Efficiency for Access
6 min readJul 11, 2022

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The Impacts of the Low Energy Inclusive Appliances Programme in Promoting Sustainable Refrigeration

By E Feng Tan Loh, Evaluation Manager, Energy Saving Trust, Co-Secretariat of the Efficiency for Access Coalition

These case studies demonstrate how the Low Energy Inclusive Appliances (LEIA) programme’s interventions support local companies in developing countries that provide cooling solutions. This includes services for smallholder farmers, small traders, and female entrepreneurs to help combat food loss and generate income.

Food loss is a persistent challenge in developing countries where cold storage infrastructure is limited or non-existent. In a warming world, there is a growing need for solar-powered cold chain to help strengthen food security and enhance rural communities’ resilience to climate change. However, scaling-up cold chain infrastructure needs to be managed in a responsible way to avoid further greenhouse gas emissions. The solar-powered refrigeration sector presents a unique opportunity for climate change mitigation, by using a clean energy source and refrigerants with low global warming potential.

Our goal

LEIA’s theory of change (ToC) is that increasing the availability, affordability, efficiency and performance of these appliances will lead to improved clean energy access.

Low Energy Inclusive Appliances (LEIA) programme theory of change (ToC)

The LEIA programme seeks to double the efficiency and halve the cost of appliances in hard-to-reach areas around the world. As such, it aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and help improve people’s wellbeing and incomes. This work will contribute towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals: including access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all (SDG7) and climate action (SDG13).

Our work

The LEIA programme has provided support to businesses in developing countries working to improve the efficiency, affordability and availability of solar-powered refrigerators and cold rooms. In the following sections, we present two case studies that explore how LEIA’s interventions have supported the locally owned businesses ColdHubs and Devidayal Solar Solutions. We looked at how they improved their cooling technologies and the impacts achieved.

Devidayal Solar Solutions Food Truck (Left) and ColdHubs Walk-In Cold Room (Right)

About ColdHubs

ColdHubs is a social enterprise in Nigeria that installs solar-powered walk-in cold rooms in food production centres and local markets. The company identified a gap in the agriculture value chain, which is the lack of cold chain infrastructure to preserve food. This is especially apparent in the first mile and rural farming areas where access to reliable electricity is limited.

About Devidayal Solar Solutions

Devidayal Solar Solutions is an India-based company that focuses on the design, development and sales of solutions in the distributed renewable energy (DRE) cold chain space. The company’s flagship product is a solar-powered DC refrigerator, which is available in the following capacities: 100 litre, 150 litre, 200 litre, and 250 litre models.

A women-led food truck company in Vasai Virar, India that is supporting livelihoods with the profits from a Devidayal solar-powered refrigerator.

Outcomes

The combined support from LEIA contributed to the following outcomes:

Improvements in efficiency

  • With the support of the Efficiency for Access Research and Development Fund, ColdHubs was able to improve its cold room technology by integrating phase change materials and reduce the battery size by 67%. ColdHub’s second-generation cold room is now undergoing field testing supported by the 2022 OGCCC.
  • With Global LEAP Consumer Affordability Prize money, Devidayal improved its product design, including the insulation of their refrigerators to reduce power consumption. As a result, Devidayal’s refrigerators require a smaller solar system (a solar panel that is 17% smaller and a battery that is 33% smaller). The improved insulation technology also enabled the company to develop a freezer range.

Reduced costs

  • ColdHubs’ second-generation cold rooms cost more than the first-generation, even with the significantly reduced battery size due to the increased importation costs of some of their cold room components. Efficiency for Access Research and Development fund is now supporting ColdHubs in local production of the thermal storage components to improve supply chain resilience and reduce costs.
  • Devidayal achieved cost savings of 13% from the reduced system size. Devidayal also standardised the ancillary components across their refrigerator models, such as digital displays, temperature controllers, lights and storage compartments with the Global LEAP Consumer Affordability Prize money. This resulted in further savings for the company.

Increase public and private investment

Both ColdHubs and Devidayal have secured further public and private investment to scale-up their business operations:

  • Heifer International awarded ColdHubs USD 500,000 in funding to scale up the company’s enhanced cold rooms developed through its Efficiency for Access Research and Development project across Nigeria.
  • Devidayal received funding from Powering Livelihoods and Social Alpha to deploy its solar-powered refrigerators for the agriculture and dairy value chain. The company also secured Rs 1-Crore in consumer financing from a local bank, Ashv Finance, which will enable 200 micro, small enterprises in India to purchase solar-powered refrigerators. Devidayal reported that obtaining VeraSol verification of their refrigerators played a major role in securing the consumer financing.

Impacts

Through research and development funding, competitions, product testing, and research, LEIA enables local companies, such as ColdHubs and Devidayal to improve the quality and performance of their products. In turn, these activities will enable more low-income groups, such as first-mile smallholder farmers, market traders, and female entrepreneurs to access sustainable cooling solutions. At the local level, improved access to solar-powered refrigeration will help reduce food loss and increase income generation. At the global level, enhancing access to sustainable, solar-powered cold chain will enhance food security and help to build resilience to rising temperatures. Developing super-efficient, high-performing cooling technologies that can be exclusively powered by solar will help avoid further greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, technology improvements that lead to solar panel and battery downsizing will reduce e-waste generation in the long-term.

Creating a More Resilient Food System Through Sustainable Refrigeration

How we measured the impacts:

  • LEIA’s outputs, expected outcomes and impacts are tracked and results are reported in a Logical Framework, also known as logframe. To understand how LEIA interventions or outputs have contributed to the observed outcomes, contribution analysis, we follow a logical process that examines a range of evidence for the theory of change (ToC).
  • The LEIA Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) team developed this case study to explore the LEIA output-outcome-impact linkages. It examines the combined influence of LEIA interventions on local companies, ColdHubs and Devidayal Solar Solutions (Devidayal).
  • The case study is built upon emerging programme evidence and strengthened by interviews with a purposive sample of relevant stakeholders, a literature review and VeraSol product testing data. Triangulation across different data sources helps strengthen the validity of conclusions made from this case study.

The sections are structured using the LEIA ToC model, describing the specific context of ColdHubs and Devidayal, LEIA activities and outputs, and finally the observed outcomes and impacts.

LEIA is Efficiency for Access’ foundational initiative, which is funded by UK aid and the IKEA Foundation.

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Efficiency for Access

A global coalition to accelerate clean energy access through high-performing appliances