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Economic Times: Rockefeller Foundation pledges $75 million to light up 1,000 villages

NEW DELHI: The Rockefeller Foundation has announced a $75-million, or about Rs 467-crore, rural electrification programme for bringing clean power to a million people across one thousand villages in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar over the next three years through mini-grids.

The programme, ‘Smart Power for Rural Development’, aims to install 150 solar-powered mini-grids by the end of 2015, 500 by the end of 2016 and the balance in 2017 in villages which have either no or less than 10% of coverage by the national grid.

New Delhi-based Smart Power will partner energy service companies (ESCOs), telecom tower operators, investors, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and government agencies in implementing this project.

“Rural electrification is littered with philanthropy. But these ESCOs are for-profit. We’re not yet ready for the for-profit only model. That’s why we have this hybrid or blended solution at this point of time to kickstart the microgrid model,” said Judith Rodin, president at The Rockefeller Foundation.

The foundation would provide bridge loan financing to the four ESCOs -Tara Urja, OMC, Desi Power and Free Spans — in addition to providing them techno-commercial support, facilitating their agreements with telecom companies and aligning it with the government’s overarching policy.

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Nikkei Asian Review: Microgrids lift villages out of dark age

Nawab Khan in his shop with a fan powered by a blue battery box
on the shelf behind it (Photo by MEGHA BAHREE)

MATHURA, India — Salma Khan, a petite, young woman, shows off her one room store where she sells food products such as lentils, flour, packaged noodles and biscuits. She is particularly pleased about two recent additions to her tiny village shop. In the midst of the stacks of groceries is a pedestal fan that helps her combat summer heat of above 40 C, and high on the wall in one corner is a foot-long fluorescent light. Both are powered by a battery connected to a solar panel on the roof of the shop.

Simpa Networks, a company headquartered in Noida, a vibrant business district near New Delhi, supplied her with the energy pack that came equipped with lights, a small fan and ports that can be used for charging two mobile phones.

Bridging the “power gap”

It is not cheap. Customers have to make a down payment of 2,500 rupees ($43.2) and then pay monthly installments of about 780 rupees over 28 months before they get to keep the kit. But in a country where about 400 million people have no access to power, Companies like Simpa are playing a crucial role in bridging the “power gap” in a country with a notorious infrastructure.

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QUARTZ : India’s rural mobile towers create new businesses—and light up homes

Henri Winand runs a fuel-cell company. Fuel cells run on hydrogen to produce energy. So why has Intelligent Energy, Winand’s firm, just agreed a deal to manage some 16,000 diesel-powered mobile network towers in India?

One reason is that the deal will bring in an estimated £1 billion ($1.5 billion) in revenue for the company over the next decade. For a business that posted a £48-million loss on revenue of £13.6 million for the last full year, the income certainly helps. But the larger reason is that Winand plans, over time, to replace the diesel generators that power rural mobile towers in India with fuel cells. Winand can become his own best customer.

Setting up a fuel cell in India.(Intelligent Energy)

Winand’s plan might just work. Intelligent Energy has been in India since 2009, and already manages 10,000 of the country’s mobile towers, many of which are off-grid for eight hours a day. As the diesel generators that keep them running the rest of the time begin to mature, Winand has started replacing the majority of them with fuel cells. Speaking with Quartz before news of the new deal, Winand characterized the tower agreement with gleeful confidence: “We have eight-year visibility,” he said, referring to the minimum length of the contract. “It’s like a pension fund.”

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GreenTechMedia: Solar Minigrids and Micropower for the Energy Poor

SunEdison – the leading renewable energy developer – expands deeper into emerging markets.

In a conference room in midtown Manhattan on Tuesday, large screens glowed bright orange with the SunEdison logo. But the gathering was not a sales pitch for SunEdison, argued the company’s CEO, Ahmad Chatila.

“We hope next year there will be many more companies here with us, and many more after that,” Chatila told the audience during an impromptu address.

The company was front and center, however. At the Eradication of Darkness Summit this week, SunEdison announced plans to bring electricity to 20 million people by 2020, with an interim goal of lighting up 1 million homes in 2015.

Many say off-grid power has transformed their lives

The commitment would only address a fraction of the 1.3 billion people who live without electricity and the billion others who only have intermittent access to power. But it is a considerable pledge from a single company — and a helpful boost to the World Bank’s goal of getting 500 million people connected to power through private business investments.

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