Energy solutions for agricultural and food industries

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 2020



According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), almost 10 billion people will be living on Earth in 2050. Global food production needs to increase by 56 per cent to meet the future demand for food, as reported by the World Resources Institute (WRI). At the same time, the demand for energy will also rise. One third of global energy consumption currently originates from food production and processing. These remain heavily dependent on fossil fuels. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the agricultural and forestry sectors and other land use activities are responsible for 23 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Despite successful examples of sustainable energy use, energy-saving approaches and alternatives to diesel-powered technologies have a long way to go to become established in the agricultural and food industries.


Energy efficiency and renewable energy use in agricultural value chains have increased, boosting 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 German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC, the US Government agency for supporting US investment abroad), and the US energy company Duke Energy. The aim of the initiative is to promote the development and dissemination of innovative, marketable approaches for using climate-friendly energy technologies in agriculture in developing countries and emerging economies. International competitions are used to select companies, universities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to receive direct grants. PAEGC currently funds 24 projects. 

The project is testing sustainable energy solutions in agricultural value chains, such as solar-powered milk cooling systems, in a further 16 pilot projects. In addition, the project gathers knowledge and experience on the interactive Wiki platform ‘Powering Agriculture’ at Priority areas are solar irrigation systems as well as cooling and energy efficiency in value chains. The portal also includes a toolbox that assists in providing advice on financing, selecting, installing and operating solar-powered irrigation systems. As a result, the technical community is able to better calculate system efficiency, cost effectiveness and water consumption, and thus to provide better advice to end users, decision-makers and financiers, and to minimise risks.

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


  • Almost 60 per cent of supported innovations have achieved market maturity or are beginning to disseminate climate-friendly energy solutions. For example, Claro Energy is an Indian innovator which has been promoted since 2015 and supplies mobile solar water pumps that are ordered up to 40 times daily. Another example is Village Infrastructure Angels (VIA), which develops solar-powered processing stations for staple foods and has already sold 230 solar-powered mills in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Vanuatu.
  • Sixty-nine Kenyan tea factories have carried out energy efficiency measures since 2014. As a result, there have been average reductions of 11 per cent in electricity usage and 10 per cent in firewood consumption in each factory. Throughout the project term, savings have been roughly USD 13.5 million in energy costs. These measures have also prevented the felling of 1.35 million trees. Overall, nearly 12,000 tonnes of CO2 have been saved. Similar measures are now being carried out in Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
  • The project has compiled 29 studies, for example on costs and benefits in different areas of application. These studies convey an overview of available sustainable energy technologies and their use, as well as theoretical and practical knowledge in training programmes. 
  • The project has provided training for 1,400 participants from across the globe on the subject of agriculture and energy in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). The project has also trained over 550 people with and in using the toolbox for solar irrigation, including a global e-learning course, and trained 29 toolbox trainers. A total of more than 2,500 people have taken part in the project’s training. 

Further Information