I had the opportunity to attend a talk on Energy Access in India organised by Acumen Fund at this really nice place at Kalaghoda, Mumbai last weekend.I was excited to attend this event because I thought it would talk taken to improve the same. about the current situation of energy accessibility in India and what kind of steps can be. This talk began with a video on a village called Jagankote in Karnataka where Orb Energy has been successful with its product called 'Plug and Play Solar Power' which is targeted at communities where there is no electrification. The founder and CEO of Orb Energy is Damian Miller, a doctorate from Cambridge University in solar technology , has been in India since the mid 1990s working in the field. Orb energy provides reliable solar energy based power to rural areas helping them shift from kerosene based lighting.
Mr Kartik from Acumen Fund spoke about how the focus of their company was the Bottom of the Pyramid, and to move the customers from up the energy ladder through product based solutions to services and infrastructure based solutions. This would not only be 'cleaner' and more efficient but would also mean less cost to the rural customers. Thus this would mean moving from kerosene, wood to solar energy based domestic solutions to community off grid systems and finally integrating with the grid connections, access to LPG etc. According to him the key drivers here would be customer education and access to finances in order to achieve a smooth transition.
The talk by Damian was about how Orb has been able to achieve success in providing solar energy based power solutions to the rural poor. He basically was working with Shell when they were working into solar energy solutions in the 1990s. According to him, the need for solar energy and similar power solutions has always been there but there was lack of availability and finance to convert that need into a demand. But the situation is better now when there are lot of such opportunities available. Thus the future of such initiatives is better now. What is required is technology innovations which would help the practical implementation and scaling up of such initiatives and that is where organisation like Acumen Fund help through funding for research and development and more.
This short session was followed by question answer session which I did not find much interesting. I understood this session as more an informative session on the business model of Orb Energy and what makes it successful. Whether solar lighting can be scaled up to community off grid systems which would improve the standard of living in villages is a question I am more interested in. In addition, how sustainable such systems would be in the long run?