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Smart Power for Rural Development

Accelerating energy access to economically empower and transform lives


More than one billion people across the globe are locked out of the modern economy because they lack sufficient access to electricity to power their homes, communities, and businesses. If we provide access to reliable electricity, we can power social and economic development and transform lives.

  • Installing the final module on a solar panel.

Our Strategy

Electricity creates opportunities for people to lift themselves out of poverty. Real global development cannot happen without energy—particularly in rural areas, where more than 80 percent of the world’s energy poor reside.

Smart Power For Rural Development is a $75 million initiative launched by The Rockefeller Foundation in 2015 to address the “last-mile” energy gap by bringing together energy service companies (ESCOs), technology experts, local businesses, national and local governments, as well as the private sector to build viable partnerships around decentralized renewable energy (DRE) solutions.

DRE solutions, such as mini-grids, are fast to build and produce sufficient capacity to power entire villages, including enterprises. They are also based on solar power or biomass, providing clean energy.

Smart Power goes beyond electricity for households. Our focus is to ensure the provision of high quality, reliable energy that drives economic opportunity. We do this by:

  • Creating the right incentives for energy providers to enter and succeed in rural markets,
  • Stimulating local economies through energy-enabled micro-enterprise development,
  • Encouraging technology innovations that leapfrog the growth of DRE; and
  • Coordinating with national and local governments to facilitate more open policy environments for DRE to scale up and touch the lives of millions more as we work toward the achievement of SDG 7: affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
 Download our Smart Power brochure.

Incubating Smart Power India

Smart Power India was established by The Rockefeller Foundation to implement Smart Power For Rural Development in India, where 300 million have little to no access to electricity. The program launched in 2015, focusing on the states of Jharkhand, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh, where less than 10 percent  of rural households are connected to the national grid. With more than 100 villages now powered by Smart Power, India’s largest cluster of renewable energy mini-grids is already transforming the lives of more than 40,000 people.

In village after village, the results are promising. With tools and machines powered by reliable electricity, carpenters and tailors have more than doubled their productivity. Crop and dairy farmers have built cold storage facilities to keep fresh produce from spoiling overnight, allowing them to sell more at the market. Entrepreneurs have opened car washes, water purification and delivery systems, and even computer training centers.

  • Local economies grew by $18.50 per capita—accounting for an increase in economic productivity and the value of benefits to health, environment, and social well-being.
  • Shops and micro-enterprises connected to Smart Power mini-grids saw a 13 percent average increase in monthly revenues—11 percent of these shops and micro-enterprises expanded their business by purchasing newer appliances and equipment, and 7 percent were newly created as a direct result of energy access.

Building the grid of the future in Africa

In sub-Saharan Africa, The Rockefeller Foundation is partnering with the Virgin Unite Foundation and Rocky Mountain Institute to help governments create a self-sustaining program to accelerate on- and off-grid development through Sustainable Energy for Economic Development (SEED).

This partnership provides technical, policy, and financial advice on energy sector development to governments and other partners. SEED also works hand-in-hand with the private sector and governmental authorities to ensure that decentralized renewable energy solutions are successfully implemented.

In Rwanda, SEED helped the government design an integrated national electrification plan to bring power to 70 percent of the country in two years, initiate the roll-out of the plan, and identify more than $1 billion in savings through optimization of the current utilities system.

Power In Hand: Smart Power Virtual Reality Film

See firsthand the transformative power of energy access on people’s lives by viewing  “Power in Hand”: a virtual reality experience. Mobile users, click here to view the virtual reality film on YouTube.


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