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Solar power to 360 million people – but no plan for e-waste

Press release   •   Apr 08, 2019 11:23 UTC

Johanna Raynal, Director ESG & Impact.

The off-grid solar power market is providing improved electricity access to an estimated 73 million households globally, or over 360 million people*. The industry is delivering a significant environmental and social impact by mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from traditional diesel power sources and providing reliable, clean energy to low- to middle-income countries. However, there are potential negative environmental and social impacts if the products are not responsibly managed when they reach their end-of-Life.

- As the industry scales up, e-waste mismanagement can become the dark side of the off-grid solar power market. We risk seeing solar panels and batteries piling up and causing negative consequences to the environment as well as to the people, says Johanna Raynal, Director ESG & Impact.

E-waste initiatives have often been held back by a concern that any additional cost of e-waste management will be passed on to low-income customers or borne by the companies. This could drive a wedge between responsible companies and ‘free-riders’, in other words companies which do not pay for end-of-life management or those dealing in unbranded products of poor quality. This risk is aggravated by inadequate recycling infrastructure and uncertain regulation in several off-grid solar markets. Despite these challenges, some of the leading off-grid solar power companies have established e-waste management operations and partnerships. Swedfund has taken the initiative to join forces with such companies to help solve this pressing issue of e-waste.

- There is an urgent need to form new partnerships and replicate and scale-up successful e-waste management practices in Africa and Asia, which are the two biggest markets for off-grid solar power, says Johanna Raynal.

* According to a report från the World Bank's program Lightning Global

Swedfund is financing an initiative to establish an e-waste management hub. This is in collaboration with GOGLA, a global association for the off-grid solar power industry

Swedfund’s strategy in the energy sector includes a focus on off-grid renewable energy, as Swedfund’s recent investment in d.light, a leading off-grid solar power company.

The e-waste management hub will focus on capacity building on key e-waste themes such as product design to reduce waste, recycling of batteries and other modules, and methods for involving consumers in safe repair and recycling.

About Swedfund

Swedfund is Sweden's development finance institution for sustainable investments in developing countries. In order to achieve the goal: a world without poverty, more jobs are required in the private sector and that access to renewable energy is increasing. Investments are therefore made within energy & climate, health and to reach small and medium-sized companies.

As a state-owned company, Swedfund is managed by the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation. The operations are financed partly through capital injections for which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible and through reflows from the own portfolio. Swedfund has since the beginning in 1979 invested in over 50 countries.