Module 10: Innovations in Energy and Electricity

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

The MDG target in the Millennium Villages was 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 supported 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. 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

D.light LED Rechargeable Lights (2)

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 60 million people around the world. 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 several organizations, including the Acumen Fund.

Husk Power Systems: Rural Electrification From Rice Husks (3)

In India, 45% of households do not have electricity, and in the poorest states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Odisha, 80 to 90% of households do not have electricity. The Indian government declared that approximately 20,000 of these villages were “economically impossible” to reach by conventional means. Husk Power Systems (HPS) was founded in 2007 to reach these villages. 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. HPS installs and operates in a way that benefits farmers who can grow and sell husks. The households and businesses use the power, and the community members also gain employment at the plant. In 2010, the Acumen Fund invested in HPS. To date, HPS has provided electricity to 12,000 households in 350 villages, built 75 plants, and employs over 230 men and women. The long term vision is to deploy 2000 plants, reaching 5,000 villages that support 20 million people and create 6,000 jobs.

SBA Hydro and Renewable Energy Pvt Ltd (“SHREY”): Micro-Hydro Electricity for Villages in Rural India (4)

SBA Hydro and Renewable Energy (SHREY) was created 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. In 2008, the Acumen Fund invested $1.26 million in the project, which was expected to This project will result in reliable electricity for more than 6,000 households, or 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. This will also serve as a renewable energy source, offsetting pollution and fossil fuel use.

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(1) The Earth Institute, Columbia University, & Millennium Promise. “Harvests of Development in Rural Africa: The Millennium Villages After Three Years.” (2003). Accessed on 3 August 2018.

(2) Acumen Fund. “D.light.” Accessed on 3 August 2018. See also Accessed on 3 August 2018.

(3) Acumen Fund. “Husk Power Systems.” Accessed on 3 August 2018. See also Accessed on 3 August 2018.

(4) Chanchani M. “Acumen fund invests $2.26 mn in two energy cos.” Reuters, 6 Nov. 2008. Accessed on 3 August 2018.