Sustainable energy for food

Project description

Programme title: Sustainable Energy for Food – Powering Agriculture
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Global
Overall term: 2013 to 2019


According to The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Earth’s population will be 9 billion in 2050. Global food production will have to increase by 70 per cent in order to cover the future demand for food. At the same time, the demand for energy will also rise. At present, one third of global energy consumption can be traced back to the food sector. This industry still relies heavily on fossil fuels and, according to FAO, is responsible for 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Until now, despite successful examples of sustainable energy use, energy-saving approaches and alternatives to diesel-driven technologies have found little resonance in agriculture and the food industry.


Our objective is to boost energy efficiency and the use of renewable energies in agricultural value chains with a view to increasing productivity and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


The project implements the German contribution to the international initiative Powering Agriculture – An Energy Grand Challenge for Development (PAEGC). PAEGC is a joint initiative of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Swedish development agency Sida, the US Government’s development finance institution Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the US energy company Duke Energy. The aim of the initiative is to promote the development and dissemination of innovative, marketable approaches to the use of climate-friendly energy technologies in agriculture in developing countries and emerging economies. International competitions are run to select companies, universities and non-governmental organisations to receive direct grants. PAEGC is currently funding 24 projects.

In a further 16 pilots, the project is testing sustainable energy solutions in agricultural value chains. One example is solar-powered milk cooling systems. Knowledge and experiences in the thematic area are being examined, processed and disseminated, for instance  via the interactive Wiki platform, the Powering Agriculture Portal at, which has already recorded more than 100,000 visits. The content focuses on solar-powered irrigation systems, cooling and energy efficiency in value chains. The portal also includes a toolbox, available online, providing information to support decisions on financing, selecting, installing and operating solar-powered irrigation systems. The toolbox makes it easier for the technical community to calculate system efficiency, economic efficiency and water use and thus to better advise end users, decision-makers and financiers, as well as to minimise risks.

The project prepares studies to gain an overview of the available sustainable energy technologies and how they are used, for instance a study of the costs and benefits of renewable energy sources in various value chains. So far the project has published 28 studies and passes on theoretical and practical knowledge by means of training programmes. The 43 training sessions that have taken place include the free online course (MOOC), which 1,400 participants from all over the world have used for training and to exchange information on sustainable energy solutions in agriculture and the food industry. Furthermore, the programme has instructed more than 350 people using the toolbox for solar-powered irrigation and also trained 16 toolbox trainers. A total of 2,076 people have participated in training sessions organised by the programme.

The project is located in Bonn and works with local private and state partners. There is also a regional hub for East Africa in Kenya.


Initial innovations promoted by the Powering Agriculture initiative are reaching market maturity and being disseminated. For instance, the innovator Village Infrastructure Angels, which has been receiving funding since 2015, has developed solar-powered processing stations for staple foods and is now marketing these commercially in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Vanuatu. The company has sold 230 solar-powered mills and has also succeeded in raising additional public funding of approximately two million US dollars.

Since 2014, 68 Kenyan tea factories have carried out energy efficiency measures, resulting in energy cost savings of 13.5 million US dollars. These measures have also prevented the felling of 1.3 million trees, and have reduced CO2 emissions by 10,000 tonnes overall.

The MOOC online course raised awareness among decision-makers of the significance of the energy–agriculture nexus in 55 emerging and developing countries. The project has also strengthened networking structures, and decision-makers from the private sector, academia and civil society, as well as policy-makers have benefited from further training measures.


Further information