IDEAS Innovation Contest
The IDEAS innovation contest, also known as the "Program to Promote Innovative Energy Projects and Project Ideas”, is an instrument to promote the development of sustainable energy applications in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).
Origin and Institutional Setup
The contest was first launched in 2009 and granted financial support to 26 winning projects. In 2011 nine, in 2012 eight and in 2013 ten further projects were granted funding to promote innovative energy projects throughout LAC. IDEAS was initially financed by Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and funded with resources from a Korean Fund for Technology and Innovation (KPK) as well as the Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Initiative (SECCI) multi-donor fund. The program was carried out with the support of Global Village Energy Partnership (GVEP) and the Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ, today GIZ). The institutional set-up as well as the geographic scope of IDEAS varied slightly in the following years.
The concept behind the program is to provide financial support for people to develop and share their innovative ideas on how to improve the use of renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy access. The progress in these fields is achieved on small to medium scale projects with emphasis on up-scaling efforts, an activity, which was explicitly asked for in the the project proposals.
The innovation contest was launched across LAC with regional and local partners. A total of 1,094 applications from 27 countries were received in this first contest out of which 850 were deemed eligible. After being evaluated by a team of experts the final shortlist was established and judges, nominated by the sponsors selected the winning proposals. 264 proposals were shortlisted and 26 were selected as the winners. Each winner received a two-year development grant of up to US$200,000. GVEP International and the other contest sponsors committed to working closely with the winners to provide technical advice, access to other experts, institutions as well as to funds and investors.
In summary, the program targeted innovations with a positive impact on climate change, energy access and poverty reduction in LAC; the thematic thrusts of the IDB, GVEP International and GIZ at that time. Many of the projects were associated with initiatives of non-profit institutions (mostly universities) based in the region. However, IDEAS explicitly encouraged the participation of the private sector in the contest to improve the leverage of the innovations. A distinctive characteristic of IDEAS is the absence of restrictions on the form of eligible organizations and individuals. Not only enterprises or governments can apply but any institution, legal body or individual that has an idea for increasing the use of sustainable energy for the people of LAC.
THE IDEAS Projects
Argentina: New Management Model for Rural Electrification
FECORSUR is an organization that brings together four cooperatives of sheep farmers, with total of 380 partners, in the Patagonia in Argentina. The aim of this project was to set up an effective and alternative rural electrification management system in Patagonia using renewable energies for lighting, heating, cooking and mechanical power.
The project aimed to:
1. Train up the local cooperative federation to manage the systems
2. Demonstrate the feasibility of implementing an effective management system for the electrification of scattered rural populations based on the use of local human resources and infrastructure; and
3. Improve living conditions by electrifying 73 rural homes and thereby improve the productive potential of rural dispersed communities.
El Salvador: Innovative Photovoltaic Charging Stations Against Poverty
The project developers set up the company “Enfoca” to build and sell solar-powered charging stations for LED lamps, mobile phones, radios and small televisions. The company employed people on the periphery of society by virtue of disability or homelessness to work on the production lines. Enfoca produced 200 solar chargers and sold 123 until the end of the grant agreement. Enfoca partnered with HSBC and a local bank to provide finance for the solar charging systems which were marketed at approximately $100 per product.
El Salvador: Financing the Energy Access Value Chain
The projects objective is to mobilise and bundle available streams of finance for access to solar energy in rural communities in Latin America and the Caribbean and to package and deliver this financing method combined with critical business support to local energy enterprises.
Saint Lucia: Waste Banana to Ethanol
The project set up a bioethanol factory in St Lucia converting waste of banana cultivation to ethanol. Contracts were signed with farmers who provided 10t of feedstock per week and a solar PV system was installed to provide lighting for the plant. Two fuel stations agreed to sell the blended fuel. Marks and Spencer’s sponsored two ethanol powered vehicles leading international attention in the media. The plant had reached full production but was waiting for the petroleum dealer’s license that they required to blend and retail the fuel.
Brazil: Forest Fuels
The ‘forest fuel’ project aimed to build a model for clean renewable energy in an area with indigenous population and use a local training in Rio Branco to provide the required capacity building. The objective was to source local plant oils to power converted diesel engines. However, it was found that the potential of wild oil bearing palm species was too low; hence the decision was made to use Jatropha. Trees were planted and an irrigation system installed after a period of drought. Although one diesel motor canoe was successfully converted to run on straight vegetable oil, the overall schedule of the project was affected the by these changes. The project was extended until 2013.
Brazil: LED Lamps for Shrimp Fishermen
Shrimp fishermen were assisted to switch from using gas to solar powered lamps by mean of a company that sold LED solar lanterns supported by a microcredit program of local banks. Capacity building for solar applications, marketing and business development was provided for local enterprises. Poor weather dramatically affected the project progress as it resulted in a decreased demand from fishermen for the LED lanterns. Consequently, the additional activity of renting solar house system to a forestry company was included. As a result, 24 solar house systems were installed, 14 LED systems sold and 156 beneficiaries could be identified.
