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The Transfer of Energy Technologies in a Developing Country Context Towards Improved Practice from Past Successes and Failures

Authors: Lindiwe O. K. Mabuza, Alan C. Brent, Maxwell Mapako


Technology transfer of renewable energy technologies is very often unsuccessful in the developing world. Aside from challenges that have social, economic, financial, institutional and environmental dimensions, technology transfer has generally been misunderstood, and largely seen as mere delivery of high tech equipment from developed to developing countries or within the developing world from R&D institutions to society. Technology transfer entails much more, including, but not limited to: entire systems and their component parts, know-how, goods and services, equipment, and organisational and managerial procedures. Means to facilitate the successful transfer of energy technologies, including the sharing of lessons are subsequently extremely important for developing countries as they grapple with increasing energy needs to sustain adequate economic growth and development. Improving the success of technology transfer is an ongoing process as more projects are implemented, new problems are encountered and new lessons are learnt. Renewable energy is also critical to improve the quality of lives of the majority of people in developing countries. In rural areas energy is primarily traditional biomass. The consumption activities typically occur in an inefficient manner, thus working against the notion of sustainable development. This paper explores the implementation of technology transfer in the developing world (sub-Saharan Africa). The focus is necessarily on RETs since most rural energy initiatives are RETs-based. Additionally, it aims to highlight some lessons drawn from the cited RE projects and identifies notable differences where energy technology transfer was judged to be successful. This is done through a literature review based on a selection of documented case studies which are judged against the definition provided for technology transfer. This paper also puts forth research recommendations that might contribute to improved technology transfer in the developing world. Key findings of this paper include: Technology transfer cannot be complete without satisfying pre-conditions such as: affordability, maintenance (and associated plans), knowledge and skills transfer, appropriate know how, ownership and commitment, ability to adapt technology, sound business principles such as financial viability and sustainability, project management, relevance and many others. It is also shown that lessons are learnt in both successful and unsuccessful projects.

Keywords: Technology transfer, technology management, renewable energy, sustainable development.

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