It is often said that technologies for the renewable energy sector are off-patent and available, but making use of these is not an easy task.
Developing countries need greater know-how and absorptive capacity to make use of such technologies, according to UNCTAD's Technology and Innovation Report 2011.
It called for coordinated policy support at the national, regional and international levels. Technological absorptive capacity is also important to facilitate the private sector's greater involvement in the development of renewable energy technologies (RETs). "It could ensure the future deployment and scale-up of locally manufactured technologies in all developing countries and least developed countries (LDCs), as is currently being witnessed in countries such as Brazil, China and India, said the Report that proposed an integrated innovation policy framework for RET use, adaptation, innovation and production in developing countries and LDCs.
"Such a framework requires close coordination between the national innovation systems that provide the necessary conditions for the development of RETs, and the energy policies that promote the gradual integration of RETs into industrial development strategies," it said, adding that such a framework is essential for creating a virtuous cycle of interaction between economic development, RETs, and science, technology and innovation.
Policy frameworks are being put in place across countries in one form or another. A review of policy trends shows a steady increase in policy activity in this regard: by 2010, more than 100 countries had introduced either a target or a policy mechanism for promoting renewable energy technologies. The number of developing countries that are beginning to implement policies on renewable energy technologies is increasing too; these countries now represent more than half of all the countries that have such a policy framework in place.However, such policies, the report suggested, should be well coordinated with the energy regimes and with an innovation systems framework for best results.
UNCTAD's Technology and Innovation Report 2011 argued that national governments in developing countries have a pivotal role to play in combining conventional sources of energy with renewable energy technologies.
As the report showed, expanding the use of renewable energy technologies is critical to fostering technological improvements that will bring down their usage costs. Government agencies and the policy framework can play a decisive role by promoting the general innovation environment for the development of science, technology and innovation; making renewable energy technologies viable; and enabling enterprise development in and through renewable energy technologies.
It showed that developing countries may face a variety of constraints in each of these areas, but there are also several opportunities. In the developing-country context, a few well-coordinated incentives can go a long way towards achieving significant results, and these can serve as the building blocks for an integrated framework in the years to come. Such proactive government interventions will need the support of the international community to benefit from the full potential that renewable energy technologies offer for alleviating (and eventually eliminating) energy poverty and simultaneously promoting climate-friendly solutions on a global scale.
Forging strong partnerships with the international community could also lead to the widespread dissemination of environmentally sustainable technologies worldwide, resulting in enhanced economic development and greater opportunities for large segments of populations that have been left behind in the process of globalisation.