Brazil: Optimisation of Systems for the Extraction of Energy from Tidal Currents
There is vast potential for tidal energy in the tidal rivers of Brazil yet there is currently no general methodology to evaluate the extraction of tidal current energy. The objective of this project was the development of a mathematical model to identify the optimal sites in Brazil for tidal power generation.
The end application of this methodology would be the installation of power generation facilities for the extraction of energy from tidal currents, taking into account the following criteria:
1. Amount of energy which can be extracted at a site.
2. Proximity of a site to an existent electrical energy network.
3. Effect of the tidal current facility on navigation in a site.
4. Effect of the tidal current facility on the ecosystem in a site.
Brazil: Low Cost Solar Water Heaters
This project intends to use recycled materials (principally plastic bottles and old tyres) to construct low cost solar water heaters for sale to low income populations in Sao Paulo. The project developers plan to make partnership agreements with recycling companies to develop a distribution network.
Chile: Ethanol from Cheese Waste
Primarily a research project, two pilot photo-bioreactors were developed with the objective of producing bio-ethanol from residues of the milk industry. One reactor was setup for the production of bio-ethanol and the second to process CO2 to produce biomass. The chemical optimum composition of microorganisms and ideal conditions for production are to be investigated. The pilot plant was designed and is still in the construction phase as major setbacks due to the inability to source components in Chile lead to a redesign of the plant.
Chile: Solar Thermal Desalination Plant
The project will design, construct and market a solar thermal desalination plant for rural communities, combining traditional solar “still” technology with a new heat exchange system to create an increased efficiency. The plant will support rural populations in Chile that can only obtain water from bottles or trucks coming from the cities both of which are expensive solutions.
Colombia: Using Agricultural Waste
The objective of the Project is to use agricultural waste, which has a negative impact on the environment, to generate energy. The Project will design and construct a plant to produce bio-ethanol at a low cost and easy for local farmers to access and use. Training will then be provided to a large number of apprentices to provide technical support to potential users of this technology.
Colombia: Improved Turbines for Slow Moving River Currents
The aim of this project was to adapt an existing river turbine and re-engineer it in such a way that would make it more deployable in more diverse locations. The river turbine was intended to be used by riverside communities where it would generate sufficient electricity for domestic and productive applications such as lighting, telecommunications, water pumping and ice production. The equipment was to be low cost, highly reliable and easy to use. The geographical areas targeted were the lower areas of the Amazon and Orinoco and the Pacific coast of Colombia.
Colombia: Coffee and Banana Waste to Ethanol
Organic by-products of coffee and banana cultivation were recycled to reduce the environmental degradation. A micro plant was set up and its ethanol production exceeded expectations. The bioethanol produced had been tested on a flex fuel vehicle, an ethanol stove and an 8kW power generator. The project integrated research, design and construction of the pilot plant with a decisive community based approach that gained them the support and help of the Coffee Federation. Fifty coffee growers were involved with projections of another 150 becoming involved in the near future.
Colombia: Growing Local Plant Oils for Town Power Generation
An off-grid community of 2,363 people was supplied with energy from an ethanol plant running on ethanol produced from Jatropha. The town now receives a 24/7 reliable power service. A local energy utility was created with 4 permanent jobs employing a further 50 temporary workers and 20 field workers. There were 500 energy service users and 60 small producers. 60 farmers were trained in Jatropha cultivation, with 50 farmers participating in the Small Producers Association. 35 hectares of Jatropha were planted and another 200 ha were at a greenhouse stage at the end of the funding period. Full industrial production of oil will be possible by year 2014. The project has received several prizes. Negotiations with the government were held to replicate the project in other towns.
Colombia: Gas and Liquid Fuels from Recycling Old Tires Using Microwave Technology
A small prototype was built to validate the assumptions made in the design stage of the technology that generates gas and liquid fuels from old tires by using microwaves. The project encountered slight delays; however the pilot plant was able to process the tires. Environmental impact and feasibility studies were carried out and came to a satisfactory conclusion. Further investment from social investors and other donors was acquired in order to continue to the next phase of the development. The project has been awarded several prizes.
Guatemala: Producing Biofuels from Algae Contaminated Lakes
The objective of this project was to extract micro algae from the Lagos de Amatitlan to use it as primary material for producing biofuels, which in turn would be used to generate renewable energy. The project team aimed to investigate the optimal growth conditions of micro algae in photo bioreactors from which to obtain oil, and test the conversion process from oil to bio diesel. They planned to use a system of bio digesters to produce biogas from the micro algae. The project aimed to test the bio diesel and biogas in internal combustion engines to generate electricity, with a view to designing a lamp or stove that runs off bio diesel or biogas.
