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Mid-term Evaluation of the CleanStart Programme Accessing Clean Energy for the Poor
Commissioning Unit: UNCDF
Evaluation Plan: 2016-2017
Evaluation Type: Others
Completion Date: 10/2017
Unit Responsible for providing Management Response: UNCDF
Documents Related to overall Management Response:
1. Recommendation:
Management Response: [Added: 2017/12/06]

Overall comments:  Although it was clearly a challenge for the Mid-Term Evaluation team to account for the complex and evolving ecosystem and material constraints that the CleanStart (CS) Programme operates in, and that CS (as part of UNCDF), promotes a market development approach, the management of CS recognizes the value of this exercise not only in terms of accountability, but also for advice on moving forward.  Taking this into account, CS hopes to continue influencing and play an active role in how UNCDF strategically use its catalytic investment mandate to accelerate market development in LDCs thereby working toward the objectives of SDG 7 and others goals.


CS had some challenges to achieve ambitious targets for the following reasons: i) The program started seriously underfunded, with only 30 percent of the budget funded (there is still a funding gap today of USD11Million out of USD26Million), ii) by delays in program implementation in several countries, given the ambitious and comprehensive nature of the CS approach and, iii) the incorrect assumption that traditional Microfinance Institutions were best placed to lead the energy access push—which forced a change in approach by including energy service providers more aggressively in the strategy.  More realistic targets (especially on the intermediate output level) can now be set based on a more flexible approach, experience and track record.   It should be noted, however, that as of end 2016—with revised timelines—the outreach target was basically on track.


The MTE noted that limited capacity building support was provided to partners.  Although recognizing that capacity building can be improved qualitatively, the CS team does not fully agree with this statement.  Extensive pre-investment TA is provided to all partners (FSPs, ESPs), irrespective of the approach (sector-based, investment), particularly on how to develop a commercially-viable business model and an implementable business plan.   Further, extensive implementation TA through trainings and one-on-one advice have been provided to financial service provider partners in Nepal and in Africa through the PAMIGA partnership—with several training tools for MFIs development.  The “investment” approach which CS has recently preferred, by nature, embeds the external TA requirements into the business plan (if deemed required through company’s own thinking and TA/due diligence discussions with CS team) so that the company takes ownership, and gets the type of support when the company most needs it.  But still, for the “investment” partners, CS provides value-added support, such as referrals to product/service provider partners such as digital payment service providers, solar providers; face-time with Government to discuss business challenges; linkages to funders; participation in customer research. 


Responding to the MTE statement that CS has modest influence on broader system and multiplier effect, the CS team would respond that CS has been actively developing other pieces of the market system (macro, meso) through convening country-level market stakeholders (Think-shops on targeted market development topics), and providing TA to national funds dedicated to energy lending (Central Renewable Energy Fund in Nepal, Development Bank of Ethiopia) so that working capital needs are at a much larger scale.  In Nepal, CS is a close partner of the Alternative Energy Promotion Center, who looks to CS to provide advice on financing whether that is CREF or the GCF application.  In Uganda, CS has a reputation for having a finger on the pulse when it comes to the energy access market and latest business models; it has since been selected as a SDG Financing For Development pilot by UNDP to demonstrate new approached to blended finance.  CS represents multilateral organizations on the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development and DFID-led Steering Committee to develop the household solar sector, and now approached by development partners to support the clean cooking and solar energy associations.   Given modest resources in the programme it was not possible to adopt comprehensive intervention strategies for Myanmar and Cambodia in the same manner as Nepal and Uganda, for instance.   However, even in Cambodia, CS has provided substantial inputs to the design of the UNDP-GCF solar programme.


Global level activities, such as engagement with SE4ALL and the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association and IFC on sector KPIs should have been reflected more strongly in the analysis. CS has played (and is playing) a constructive and sector-supporting role here.  MACRO seems un-necessarily confined to country level.  It is mentioned in the report, but not further analyzed, although information on this was made available in time.  GOGLA nor IFC/World Bank (global), two major global players in the sector that know CS could have provided commentary on CS, its role and collaboration with these two entities to create an enabling environment and performance standards for the off-grid solar sector. 


Overall, the MTE was coordinated well with the CS team, although communications on logistics and final review of the draft document could have been better managed to minimize transaction costs and time on all sides.  The CS team wishes to thank the UNCDF evaluation unit for its continuous guidance and its professional, objective advice throughout the process.

