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Remarks by Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation at the Launch of Tata Power Renewable Microgrid – Press Conference

As delivered on Monday, November 4, 2019, at the Oberoi Hotel in New Delhi, India.

Great, thank you for being here and thank you, Praveer, for those comments and much more importantly for your leadership of this extraordinarily ambitious joint venture.

Tata Power Renewable Microgrid, which we are announcing the launch of today, will, in fact, help more than 25 million people in India move themselves and their families out of poverty, and that is why The Rockefeller Foundation is proud to be your partner in this endeavor.

One hundred and one years ago, the Foundation received its very first invitation to work in India, to help fight the debilitating hookworm disease around Chennai. Since then, our commitment to India has endured for more than a century – from advancing public health and medical education, to investing in the agricultural breakthroughs of the Green Revolution, to this exciting and extraordinary, unique public-private collaboration we are announcing today.

This new partnership builds on recent work by the Rockefeller Foundation via our Smart Power India affiliate program to bring reliable electricity – reliable and renewable electricity – to people living without it. So, I want to acknowledge that program as well as its many partners, including Tata Power, also DESI Power, Tara Urja, OMC, Husk, ITT, and many others, as those allowed us to develop pilot programs in those states that have proven that we can, in fact, use these new technologies to reach very low-income families and households with reliable, renewable electricity.

On a personal note, I just want to share that I have come to observe how central electricity access, power, and lighting is to fighting poverty and making sure every human being gets to experience the dignity they deserve.

After the Haiti earthquake in 2010, I saw firsthand how women and girls, in particular, were abused in unlit makeshift camps, and when we were able to provide electricity and lighting, they became safe.

When supporting agricultural investments here in India and throughout Africa and Central America [at USAID], we saw specifically how providing electricity and then business technologies to farmers helped women save their own labor and their time, increase their incomes, and invest in their families.

And here in India, we [at Rockefeller] have seen across more than 200,000 customers of our partners through Smart Power India how mostly women-headed businesses, when they get access to reliable, renewable power, have been able to increase their business revenues by nearly 50 percent as a result of that electricity access.

So, we understand that this collaboration today is about launching the world’s largest microgrid business, but it’s also about helping the customers of that business lift up themselves and lift up their families, often out of poverty.

The Rockefeller Foundation is committed to science, technology, and innovation and using those technological advances to allow people to lift themselves up. In this case, the technologies that we are going to jointly invest in are many and they range from smart grid management technologies pioneered by the Tata Power team and used right here to manage the grid system in Delhi, to new energy storage and battery systems that we believe will bring down the cost of these types of installations and allow many more people to have access to power.

We know that Prime Minister Modi has established a 24/7 goal for every Indian household to have access to power. We also know that despite some data that indicates that most Indian villages are now connected to grid power, there are still at least 100 million people in India that do not have access to electricity that is reliable – and that number is probably a dramatic underestimate of the number of people and businesses that would benefit from more reliable, lower-cost access to power and energy. The rural economy in particular, which represents still two-thirds of India’s population, is particularly struggling today with challenges in job creation and agricultural productivity.

So, we believe that this investment – which will create 10,000 microgrids in rural communities around the country, serve some 5 million households, and improve the lives of 25 million people, including delivering irrigation to more than 400,000 local farmers – will help improve agricultural productivity in the country, create more vibrant rural enterprises, and create the types of jobs that can be the basis for poverty reduction that’s more sustainable and more durable throughout the Indian economy.

On a global scale, this particular project alone will also reduce yearly carbon dioxide emissions by 1 million tons and reduce the amount of diesel burned each year by 57 million liters. That’s enough diesel for about 3,000 cars to drive from Delhi to Mumbai every single day of the year. So, we – we know that the innovations and the commitment that Rockefeller, Tata Power, and so many other innovators and technologists in India will bring to this effort will help address the climate challenges, the economic challenges, the rural development and agricultural challenges, and ultimately the challenges we all face in working towards a world that ends poverty in a sustained and durable manner.

And we’re extraordinarily proud to be a partner in this effort and we believe this effort will be a landmark in efforts to fight poverty and its consequences here in India but also around the world.

Thank you.

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