Access requires action

Ian Marchant

Ian Marchant FEI, President

I have been reading an excellent report from the Shell Foundation ‘Accelerating Access to Energy’. The statistics are challenging. Here are a few:

  1. Low income households in Africa spend up to 40% of their income on energy.
  2. 1.2bn people lack any access to reliable and affordable electricity and for another 800 million the grid is unreliable and unpredictable.
  3. Half the children in the developing world go to schools that have no electricity.

The Shell Foundation, through many years of experience, have adopted what they call the “enterprise based theory of change”. This has involved identifying and tackling market failures, helping create social enterprises, patient and flexible grant funding and business skills development.

They have now refined this into a six stage process that takes between 5 to 10 years to reach maturity. The first three stages are to catalyse, pilot and create pioneers. The major step is number 4; scale. This involves a mixture of grant money and market revenues.

All these stages require a mixture of philanthropic giving and market activity and over the years I have supported one such charity, Solar Aid, who use a social enterprise, Sunny Money, to distribute solar lights in Africa. I even visited some of their work last year. The primary route to market is through schools and it was really encouraging to hear first hand about the positive  impact on children’s academic studying and health and the parents pockets.

If, like me, your career has been in the energy industry, this sort of thing is a really worthwhile cause to get involved with. There are other similar charities operating in this space and they do a good job.

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