The afterlives of solar power: Waste and repair off the grid in Kenya

Jamie Cross, Declan Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One neglected socio-cultural and political dimension to the rapid diffusion of solar power in Sub-Saharan Africa is the question of what happens when things fall apart. Investors in the small-scale renewable energy sector are increasingly concerned with the status of broken or non-functioning products and there is an emerging consensus around the need for centralised recycling systems as the solution to future flows of ‘solar waste’.

But what does the afterlife of off-grid solar products look like from below? Grounded in anthropology, geography and economic sociology, this paper tracks the impact of off grid solar products through contexts of breakdown, repair, and disposal. Combining stakeholder interviews, a longitudinal survey of product failure rates in Kenya and ethnographic research at a repair workshop in the town of Bomet, we challenge narratives of energy transitions that fail to address the environmental consequences of mass consumption and present an alternative approach to solar waste embedded in cultures and economies of repair.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-109
JournalEnergy Research & Social Science
Early online date8 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


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