The Rockefeller Foundation has announced the launch of a $75 million initiative to bring clean energy to a million people in rural villages in India.
The initiative, Smart Power for Rural Development, aims to install solar-powered mini-grids in a thousand villages in the Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, where fewer than 10 percent of rural households are connected to the national grid, by the end of 2017. According to the foundation, electricity can increase household per capita income by 39 percent, while the International Energy Agency estimates that energy demand in India will more than triple over the next thirty years.
Under the Smart Power model, an anchor tenant — for example, a telecommunications company operating local cell towers — would assure a baseline level of demand, making it profitable for an energy services company operator (ESCO) to build a local power plant. With an anchor tenant secured, the plant operator can sell electricity to other local businesses and households, building demand for power and expanding opportunities for economic development. The foundation will partner with Smart Power India, a newly incubated company, to facilitate business and project development among energy service companies, private-sector partners, and investors; ensure local buy-in and economic development; and encourage policy and regulatory engagement.
"Every step toward increasing rural access to modern energy sources can help India reach its full economic potential," said Rockefeller Foundation president Judith Rodin. "We believe the provision of power will open up greater opportunities for economic development in rural areas- paving the way for a more inclusive economy. The Smart Power model we are launching today is a unique market based innovation that can support India as it achieves its ambitious electrification goals."