Honduras: Creating Local Renewable Energy Markets for Rural SME’s
Village franchises were planned and access to finance was made available through micro-credit schemes. A renewable energy centre for training and development of micro-entrepreneurs has been established. 21 sessions were held with focus on installation, maintenance and promotion of RE systems. 25 technicians received training and are able to share their knowledge with others / provide training to others. 745 RE systems (improved cooking stoves and solar panels) were sold, partially with support of micro-credits. In addition, staff in 9 SMEs was trained and 4 finance institutes were operating ad-hoc credit lines. A campaign for improved stoves was also carried out. The renewable energy centre has received favourable recognition and acceptance in the area.
Honduras: Pico-hydro Franchising
EPA will install pico-hydro systems in villages that are currently not grid connected using a franchise business model.
During the first quarter the objectives for AHPPER and EPA were to:
1. Incorporate in Honduras and get legal residency permit, get permits to install first hydro system
2. Have two new systems installed and functioning
3. Show receipts of necessary tools
4. Hire and begin training process in leadership and business practices
Mexico: High Efficiency Light Reflectors
A multinational project team will develop and implement this project, which intends to reduce electricity consumption in the Universidad of Colima, and the State Government in Colima by distributing subsidized energy saving light reflectors. A start up business will be incorporated to sell and install the new light reflectors to other institutional users and business, and would sell the technology to light reflectors manufacturers in Mexico.
Peru: Designing and Commercializing High Efficiency Water Wheels
Waterwheels using energy from run of river currents were installed to generate electricity. Capacity building measures to build and maintain this equipment and also to promote its use were carried out. 5 of the 8 planned waterwheels were installed and extract coffee pulp, replace fossil fuel driven machines, provide water for irrigation and drive an AC generator providing electricity for households.
Peru: Solar Micro-franchising in Rural Areas
A business model that would make solar electric power available to low-income rural homes in a cost-efficient way and provides electricity to 800 families was to be developed and tested. A private company was “micro-franchised” to carefully selected members of the community. The franchises offered a portfolio of products ranging from a small portable solar lamp to a home solar system including an inverter. The parent company “GENERA” was responsible for training and supervising its representatives and providing stock. The project resulted in having sold 1,051 solar products and increased access to solar energy products for 4,370 people.
Saint Vicent & Grenadines: Social Networking for Energy Efficiency
Welectricity is an enterprise that built an online platform that uses social networking and behavioural economics as the cornerstone of their project. The aim was to develop a web application that allows users to share information on their energy consumption habits, which can then be compared against their peers. The social network application had registered users from 96 countries. The project has originally intended to license its software to local utilities and several meetings took place with EDF UK on the prospect of the software being used as part of EDF’s Team Green Britain program, however no licensing agreements have yet materialized thus the project’s business model is still to be validated.
St. Lucia: Development of Solar Powered Ferry and Boathouse
An indirectly charged solar ferry will replace the inefficient and polluting two-stroke engines commonly used by boats in developing countries and create a replicable technology that could significantly reduce the environmental damage to the eco system of small islands and large lakes worldwide if a scale up can be achieved. A solar boathouse will be constructed that can charge each boat with the power it needs for its trip, enabling each vessel to travel with just batteries on board.
Peru: Using Renewable Energy for Productive Use
Renewable energy would be used in order to add value to farming products such as herbs or medicinal plants and grains, generate new cheese and fruit activities, train the participants in the organization in the tasks required for each step in the productive chain, improve the image of the community and organize a tourist infrastructure. 20 people in the community were trained in the cultivation of vegetables with greenhouse constructions and the use and monitoring of improved cook stoves, production of a dairy herd, 2 solar water heater system installations for sanitation purposes and plantation across 10 acres of pasture. A large communal solar dryer (16.7 m2) was built and is able to dry 200 kg of fresh herbs at a time. A cheese-processing plant was also set up.
Peru: Renewable Energy Road Show
12 cities were visited in Peru and Chile each. More than 400 people were trained and more than 10,000 people informed about the benefits of renewable energy technologies for their households and businesses. A website launched as: www.energiaverde.pe displays the main contents of the project. A video of the project was also distributed online. The enterprise that organized the road show has strengthened its capacity as a business and could then offer a variety of marketing and promotional services related to renewable energy and energy efficiency. After completion of the project Green Energy SRL was invited to carry out a similar road show in Uruguay.
Panama: Energy Efficiency in Air Conditioning
The project aimed to increase the energy efficiency by up to 35% of air conditioning systems in large size buildings, such as the hospital and other public administration buildings by installing an automated regulation of the airstream of the air conditions. Individually flaps would be integrated into the ventilation channels and reduce airflow if necessary. The enterprise completed all activities under their grant agreement; such as feasibility studies but was unable to commercialize their product. They have come to an agreement to pilot their project at the National Hospital.