Doctoral Student, Finland Futures Research Centre (FFRC)
M Soc Sc


+358 40 702 9691
Korkeavuorenkatu 25 Helsinki

Areas of expertise

energy scenarios
solar innovation
environment and development
sustainable development indicators
urban governance


Joni Karjalainen has worked in the Finland Futures Research Centre since 2013. He is currently based in Accra, Ghana. His research interests include the study of alternative energy futures, the uptake of renewable energy technologies, and solar energy in sub-Saharan African countries, and strategies to attain Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7). 

Karjalainen also focuses on these themes in his doctoral research. In 2017, Karjalainen was a Visiting Fellow in the University of Sussex, Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) in the United Kingdom, during which his research focused on the novel business models and innovation patterns in solar energy in the East Africa. Author of over 10 academic peer-reviewed articles and over 10 scientific research reports. 

Karjalainen has a political science degree (M Soc Sc) from the University of Helsinki, and holds previous experience in international development, innovation collaboration and communications.


Karjalainen's teaching duties include assisting in Futures Studies Master's Courses and master's thesis supervision.


Solar energy is increasingly expected to power Africa’s future. Despite a hope of its growing uptake, the penetration of solar products (solar lighting, solar home systems and micro- and mini-grids) and related services in African countries has been slow because of technical, financial, social, implementation, and institutional / policy constraints. In the 2010s, the global energy landscape has witnessed unexpected changes. The cost of solar photovoltaics has fallen dramatically. The implications of these trends, related dynamics and future trajectories of solar PV for African countries, however, have received limited attention. 

The uptake of solar energy coincides with a growing fascination for promoting innovation in developing countries. In pioneering markets, such as Kenya and Tanzania, innovative business models, incorporating ICT-based innovations such as mobile banking, machine-to-machine communications and artificial intelligence (AI) have emerged. Much analysis of these emerging developments can be characterised as uncritical. There has been little analysis about the factors that enabled these pioneering ventures to emerge, the role of global innovation networks, and expectations locally in harnessing these technologies. 

Karjalainen's recent research projects include:

  • Great Electrification in Peer-to-Peer Society (2018)
  • Neo-Carbon Energy - Transformative Energy Futures 2050 (2014–2017)
  • ENCORE – Economically viable city centre and urbanizing downtown (2015–2016)
  • Access to Sustainable Energy for All (2011–2014)
  • Kenya and Tanzania Beyond 2015: Exploring domestic debates and envisioning development futures (2013–2014) 


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