Viewing Progress: Global LEAP Awards for World’s Best Off-Grid Color Televisions

18 APRIL 2013, NEW DELHI –The Global LEAP Outstanding Off-Grid Product Awards’ television competition, announced today by U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu at the fourth Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM4) in New Delhi, will recognize the very best, most energy-efficient color televisions for off-grid use. Winners will be announced at the fifth Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM5) in Korea ahead of the 2014 World Cup.

Color televisions are in high demand in un-electrified and under-electrified parts of the developing world, where 1.3 billion people live without adequate access to electricity, and another billion have less than four hours of reliable electricity each day. The vast majority of these off-grid communities are in developing Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In rural villages that are off the grid, televisions tend to be black and white – and rare.

“Televisions provide access to news, educational information, and entertainment, and color televisions in particular confer status,” said Global LEAP initiative lead Caroline McGregor. “They’re something families aspire to, but unless and until the national grid gets extended to their village, the only way to have a television is for a household to install a small home-scale power system. What we’re seeing is that much of the demand for home systems is driven by demand for televisions.”

Small home-scale power systems typically run off a 12-volt DC battery — essentially, a car battery — that may either be charged by a small solar photovoltaic (PV) panel on the roof in the case of solar home systems (SHS) or charged for a fee at a charging station nearby. Millions of them are in use by households and small businesses in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Americas, and the market is growing. Worldwide, those earning less than $3,000 a year represent a $5 trillion consumer market.

A modern energy-efficient color television uses up to 70% less electricity than do older, less efficient models. High-efficiency televisions leave more electricity for other appliances and uses— they also give households the option to install smaller, less expensive power systems while getting the same level of energy services. Energy-efficient off-grid appliances offer longer run times and lower costs.

Companies that sell solar-home systems have recognized that demand for televisions is a driver of demand for solar-home systems.

“Our customers want to buy televisions,” said Thomas Smyth, co-founder and managing director of Zamsolar, a company that sells and finances solar-powered products throughout rural Zambia. “Seeing this demand, Zamsolar is always on the lookout for affordable, high-quality TVs that are reliable enough for off-grid customers.”

The Global Lighting and Energy Access Partnership (Global LEAP) is an initiative of the Clean Energy Ministerial, and there are linkages to the  UN’s Sustainable Energy for All campaign, which targets universal energy access by 2030. No amount of philanthropy or donor aid will be adequate to the scale of that challenge, so Global LEAP is focused on catalysing market development and enabling private sector delivery of expanded access to modern energy services.

The Global LEAP Awards are designed to spur private sector competition and innovation by recognizing the highest quality, most energy-efficient off-grid appliances and promoting them to key market stakeholders.

“This focus on low-voltage televisions is unusual for an energy access program,” said McGregor, “but we’re confident that the Global LEAP Awards will spur market development and ultimately deliver benefits to families in off-grid communities. We expect to see a lot of innovative products and manufacturers going after the off-grid appliance market. With competition and innovation will come decreased prices, increased scale, and expanded access to home power systems and the appliances they support.”

The competition includes five categories of television awards: one prototype category and four commercially-available categories based on viewable screen size. Winning products will be recognized at the Clean Energy Ministerial ceremony in 2014 and will be featured in a widely-distributed Procurement Guide aimed at bulk purchasers such government agencies, wholesale distributors, and social enterprises. The Global LEAP Awards also has a recently announced LED lighting appliance competition.

Manufacturers of eligible products can find more information and nominate their products at


The Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) is a high-level global forum to share best practices and promote policies and programs that encourage and facilitate the transition to a global clean energy economy. CEM initiatives are based on areas of common interest among participating governments and other stakeholders and help reduce emissions, improve energy security, provide energy access, and sustain economic growth. The Global Lighting and Energy Access Partnership (Global LEAP) is an initiative of the CEM.

Matt Jordan (Washington, DC): | Phone +1.202.662.7229
Rebecca Short (Sydney, Australia): Phone +61 415.156.409

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