Module 10: Innovations in Energy and Electricity

Case Study 1: Energy Innovations in the Millennium Villages(1)

The MDG target in the Millennium Villages is to halve the number of people without access to modern energy, transportation, and communication services by 2015. Interventions focus on electric grid extension, increased access to off-grid electricity, and improved energy for cooking in households and institutions. By improving community markets, community health centers, and government offices, electricity can be expanded to off-grid technologies that reduce fees. In households, rechargeable solar LED lanterns provide a sustainable solution. Efficient household energy for cooking is provided through improved stoves and the establishment of supply chains for local sales.

The Millennium Villages Project has also worked to provide stand-alone systems (solar photovoltaic or diesel systems or mini-grids) which generate electricity. Costs for medium voltage grid extension ranged from $15,000-40,000 per kilometer, with $25,000 as an approximate average. The national electricity grid has been extended to more than 50% of the community, including two of the MVPs such as Bonsaaso (Ghana) and Sauri (Kenya). Mini-grid program implementation is also underway for areas where grid extension is not feasible.

The Millennium Villages Project also supports commercial sale of solar-powered, rechargeable LED lanterns with mobile phone charging to reduce reliance on fuel-based lighting while concurrently providing phone charging options. In Mwandama, Malawi, they have implemented a program to sell renewable energy solar-charged lanterns. So far, more than 700 households have purchased lanterns, decreasing kerosene expenditures by more than 80% within the first two week of purchase. Lanterns that provide mobile phone charging are preferred by communities members over those that only provide light. The lights have increased income-generating opportunities since the community members now have longer working hours, increased educational opportunities due to longer studying hours, and reduced health risks (especially for emergency transport), and a reduction in indoor soot and air pollutants.

Case Study 2: Acumen Fund Energy Portfolios(2)


E+Co makes clean energy investments in developing countries. E+Co’s clean energy businesses are located in Cambodia, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Mali, Morocco, Nepal, Nicaragua, Philippines, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, The Gambia, Uganda, Vietnam and Zambia. E+Co finds entrepreneurs, helps them establish clean energy businesses, and invests in them. These businesses work to reduce climate change and poverty while generating financial returns. Energy businesses submit business proposals and are considered for an investment, meeting certain criteria laid out by E+Co. Local developers and sponsors are preferred. The idea should employ approaches to reliable, affordable energy production, offering clear social and environmental benefits.

E+Co has made over 200 energy investments that serve more than 4 million people. E+Co aims to make an additional 300 investments by 2012 while offsetting over 20 million tons of carbon dioxide. They aim to reach 80-100 million additional people with access to cleaner energy by 2020. They have had substantial returns on their investments across the clean energy businesses.

D.light LED Rechargeable Lights

D.light is an international company serving people without access to reliable electricity. The D.Light LED rechargeable lights replace dangerous kerosene, and D.Light has implemented efficient energy resources for 10 million people. The goal by 2020 is to have improved the lives of 100 million people by providing affordable and effective lighting resources. Designs are constructed with special attention to different cultures and environments. Global distribution, sales and marketing of the products are carries out by experienced sales and marketing teams who understand their domestic markets. Local vendors and partners reach the semi-urban and rural households. D.light also partners with NGOs and distributors outside primary markets to reach households around the world. D.light partners with Nexus Venture Partners, the Acumen Fund, Gray Matters Capitals, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Garage Technology Ventures, Omidyar Network, and The Mahindra Group.

Husk Power Systems: Rural Electrification From Rice Husks

In India, 56% of households do not have power, including at least 125,000 Indian villages. In 25,000 of these villages, it has been declared “economically impossible” to reach them by conventional means. Eighty to ninety % of the poorer states in India’s “Rice Belt”, like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa do not have electricity because electrification of rural India has been extremely uneven. Many villages in these regions use kerosene lanterns and diesel generators for irrigation and commercial power. These methods are costly and detrimental to health. Husk Power Systems (HPS) uses novel biomass gasification technology to convert abundant rice husks into combustible gases. These can be used to drive a generator to produce clean, efficient, and affordable energy. The rice husks are useless otherwise, and were previously left to rot in the fields. A plant is installed along with low-voltage insulated wiring to each household, business, or farm. HPS charges a subscription fee to each user according to the number and type of the electrical appliances they own. HP installs and operates in a way that benefits farmers who can grow and sell husk. The households and businesses use the power, and the community members also gain employment at the plant. By the end of 2010, Husk aims to operate 50 plants in order to electify 125 villages. The long term vision is to deploy 2000 plants, reaching 5,000 villages that support 20 million people and create 6,000 jobs.(3), (4)

SBA Hydro and Renewable Energy Pvt Ltd (“SHREY”): Micro-Hydro Electricity for Villages in Rural India

Only 44% of rural household in India are electrified. 66% of India’s power sources come from thermal sources, which are becoming increasingly depleted, and are leading to environmental degradation. SBA Hydro and Renewable Energy’s (SHREY) goal is to provide hydroelectric power to villages in the Himalayan Belt of northern India. Electricity in this area is unreliable. SHREY has designed micro-turbines and generators that are customized to reduce cost and raise output efficiency. This project will result in reliable electricity to more than 6,000 households of more than 30,000 people living in rural India. Access to power can lead to improvements in education, local enterprise and industrial growth, higher quality of life through access to information, and increased productivity. Schools, health facilities and community institutions will have access to electricity. This will also serve as a renewable energy source, offsetting pollution and fossil fuel use.(5)

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(1) “Harvests of Development in Rural Africa: The Millennium Villages After Three Years.” (2003). Accessed 1 July 2010.

(2) “E+Co Energy Through Enterprise.” (2010). Accessed 8 July 2010.

(3) “Acumen Fund Husk Power Systems.” (2010). Accessed 9 July 2010.

(4) Anderson, S. D. (2008, December 1). “Husk Power Systs: Rice-Fired Electricity.” Accessed 10 July 2010.

(5) “Acumen Fund SHREY.” (2010). Accessed 9 July 2010.