Key Actions:

2. Recommendation:

Evaluation Recommendation or Issue 1: 1. STRATEGY LEVEL

The programme should continue with the piloting approach, and: 

a. Concentrate on the five existing countries of implementation;  b. Focus on the development and research of specific initiatives at global and regional level to share best practices, capitalize lessons learned and try to attract additional funds;

c. If possible within this programme, or eventually in future interventions, distinguish objectives and expected results between direct and indirect interventions to attribute a different weight to the expected contribution to the programme (and consequently to monitor their achievements);

d. Starting from the existing country business plans (or market assessments), to design (or revise)  a specific action plan for each country of implementation in order to establish the ‘appropriate’ entry level and the best sequence to upstream and/or downstream connections at different levels to identify and address market bottlenecks, challenges and opportunities; and programmes in order to establish clear institutional relationships in the countries and to avoid gaps or overlapping amongst the Programme Implementation Units.

Management Response: [Added: 2017/12/06]

Management Response:  a. Where possible, CS will strive to do this.  However, this also depends on the funding is available; in many instances funding is earmarked for specific countries or regions, limiting the amount flexibility in terms of deploying in those countries.  In some countries, the ecosystem for energy access financing may also change quite suddenly (for example, the case of Myanmar, where a subsidy programme brought severe difficulties for several of the CS partners and where our overall position in the market would need to be re-assessed). NO SPECIFIC ACTION DEEMED REQUIRED. b. CS’s energy customer journey research outputs (energy ladder, energy and financial diaries, client impact study) will soon be publicized.  The calibre of the data partners, research team, and advisory committee (e.g. GOGLA, GSMA, Acumen Fund) should be a testament to how innovative the research is better understanding customers.  Several further research initiatives are in the pipeline, some also considering big data. CS Connect (event) and Connections (magazine) will be revitalized in more bite-sized form, with more emphasis on local events and social media to share best practice. c. Indeed, this is taken on board, with more attention to be given to DCED and similar monitoring and reporting systems that might be more appropriate for CleanStart, with more of an emphasis on market development approaches.  Work by the UNCDF SHIFT programme, which was also instrumental in providing support to the CS challenge fund activities can assist with this (it recently contributed to the development of the newly released Measuring Market Development Handbook by CGAP). d.  A country tracking framework, taking into account these different levels and clear CS entry points, as well as interaction with strategic partners will be established.  This will be a light, live document that will be adjusted as programmatic realities evolve—which can also be used for reporting and board information.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
1.a. Publish three customer journey research pieces.
[Added: 2017/12/06] [Last Updated: 2018/05/16]
PMU 2018/03 Completed CleanStart published three blog pieces on customer journey. History
1.b. Re-activate Connect (local or international) events and Connections series (choosing one of the following platforms: publications, modest case-studies, information sharing—primarily using social media).
[Added: 2017/12/06] [Last Updated: 2020/01/15]
PMU 2019/12 Completed Publications of results and sector thought leadership have grown significantly. CS communications team has developed webpages (now accessible in blog format) for specialized projects, featuring Customer Stories – resulting from digital storytelling workshop for 10 RECF partners; USEA project webpage – featuring publications, blogs, and reports from USEA collaboration. Our team of experts also represented CleanStart at national and international conferences, related to energy and climate finance, and national energy planning (Burkina Faso, DRC, Uganda, international forum based in Nairobi). History
1.c. CleanStart will adjust its results measurement system and reporting to include Market Development Measurement best practice indicators.
[Added: 2017/12/06] [Last Updated: 2021/03/19]
PMU 2021/03 Completed CleanStart has acted on adjusting its results measurement system and reporting thanks to a collaboration with HEDERA Sustainable Solutions GmbH, a German company, providing digital tools to 10 CleanStart Renewable Energy Companies and UNCDF in Uganda. With these tools companies can collect, analyze and report their data in a more efficient way enabling both the companies and UNCDF to track their progress in improving their target market’s energy access and measure their impact. Based on this, the wider CleanStart measurement approach will be further refined during 2021 as part of the broader UNCDF strategic planning process. History
1.d A country tracking framework prepared for Uganda.
[Added: 2017/12/06] [Last Updated: 2018/10/05]
PMU 2018/03 Completed As part of the RECF logframe and results tracking framwork History
1.e A country tracking framework prepared for other countries where CleanStart is active with critical mass.
[Added: 2017/12/06] [Last Updated: 2018/10/05]
PMU 2018/06 Completed As of now, only Uganda has critical mass History
3. Recommendation:

Evaluation Recommendation or Issue 2: OUTREACH LEVEL 

Focus also on a broader target definition, i.e. micro-entrepreneurs (as also declared in the final outcome) and community economies (namely centers of aggregation such as hospitals, schools, market places, etc.) with a view to accelerate programme accomplishment and increase awareness in communities. In addition, consider to improve the definition and monitoring of household’s level of income or poverty rate to ensure of reaching the expected segment of population (low income households). 

Management Response: [Added: 2017/12/06]

Management Response:  Impact on poverty is complex to measure, especially midway through the programme (we note that some attempts to do so in the MTE lack robustness, given the modest sample size. PPI requires at a minimum a sample size of 30 in a given context).  However, CS will strive to find what the poverty outreach of the programme is, using different tools.  Assessing the use of energy for productive use (as per the SE4ALL and SDG7 measurement frameworks) will be given more emphasis, both on an individual, enterprise and collective basis.  It will attempt to do so using the aforementioned measurement parameters, in combination with action point taken on 1.c above.

Awareness raising is certainly seen as a key activity for CS moving forward (a significant commitment to this has already been made in Uganda, for example).

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
2. Key SE4ALL/SDG 7 parameters included in impact metrics (in combination with action point 1.c.
[Added: 2017/12/06] [Last Updated: 2018/12/14]
PMU 2018/12 Completed Impact indicators mapped against SDGs 1, 5, 7, 8, 13, 17 and tracked through quarterly/annual KPIs reported by partners and through qualitative surveys with customers conducted by UNCDF History
4. Recommendation:

Evaluation Recommendation or Issue 3:   GOVERNANCE LEVEL 

Reinforce the current Investment Committee with a dedicated Committee (Advisory or Steering Committee) to maintain a more effective relationship with donors, global stakeholders and other relevant international energy initiatives towards strengthening the programme’s governance structure, gaining larger participation of relevant international actors and building capacity to attract additional funds.

Management Response: [Added: 2017/12/06] [Last Updated: 2017/12/06]

Management Response:  Indeed, this is an area for strengthening and is accepted as such.  Attempts to include key donors in the global programme board structure have not been successful thus far, but new steps to expand board members to peer organizations, industry representatives or other leaders in the field will be made.  Given the ability to attract a high-quality investment committees for the CS challenge fund rounds, candidates from these investment committees may be sought.  That said, engagement with a whole variety of partners, including donors has worked very well at the country level, which may also offer another way to engage in the governance structure.  For example, in Uganda, UNCDF is part of the DFID-sponsored energy compact

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
3. Board expanded from current level to include at least two additional external stakeholders (e.g. donor, academic/industry expert, investor/industry representative, etc…..)
[Added: 2017/12/06] [Last Updated: 2019/07/23]
PMU 2019/06 Completed UNCDF has recently signed a new agreement with Luxembourg to fund the expansion of CleanStart in Burkina Faso. As a major donor representative, Luxembourg has been included as board member of CleanStart. History
5. Recommendation:

Evaluation Recommendation or Issue 4:  MANAGEMENT LEVEL

a. Develop more diversified supporting tools in terms of: i) financial tools that apart from grants also include other funding mechanisms (such as senior debt and/or sharing risk credit and guarantee funds); and ii) capacity building by first assessing the effective needs of the institutions and then providing targeted assistance and/or training;  b. Improve the monitoring and reporting system by including programme achievements beyond the micro level; c. Encourage implementing partners to identify and promote projects based on innovative and strategic core-business models avoiding to support projects that are residual activities respect to their main business;  d. Reorganize the Programme Implementation Unit through increased presence at country level of dedicated staff (preferably local).  

