Christine Eibs Singer

Guest Post: Reflections from Center Stage at the 2011 World Future Energy Summit

The following article by E+Co’s CEO Christine Eibs-Singer appeared first on E+Co’s Plug-In Blog. The NextBillion team would like to congratulate E+Co for an important recognition of their pioneering work bringing energy services to the poor, while harnessing the power of markets and local entrepreneurship.

It’s a long way from E+Co’s headquarters in Bloomfield, NJ to center stage at the magnificent Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. But as a result of the focus and commitment of E+Co staff and the dedication of more than 200 energy entrepreneurs in Africa, Asia and Latin America, E+Co was invited to Abu Dhabi as one of the finalists for the prestigious Zayed Future Energy Prize (ZFEP). On Jan. 18, 2011, I had the honor of accepting congratulations from H.H. General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan as a runner up for this prize.

What an experience the week in Abu Dhabi was. The Zayed Future Energy Prize is organized by Abu Dhabi-based Masdar, which supports development, commercialization and adoptions of technologies to address the issues of climate change and build a more sustainable future. Masdar also organizes the World Future Energy Summit (WFES), which I also attended last week in Abu Dhabi. ZFEP had a separate booth within the Masdar pavilion, where the finalist videos could be viewed (see below), and the winners’ gold medallion, with the profile of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Founding Father of the United Arab Emirates, etched on it, was on display. I wandered over there a few times, and was always met with enthusiasm by Dalal Yassin and Anais Abram, the first rate ZFEP staff who handled all the logistics.

E+Co didn’t have too many kindred spirits walking the exhibit space that were focused on small scale clean energy solutions for the developing world. As I wandered the extremely large WFES exhibit, inhabited by companies with products and services targeted to large scale renewable energy projects, I was impressed by the diversity of technology, size and country of origin of the exhibits. But while small-scale clean energy and its impact on energy poverty and climate change may not have been in the aisles of the WFES, it was in the minds of many of its speakers.

At the opening plenary, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon specifically addressed the need for energy to be available and affordable to the 1.6 billion without access to electricity. Universal access to modern energy services, he stated, was necessary to address climate risk – “one of the defining challenges of our time” – to alleviate poverty and to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Music to my ears! Crown Prince Guillaume of Luxembourg stated that “access to energy is a pre-condition to social and economic development.”

When I walked into the Emirates Palace that night as one of six finalists for three prizes, I actually was already feeling that E+Co ’s focus on clean energy enterprises in developing countries had won, as it had become clear that there was an understanding of the importance of integrating solutions for rural ’energization’ – clean, affordable lighting and cooking solutions and local power generation.

I was incredibly humbled and moved when the award ceremony highlighted some of the other 40 finalists. The thinking, dedication, innovation and commitment of each organization leapt off the screen, inspiring the audience through their exceptional work. I immediately thought, “Wow…the E+Co team of 48 men and women is in a very impressive league!” (see below).

I felt tremendous responsibility to perform, to excel in our work, as I listened and watched the segment on Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. And then, the award announcement … I folded my hands in my lap, thought of how proud my parents would be at my sitting in this place, at this time, and heard the words “….for investment in developing countries….” And knew we had just been announced as the first runner up. That E+Co was receiving its due – for the uphill, hard work of the early 1990s by Phil LaRocco, Gina Rodolico, myself and others – for the vision set forth by Peter Goldmark of a “global environmental bargain between north and south,” for the early support from the Rockefeller Foundation. We were being recognized for our vision, innovation and leadership in capturing the spirit and drive of entrepreneurs to deliver sustainable clean energy. His Royal Highness was very gracious in his congratulations, and I promised him that E+Co would continue on in the spirit of his father’s vision and commitment to a clean energy future.

As I reflected on this prestigious acknowledgement, and admittedly basked in the congratulations and best wishes that came in over the following days, I knew that this recognition was critical on two levels. First, for E+Co’s hard work over sixteen years to implement this vision, and second, for elevating the focus on developing country clean energy enterprise development. I believe that the recognition of E+Co for the Zayed Future Energy Prize will bring the required validation of the role that entrepreneurs, small and growing businesses and innovative finance play in meeting the energy poverty needs in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The time is now. The energy poor do not have to wait. Clean energy technologies and business models exist. As co-runner up, Amory Lovins has said, “we have sufficient technology – we just need 50 years of implementation.” And we need the continued vision and leadership by E+Co and others to lead the way with new innovations and ideas to deliver the human capacity and finance necessary for the rapid escalation of success.

Thank you to Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan for his vision; to the men and women of E+Co, both past and present, for believing in the vision laid out more than 17 years ago by Phil LaRocco; to Dalal Yassin and Anais Abram for all of their fine-tuned logistical work. And, thank you to my husband Steve, and my children Lucas and Emily, for sharing me and allowing me to continue on this significant journey of clean energy access for all.

rural development