The Cylinder Prize – what happened next?

By: Ideas to Impact Team On: Aug 23, 2016

Many of you may have wondered why no country was specified when we launched the Ideas to Impact Cylinder Prize. It inevitably made defining the problem harder and certainly challenged the solvers too. Well now we can tell you….

The Cylinder Prize, launched in July 2015 as part of the broader Ideas to Impact Energy Access prize, was designed to support the planned reform of Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) distribution in Ghana. We were unable to name the country at the time because the policy reform had not been formally agreed.

Sadly, this long planned policy reform is not currently progressing and consequently it has not been possible to run the prizes programme as we had envisaged doing. This has been very disappointing for us and means that future planned investments in the prizes supporting the reform will not be going ahead and the Ideas to Impact Programme has ceased to invest in LPG in Ghana.

Had Ghana implemented new arrangements recommended by the Global LPG Partnership, very large numbers of sub-standard gas cylinders would have come out of circulation, and the government was interested in ways of realising value from these beyond the scrap value of the steel.

The Cylinder Prize we ran was intended to find a response to this question, but did not identify any immediately implementable solution at scale. Instead we had a series of interesting concepts each of which needed to go through a prototyping and market testing phase to establish whether it was a viable way of recycling old cylinders. Several of the concepts involved turning cylinders into improved wood and charcoal stoves.

Active stove-makers in Ghana met through the Ghana Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and Fuels in early 2016, and the prize winning concepts were shared with participants. There was interest from some manufacturers in the ideas if a supply of cylinders could be guaranteed and funding provided to cover the costs of product development and testing. With the LPG reform not making progress a supply of cylinders cannot be guaranteed, and as a result we did not pursue the matter further with potential implementers of a solution.

The concepts remain valid however and might be applicable in other countries considering LPG reforms, though the Ghana context was particularly unusual and interesting to explore. Reforms in Ghana may yet take place but the timescale for that is uncertain, and is an uncertainty that the programme and funding cannot wait for.

A paper analysing the experience and evidence from The Cylinder Prize and the wider LPG prize context in Ghana is being produced by Dr. David Ockwell of the University of Sussex and will be published shortly on the Ideas to Impact website.

An evaluation of The Cylinder Prize is being prepared by Itad and will also be available in due course.

Photo courtesy of Steven Depolo via Flickr, Creative Commons.