SELCO, a pioneering off-grid solar company based in India, just celebrated its 26th anniversary. Christine Eibs Singer at Sustainable Energy for All and Richenda Van Leeuwen at ANDE, both former board members at SELCO, share 10 lessons from the company's decades of experience in the sector, which may be helpful to other impact investors and social entrepreneurs working in off-grid energy.
India Needs Over $900 Billion in Climate Finance by 2030: This Roadmap Can Mobilize Private Sector Investment
India is committed to lowering its greenhouse gas emissions, but its goals under the Paris Agreement are not ambitious enough. Simmi Sareen at GreenFunder and Shravan Shankar at the BIG Green Collaborative argue that the country must focus on increasing energy storage and efficiency, decreasing agriculture and manufacturing emissions, and adapting to a more hostile climate. They explore how innovative and scalable technology can address these priorities by 2030 — and how strengthening India’s climate financing structures can help generate the $100 billion in yearly private investment this will require.
An Overlooked Engine of Economic Growth: Delivering Products – and Enabling Livelihoods – in Refugee Communities
The Kakuma and Kalobeyei refugee camps in Kenya are home to nearly 200,000 people from 22 countries. Contrary to the stereotype of refugee settlements, these are thriving communities with around 2,500 businesses and over $56 million in economic activity per year. But as Sasha Kapadia at Mastercard points out, their economic growth is stifled by a lack of reliable electricity. She discusses a public-private partnership co-chaired by Mastercard and USAID, which is training people in these communities as sales agents for solar energy products, to spur entrepreneurship and boost access to energy and other essential products.
Minigrids and Cold Storage Are a Match Made in Sustainable Development Heaven – So What’s Keeping Them Apart?
The minigrid sector faces a dilemma: Most rural customers need electricity in the evenings, yet most minigrids generate their power during the day. This requires them to store unused power in expensive batteries, complement their solar power with diesel generators, or reduce production. As Seth Silverman and Tom Chaplin at Factor[e] Ventures explain, cold storage providers could offer minigrids reliable demand for their surplus power – yet these partnerships aren't happening. They explore the obstacles, and some potential solutions.
The Public Option: How Smart Tariff Subsidies Can Boost Minigrids and Solve Africa’s Rural Energy Access Dilemma
The World Bank estimates that minigrids can provide electricity for up to 500 million people by 2030, and that the cost of minigrid electricity per kilowatt hour will decrease by two thirds in the same period. But as Daniel Kitwa at the Africa Minigrid Developers Association points out, these goals can only be realized through effective public policy, scale and innovation. He explains why a smartly designed subsidy program to reduce the cost of minigrid power for rural customers is the critical missing piece in these efforts.
Taking Cold Chains Off-Grid: How Solar Powered Cold Rooms Could Dramatically Reduce Food Waste in Sub-Saharan Africa
In sub-Saharan Africa, up to 50% of produce perishes before reaching end customers, largely due to a lack of viable cold chain solutions. Maria Knodt at Energy 4 Impact and Ruth Kimani at CLASP explore how solar-powered cold rooms can address this issue, and highlight some significant technical and business model challenges that could undermine their impact.
2020 MOST INFLUENTIAL ARTICLE CANDIDATE: Milling on Mini-Grids: How Africa’s Largest Crop Could Go Diesel-Free
Milling is a key use of energy for people living off-grid in rural Africa, allowing them to turn grains like maize – the region's most commonly produced cereal – into flour to make staple foods. Using solar mini-grid electricity to power these mills would save money, reduce air pollution and boost electricity sales for mini-grid companies. But as analysts at CrossBoundary point out, diesel mills still dominate the market. They explore the challenge of competing with diesel, and how innovations in solar mills are changing the landscape.
Agriculture should be a key market for rural energy providers in Africa. Growing agribusinesses and smallholder farmers need modern energy to thrive, and rural energy enterprises need reliable consumers to anchor demand for their services. Yet as Seth Silverman and Tom Chaplin at Factor[e] Ventures explain, a gap remains between the two industries, and ag-energy projects struggle to draw commercial investment. They explore some promising ways to fill that gap, sharing lessons from a new report.