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SPEED workshop

Date : 11th March 2010 : Hotel Lalit, New Delhi.

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Some 1.6 billion people, or one-quarter of the world's population, do not have access to electricity. To enhance economic opportunity, improve health, increase food security and build climate resilience, the Rockefeller Foundation is seeking innovative ways of providing clean fuels and electricity to more than two billion poor people in Africa and South Asia. The Foundation is exploring whether the power needs of the massive and rapidly-growing infrastructure of cell phone towers in India and East Africa-many of which are far from the electricity grid and powered by very expensive diesel fuel-can be harnessed as an anchor demand and source of revenue to help provide clean energy services and universal electrification in poor communities. The Foundation is working with strategic investors, local institutions and business schools to identify business models and pilot projects that could be replicated around the world.

The Global Problem

Energy will define the 21st century. All nations have embarked on an energy path that is unsustainable economically, strategically, financially and environmentally. The international community is faced with monumental energy challenges: stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions; enhancing energy security through reducing the risk of economic disruption and nuclear weapons proliferation; eliminating energy poverty for over three billion people; and mobilizing over $20 trillion in capital investment for energy infrastructure by the year 2030. Multifaceted innovation will be needed-in technology, policy, governance, finance and international diplomacy-to address these challenges and to assure global sustainability, equity and security. Energy technology innovation and deployment on an unprecedented scale will be a pivotal driving force in eliminating poverty, accelerating economic growth, and stabilizing climate change. 

The challenge posed by global energy poverty is particularly daunting. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 80 percent of the world's 1.6 billion people without electricity live in rural areas, and without new initiatives and policies, there will still be 1.4 billion people without electricity in twenty years. There are also approximately 2.6 billion people who use polluting fuels such as wood, charcoal, and animal dung for cooking, heating and boiling water. This lack of access to modern energy services has staggering consequences for human heath, economic development, political stability, and is a show-stopper for economic development. Recent scientific findings confirm that the black carbon emitted from burning these types of fuel is being re-deposited on the arctic icecaps, leading to increased absorption of sunlight and accelerated melting. This situation provides a strategic opportunity to reduce poverty while slowing the onset of undesirable climate impacts.

The Opportunity

The idea of providing universal electrification and clean fuels for India or East Africa any time within the next 50 years seems implausible, unless one implements game-changing and transformative concepts for rural energization and durable economic growth. The key innovative opportunity is to harness-as an anchor demand and a source of revenue-the power needs of the massive and rapidly-growing infrastructure of cell phone towers in India and East Africa.  Although the powering of cellular base stations with renewable energy is moving forward, significant community electrification has not occurred. Yet this burgeoning infrastructure can be used to drive community electrification in poor communities, where most towers are not grid-connected and are thus powered by very expensive diesel fuel.

The Rockefeller Foundation's SPEED exploration seeks to create sustainable business models and to identify pilot projects with the potential to provide clean electricity, cooking fuels and economic security for more than two billion people. Such business models and pilots will examine the role of carbon credits in accelerating implementation and will be finalized by third quarter 2010. The Rockefeller Foundation has joined forces with private investors, local entrepreneurs, bilateral and multilateral institutions, mobile phone companies, innovative technology enterprises, and local business schools, research institutes and civil society organizations.

For more information, please contact:

Ravi Chander, CII at ravi.c@cii.in

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