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What is an Energy Entrepreneur Anyway?

Scott Tudman

January 11, 2012

Loan Recipient LED Lamp Loan Recipient With An LED Lamp

Many of you may wonder why we call all of the people on our site - even those who don't operate businesses - entrepreneurs. If you look up the term entrepreneur on Wikipedia, you'll see that it refers to a person who has possession of a new enterprise, venture or idea and assumes significant accountability for the inherent risks and the outcome. This obviously describes the bakers and the restaurateurs looking to improve their businesses with clean energy - we feel that this describes all of the people we feature on our site though, even those just looking to light their homes. Each and every one of them is assuming accountability with the hope of a positive outcome. They aren't looking for handouts or charity, they choose to take on the responsibility and risk of a loan.

Talk about a grand venture or idea, taking out a loan or getting access to credit here in the western world is almost a birthright, to people in the developing world it can be a huge leap of faith. All of this is being done in an attempt to improve their lives and the lives of their families and if this doesn't describe a true entrepreneurial spirit, I don't know what does.

So, our definition of an energy entrepreneur is someone who takes responsibility for the improvement of their lives through an energy loan. We think this sums things up nicely, if you have thoughts on the matter please drop us a line.

Small Scale Green Energy Can Address Poverty in a Big Way

Hugh Whalan

September 17th, 2010

You probably don't put much thought into the energy that makes your computer run, your microwave work, or your lights turn on. In fact, you probably struggle to remember how many times and ways you use energy in a day.

Our easy access to energy stands in stark contrast to the daily struggle experienced by billions. These people lack access to any kind of modern energy and are also the poorest on the planet. They rely on archaic fuels, such as firewood, kerosene, and charcoal, to provide them with heat, light, and power -- fuels which are expensive, harmful to their health, hugely time consuming to obtain, and result in greenhouse gas emissions. Families can spend hours a day collecting firewood, and up to 30% of their household income purchasing these fuels which often barely meet their basic needs. In addition, indoor air pollution from these fuels kills more people than Malaria every year and a recent World Health Organization report noted the use of kerosene in a household was equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.

The International Energy Agency acknowledged that lack of access to energy is an important reason the poor continue to be poor when it estimated that if poverty is to be halved by 2015 energy will need to be extended to an additional 700 million people.

That's a lot of people! So how are we going to reach them?

Despite a large amount of evidence pointing towards the correlation between energy and poverty alleviation, there is surprisingly little information on strategies that are working to improve energy access. International money and effort has overwhelmingly focused on large scale electrification projects and this approach certainly should be a part of the solution for expanding energy access to those who need it. However, in countries with very little infrastructure and poor governance these large scale projects are often delayed for many years and sometimes never completed. When they are completed electrical grids tend to only reach those in the cities and the grids are so poorly maintained that brown outs and black outs are the norm.

Small scale green energy projects, starting with something as simple as a $10 LED lamp, represent an exciting opportunity to quickly make a real difference to energy access for the poor.

Energy For The People Improving one's life through an energy loan.

Consider the story of Gifty Mensah (pictured to the right) who lives in a suburb of Takoradi, Ghana. She bakes bread and earns an average of $4 per day. She buys kerosene for light, charcoal for cooking, and every day she spends a few hours collecting firewood. The purchase of a LED lamp eliminates the need for her to buy kerosene, and because the lamp can provide many hours of light at no cost, she can open her bakery for longer hours - meaning more revenue for her. The LED lamp pays for itself in less than two months. As a result of loans from EIC lenders, Gifty also purchased a gas powered oven for her bakery. The oven eliminates all need for firewood, and because the oven gets hotter faster, it saves Gifty 1 hour a day of cooking time and she is able to serve her customers quicker. Gifty really likes the oven because it doesn't produce smoke, which hurt her eyes and irritated her customers, and it is insulated so it does not burn her children's hands when they touch the exterior.

Anecdotal stories of the financial, health, and productivity benefits of small scale energy projects, such as Gifty's, are supported by the emergence of an industry which focuses exclusively on selling energy to the very poor - people who earn $1 to $6 a day. Companies, such as Barefoot Power and D. Light, focus on manufacturing and selling small scale LED lamps and solar systems to the poor. Both intend to reach tens of millions of people in the coming years. Other organizations, such as StoveTec, are pioneering the introduction of extremely affordable and fuel efficient cook stoves. These efforts not only provide enormous value to the populations buying them, but also bring a climate dividend by reducing reliance on fuels that generate greenhouse gases.

As the bulk of global greenhouse gas emissions increases over the next three decades are projected to come from developing countries, green energy represents a way to bring the poor out of poverty in an environmentally friendly way. This is important because climate change is projected to disproportionately affect the poor, and further hinder efforts to eradicate poverty.

If the companies distributing small scale green energy manage to hit their growth projections and their potential, it will be good news for their investors, good news for the planet and most importantly, good news for the poor.

This post has been modified from its original version on the Huffington Post, where Hugh Whalan writes in the Green Energy news section.