With a commitment of $75 million, The Rockefeller Foundation will launch Smart Power for Rural Development to promote sustainable business models that deliver renewable electricity and spur economic development among poor, underserved rural populations. The initiative will focus on India, where the Foundation is establishing a new organization that will partner with energy service companies (ESCOs), telecom tower operators, investors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and government agencies to electrify 1,000 villages in the next three years (2014-2017). The Foundation 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.
Around the world, approximately 1.3 billion people lack access to reliable, affordable means of electricity, without which households in poor communities are limited in their ability to enhance their incomes, improve food security, educate their children, access key information services, and maintain good health. The problem is particularly serious in India, where despite great efforts and huge sums of money spent towards expanding the national grid, more than 300 million people, mostly in rural areas, lack access to electricity.
Since 2010, The Rockefeller Foundation has been working to address energy poverty in India. The Smart Power model, which provides electricity through mini-grids for lighting and productive use, stands out as one of the few decentralized renewable energy solutions that allows consumers to utilize power for multiple uses.