A Billion-Dollar Investment Opportunity for Energy Access

Today at Earth to Paris, hosted at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, I had the pleasure of announcing the launch of “Investing for Energy Access, a billion-dollar clean energy access investment opportunity,” a new investment directory and online portal featuring more than $1.3 billion of investment and financing opportunities presented by 210 leading clean tech companies delivering off-grid clean energy solutions across the developing world.  Companies presented a range of types of solar PV solutions with equity and debt financing required to help these companies scale, as well as other renewables solutions, and a special section covering a range of micro-grids investment opportunities.  Both the directory and the online portal showcase the best in the off-grid clean energy sector globally, from successful start-ups to mature companies, and is a valuable tools for investors, donors, entrepreneurs, and market analysts.

In the first month of 2015 alone, $42 million was invested into off-grid solar companies working in developing countries. That is encouraging and we have seen some significant new investments, particularly among the “Pay-as-you-go” providers. At the same time, many companies and social enterprises delivering needed energy services work in extremely difficult conditions that are not conducive to a high financial return expectation. Many of them require some kind of blended financing closely tailored to the context and stage of business. For that reason the 210 organizations and businesses surveyed this year for our Investment Directory reported a range of existing and projected capital needs over the next 18-24 months totaling over $1.3 billion, with 30 companies seeking more than $10 million in investment, with the greatest portion being sought as some type of debt financing.

In my panel earlier today, Energy Access: A Billion Dollar Opportunity, I highlighted that targeted deployment of sustainable energy solutions can help deliver needed energy access to the 1.1 billion people still living without the benefits derived from having electricity in their homes, their schools, their health centers and their businesses. It builds resilience across communities, strengthens our health systems, and supports a solid future for all the world’s children. We have heard in Paris this week new commitments totaling in the billions of dollars for renewable energy to help us embrace a lower carbon future. These new funds would be well advised to look closely at supporting these companies, social enterprises and non-profits delivering energy services into developing countries across Africa, in Asia and beyond.

Access to clean and affordable modern energy revolutionizes lives — improving health, saving time and enhancing income generation opportunities, enabling education and entrepreneurship, decreasing vulnerability to violence, and empowering women. By investing in innovative clean energy solutions and adopting successful models for rural electrification, we can reduce climate vulnerability and end energy poverty by 2030.

Richenda Van Leeuwen

Executive Director for Energy Access

United Nations Foundation


United Nations Foundation

The United Nations Foundation builds public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems, and broadens support for the United Nations through advocacy and public outreach. Through innovative campaigns and initiatives, the Foundation connects people, ideas, and resources to help the UN solve global problems. The Foundation was created in 1998 as a U.S. public charity by entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner and now is supported by global corporations, foundations, governments, and individuals.

Energy Access Practitioner Network

As a part of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, the UN Foundation-led Energy Access Practitioner Network promotes universal access to modern energy services. With more than 2,000 members, the Network focuses on decentralized low-carbon household and community-level electrification. It supports innovative financial and business models in predominantly market-based applications that also help address development issues related to income generation, health, agriculture, education, small business, and telecommunications.

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