unlocking the finance to scale up operations. SEforAll estimates that it will require an investment of $45 billion annually to meet the 2030 target for universal access to modern energy. Currently, however, only $19.4 billion a year is being invested in electricity in high-impact countries.

Because finance is key in scaling up energy access, this year we are again dedicating an Ashden Award to Financial and Business Model Innovation. We have six very exciting organisations longlisted in this category who are breaking the financial barrier to energy access.

A finalist in 2017, Angaza partner with solar product manufacturers and distributors to integrate pay as you go technology into energy products to help make them more affordable.

CrossBoundary Energy is Africa’s first investment fund for commercial and industrial solar. It finances the purchase and installation of solar PV on behalf of African enterprises, then sells the solar generated back to clients at a contracted rate.

Ignite Power Rwanda is the fastest growing off-grid solar energy company in Sub-Saharan Africa. It partners with government, local banks and suppliers to offer affordable solar home systems to rural households.

Ignite is a pan-African developer and financier of off-grid solar energy

KopaGas has developed the first smart meter for LPG cookstoves, a cleaner-burning alternative to coal. This enables a "Pay as you Cook" model where customers can pay for fuel in small amounts, so those from a lower-income can afford the benefits of cleaner cooking.

Persistent Energy Capital invests seed-stage capital in new markets, incubates companies to access commercial finance, and has introduced innovative financing structures.

TRINE offers an alternative finance solution to off-grid solar projects. It is a crowd-funding platform that has catalysed over €1m for 13 off-grid projects in five sub-Saharan countries in the past year.

We are thrilled to have such a strong and diverse mix of organisations in our longlist. We think this will be a tough category when it comes to shortlisting.

Our shortlist will be announced on 16 April. Tickets to the Ceremony on 14 June are available here.