Obama: Here’s a Chance to Help the Energy Poor in India

Jan. 23, 2015
The energy poor in India would benefit from a joint U.S.-India program similar to Africa’s Beyond the Grid, said a group of businesses and organizations in a letter to President Obama.

Several U.S. businesses and groups are urging President Obama to focus on the energy poor when he visits India this week, by launching a new off-grid clean energy investment effort.

Schneider Electric, the Sierra Club, Vote Solar and others called for Obama to team with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to develop a Power India initiative similar to Power Africa launched in 2013.

Power Africa is attempting to bring electricity to 600 million in the Sub-Sahara. The goal is to develop 30,000 MW and add both on-grid and off-grid power.

In a letter released Thursday, the groups keyed in on a part of the African program known as Beyond the Grid that they say would work well in India, as well.  Africa’s Beyond the Grid hopes to develop $1 billion in off-grid energy in five years.

“There is significant potential to replicate a ‘Beyond the Grid’ initiative in India, which is home to 400 million people without access to the centralized grid and a wealth of entrepreneurial approaches to solving the problem,” the letter said.

Seeded with $7 billion from the U.S., Power Africa has leveraged $20 billion in private investment. In the first year, Power Africa closed financing on 3,136 MW, 28 percent of its initial 10,000 MW goal. Power Africa is working with World Bank Group, the African Development Bank, the Government of Sweden, among others.

Power India financing could come from U.S. agencies like the U.S. Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the letter said.

“If President Obama and Prime Minister Modi are able to successfully develop this initiative, Power India stands to ensure that hundreds of millions of people are guaranteed safe, reliable access to electricity,” said John Coequyt, director for the Sierra Club’s International Climate Program.

India’s government has set a goal to fully electrify the country by 2019 and to add 100 GW of solar by 2022, up from the 3 GW now installed.

The letter was signed by:

Adam Browning, executive director, Vote Solar
Michael Brune, executive director, Sierra Club
Gilles Vermot Desroches, sustainable development senior vice president, Schneider Electric
Mansoor Hamayun, CEO & co-Founder, Bboxx
Sandhya Hegde, venture capital onvestor, Khosla Impact
Nikhil Jaisinghani, director & co-Founder, Mera Gao
Ryan Levinson, founder & CEO, SunFunder

Mike Lin, founder & CEO, Fenix International

Vy Manthripragada, director, KMRI

Lesley Silvertorn Marincola, founder & CEO, Angaza Design
Paul Needham, president and Co-Founder, Simpa Networks
Willem Nolens, CEO, SolarNow B.V.
Anil Raj, CEO & co-Founder, OMC Power
Ned Tozun, president, d.light

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About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

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