United Nations has called on
businesses, governments, and
civil society to achieve Sustainable
Energy for All by 2030
Richenda’s Letter — January 2016
The off-grid renewable energy sector is advancing rapidly, helping us to drive the changes needed to achieve universal energy access. By the end of 2015 we saw many companies receiving investment from first time investors into the sector, particularly for several leading Pay as you go companies, as well as equity and debt financing for micro-grid providers and others from Kenya, to Tanzania, to India and beyond. New targeted energy access funds were formed in 2015, with others still under development to be launched in the coming months. These focused on off-grid solar, early stage financing, and working capital. Several major new debt funds are in the works, and we will provide more details as we receive them. It is an exciting time to be working on energy access issues, supported now by the global sustainable development goal – number 7 – that shines a light on the need for and value to human life and lives of ensuring access to modern energy services for all.
And yet we still see that the market is not moving everywhere, or for everyone. Perhaps it cannot. While new players are entering the sector, new funders are evaluating opportunity and innovations abound, at the same time, pioneering entrepreneurs in challenging markets still are not yet getting the support they need to build their businesses. Often these are not the companies that are on the global stage at social entrepreneurship summits, or even those whose stories are written about in our own newsletters. But they are driving needed change, bringing energy solutions tailored to power local communities and homes in places and for needs where commercial challenges abound, where grids are not planned, and where return expectations – if measured in financial terms – are minimal, at best. And yet the social returns can be massive.
These are the innovators that also need our support, through financing provided at the right scale, on reasonable terms, and when needed, that recognizes the challenges and risks they face, and recognition of their role and value in our overall gains as a sector, and particularly in reaching the poorest, the riskiest and most marginalized communities. In 2016 we will work to help ensure that their needs and voices are also heard and met, and their successes celebrated in the communities they serve, whether in the high Andes, in the Himalayas, or in Haiti.
We have an exciting year ahead.
Richenda Van Leeuwen
Executive Director, Energy Access, United Nations Foundation