Addressing the challenges of access to energy in South Asia

March 31, 2012

The past week in South Asia working alongside Renewable World’s partners has been a fascinating and stimulating experience for me. It has re-enforced my passion for the work of Renewable World and convinced me even more that we have a unique contribution to make to the creation of business through the provision of clean, affordable energy provision to some of the poorest people on this planet. At the same time I came face to face with some of the long term challenges experienced by any organization wishing to stimulate business in extremely remote, isolated communities.

Renewable World was established by a small group of dedicated staff, trustees and supporters to develop the provision of clean, reliable, affordable energy to poor consumers in to some of the remotest places in the world.  Since the organisation started in 2007, its utilization of resources, skills, expertise and knowledge from the Renewable Energy industry and beyond to assist market initiation and market enhancement through the application of energy has expanded rapidly and started to achieve significant impact.

Throughout the experience of the last week, I was especially struck by four factors which I believe have significantly contributed to the success of our endeavours to date and have enabled us to considerably ramp up the impact of our work. The last week has only served to strengthen my conviction that they are critical for us to achieve lasting impact:

• Use of market based approaches to underpin everything we do to transform lives, mind-sets, opportunities and challenges experienced in contexts of weak or non-functioning markets, through the provision of reliable, clean, affordable energy.

• Application of sound, tested and rigorous business models to ensure the sustainability of the established energy business and concomitant energy productive use businesses.

• An insistence on a credible, workable and clear management and ownership structure for each of the businesses where the all the shareholders, stakeholders and associates have clearly defined incentive structure to build successful businesses. In most cases a self-selecting group is required where each co-owner of the business plays a full and active part and understands their responsibilities and associated benefits.

• The selection of a range of partners who share our vision of business creation and expansion through the provision of the clean affordable energy to the poorest in our society; this must be coupled with a systematic approach to capacity building of all partners and stakeholders associated with energy interventions to ensure that the appropriate skills sets are in place to achieve success.

Renewable World will continue to work to strengthen our understanding, behaviour and action in each of these areas. We are however, confident that the establishment of successful, well-run, profitable clean energy generation and utilization businesses has incredible knock-on effect for local communities the terms of: income generation as more and more money and profits are created and pumped back into the surrounding economic system; health as individuals, especially women, no longer need to cook using dirty fossil fuels or biomass, and households have greater resources to spend on health services; and education as individuals have greater time and resources to dedicate to education. The incredible work in the field which I saw this week serves to exemplifies these principles.