Obama: Here’s a Chance to Help the Energy Poor in India

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India's energy poor

Obama’s first trip to India in 2010

Several U.S. businesses and groups are urging President Obama to focus on the energy poor when he visits India this week, by launching a new off-grid clean energy investment effort.

Schneider Electric, the Sierra Club, Vote Solar and others called for Obama to team with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to develop a Power India initiative similar to Power Africa launched in 2013.

Power Africa is attempting to bring electricity to 600 million in the Sub-Sahara. The goal is to develop 30,000 MW and add both on-grid and off-grid power.

In a letter released Thursday, the groups keyed in on a part of the African program known as Beyond the Grid that they say would work well in India, as well.  Africa’s Beyond the Grid hopes to develop $1 billion in off-grid energy in five years.

“There is significant potential to replicate a ‘Beyond the Grid’ initiative in India, which is home to 400 million people without access to the centralized grid and a wealth of entrepreneurial approaches to solving the problem,” the letter said.

Seeded with $7 billion from the U.S., Power Africa has leveraged $20 billion in private investment. In the first year, Power Africa closed financing on 3,136 MW, 28 percent of its initial 10,000 MW goal. Power Africa is working with World Bank Group, the African Development Bank, the Government of Sweden, among others.

Power India financing could come from U.S. agencies like the U.S. Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the letter said.

“If President Obama and Prime Minister Modi are able to successfully develop this initiative, Power India stands to ensure that hundreds of millions of people are guaranteed safe, reliable access to electricity,” said John Coequyt, director for the Sierra Club’s International Climate Program.

India’s government has set a goal to fully electrify the country by 2019 and to add 100 GW of solar by 2022, up from the 3 GW now installed.

The letter was signed by:

Adam Browning, executive director, Vote Solar
Michael Brune, executive director, Sierra Club
Gilles Vermot Desroches, sustainable development senior vice president, Schneider Electric
Mansoor Hamayun, CEO & co-Founder, Bboxx
Sandhya Hegde, venture capital onvestor, Khosla Impact
Nikhil Jaisinghani, director & co-Founder, Mera Gao
Ryan Levinson, founder & CEO, SunFunder

Mike Lin, founder & CEO, Fenix International

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Elisa Wood About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than two decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.

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