Our WorkInitiatives Smart Power for Rural Development

Smart Power for Rural Development

Electrifying rural villages in India to spur economic growth.


Around the world, 1.3 billion people lack access to electricity. In India alone, more than 290 million people live without even basic lighting, hindering the potential for economic growth.

  • Installing the final module on a solar panel.

Our Strategy

Since 2010, The Rockefeller Foundation has been working to address energy poverty through a model that provides electricity through mini-grids for lighting and business use. By securing telecom and other explosive sectors with significant energy needs as anchor tenants and contractually guaranteed customers, we are working to make it profitable for smaller-scale energy-services companies (ESCOs) to bring electricity to rural parts of the developing world.

Now, with a commitment of $75 million, The Rockefeller Foundation aims to expand this model to electrify 1,000 villages in the next three years through our Smart Power for Rural Development initiative. The initiative will initially target districts in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, where fewer than 10 percent of rural households are connected to the national grid.

Smart Power India

To successfully implement the 1,000 Village Plan, The Rockefeller Foundation is incubating Smart Power India, a new entity designed to work closely with a wide range of stakeholders critical to developing the ecosystem needed to build, catalyze, create, and scale-up the market. Smart Power India has four primary functions:
  • Project development support to assist ESCOs in structuring their engagement in terms of financing, business modeling, site and cluster selection, procurement, training, and so on.
  • Business development and contracting to facilitate agreements with telecom tower companies, ESCOs, investors, and technology and equipment providers.
  • Load development & community engagement to ensure strong local buy-in, economic development, and sustained demand for power.
  • Policy and regulatory engagement to align incentives between government, investors, and ESCOs and reduce risk in the long-term by supporting the creation of viable grid-interactive models.

This initial plan will impact more than 1 million lives, with an ultimate goal of establishing self-sustaining momentum in the market for a new rural electrification model. Ultimately, we will use the experience and insights from India to explore how to support greater economic development by scaling up a viable model for rural electrification in other geographies in Africa and Asia, and to contribute to a more dynamic global dialogue on addressing energy poverty.

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How can we bring clean electricity to the 1.3 billion people without it?

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