Management Response: [Added: 2017/12/06]

Management Response: a.i.  UNCDF has recently operationalized its LDC Investment Platform that allows it to more aggressively push a number of different funding instruments such as loans and guarantees.  SIDA has agreed to provide additional funding to CS to test some of these instruments within 2018, which it intends to do—in partnership with the LDC IP. a.ii. CS aims to do more work on Capacity Building, Knowledge and Policy Advocacy. Initial work on this has already been done, especially in Uganda and Nepal.  Extensive capacity building activities are planned in Ethiopia with UNDP funding.  A concept note has been submitted to DFID and NORAD that have strong components for Uganda by doing this through industry associations. b. Although CS does have various and robust tools to monitor its performance (staff monitoring system, a partner KPI reporting system, and independent research), it recognizes that more can be do strengthen the overall coherence of its monitoring.  In response, CS has set up a qualitative database on NVIVO to conduct systematic case study analyses on best and weak practices of partners.  CS will implement lessons learned from previous challenge fund rounds into the next window.  KPI systems currently operational will be also simplified.  Distinction between direct and indirect interventions needs to be worked on.  This should all combine to improve the monitoring and reporting system by including programme achievements beyond the microlevel and into the portfolio level.  Focus on the development and research of specific initiatives at global and regional level to share best practices will be made, to capitalize lessons learned, make policy interventions and try to attract additional resources. c. The challenge fund app explicitly supports innovation—typically in terms of new business models, approaches to groups or geographies not covered earlier, or different partnership arrangements in a market (for example between an energy service provider and a bank).  However, given that this entails a high risk of failure also, it has taken steps to capture lesson from failure also.  Further, it will seek to adopt a mixed portfolio of investments, with some highly innovative, high risk investments, mixed with investments into projects that can real opportunities for scale. NO SPECIFIC ACTION DEEMED REQUIRED. d. For countries where these is a critical mass of activities and funding, this has been practice (for example Nepal) and continues to be a priority.  Uganda is well funded into 2020 and this will allow the team to recruit a national project coordinator.  The recruitment process will start within 2017, with the aim of having person on board early in 2018.  Similar steps will be taken for countries/regions which are able to secure resourcing for this.  For countries which have less resources, a more flexible staffing approach will be taken

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
4.a.i) CleanStart will provide at least three loans or guarantees
[Added: 2017/12/06] [Last Updated: 2018/12/14]
PMU and LDC-IP 2018/12 Completed 3 Loans and 1 guarantee to three companies in Uganda. One more in the pipeline in Nepal to be completed in Q1 19. History
4.a.ii) CleanStart will undertake structured capacity building activities ESPs and FSPs in Uganda and Ethiopia focusing on institutional strengthening and financial planning.
[Added: 2017/12/06] [Last Updated: 2020/01/15]
PMU 2019/12 Completed • Completed - Uganda: Seven RECF partners have received training, mentorship and business advisory support ranging from improving governance and management structures, branding and communication, to business model improvements and financial management and analysis. Six attended and graduated from the 10 month SME mentorship and training programme implemented by Stanbic Business Incubator. Five partners underwent the PAMIGA mock due diligence and two qualify for follow up support to review business plans, valuation and investor pitch decks, and linking or negotiating terms with potential investors. Partners such as GRS and Wana have utilized the feedback from PAMIGA and used it to improve business model and operations. Ethiopia: UNCDF provided technical assistance and training to local MFIs, banks and SMEs to support their ability to access and utilize the guarantee scheme. This included a training programme that was organized for 20 FIs on energy loan product development, due diligence, loan appraisal and monitoring of energy loans. Another training programme on Business planning was also provided for 90 RET Suppliers and 27 regional energy experts. Business plan preparation support has also been provided to 18 RET enterprises working in Amhara, Tigray, Oromia and SNNPR through a local BDS provider. A detailed step-by-step business preparation manual has also been developed in English and local language to enable regional energy experts to support RET suppliers develop their own business plans. During the same year, a national learning and sharing workshop was organized to create a platform for learning and experience sharing among projects working on rural energy technologies in Ethiopia. The proceeding of the workshop was prepared and shared with relevant organizations. History
4.b) Unified KPI system to be in place for all active CS countries
[Added: 2017/12/06] [Last Updated: 2018/10/05]
PMU 2018/06 Completed Unified KPI software used for all current CS investees. History
4.d) National project coordinator to be hired in Uganda
[Added: 2017/12/06] [Last Updated: 2018/12/14]
PMU 2018/12 Completed Recruitment in final stages i.e. offer has been made. History

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