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Advancing Access to Sustainable, Affordable and Reliable Clean Energy: Lighting a Billion Lives

A Local Approach to the Global Energy Access Problem

In the new era of the Sustainable Development Goals, and with the world coming together at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21) to discuss possible universal global agreements on climate change, the link between energy and climate change is significant, especially since the energy sector accounts for at least two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions.

While clean energy generation and consumption are key components of the climate mitigation strategy, they are also crucial contributors towards community welfare and offer significant co-benefits in the areas of education, health, livelihoods, productivity, better quality of life and reduction in poverty. Universal access to affordable and reliable clean energy is, therefore, fundamental not only for the larger effort towards climate mitigation, but also to realise the full ambition of several other primary goals. The world has already recognised the importance of energy access as a catalyst for change, with several initiatives and pathways working to support the expansion of access to clean energy services. The International Solar Alliance launched by India and France at COP21 to boost solar energy in developing countries is a strategic step in this direction that acknowledges that developing countries need technology and capacity building to take solar energy to scale swiftly.

India is endowed with a vast supply of solar energy; with an incidence of nearly 5,000 trillion kWh of energy over its land area per year. Solar offers a key advantage in enabling power generation on a distributed basis, lending huge potential for scalability at short lead times through solar photovoltaics. Solar is the most secure of all renewable energy sources, yet despite the availability of this abundant resource, 300 million people in India still lack access to electricity or a clean lighting source.

The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) launched Lighting a Billion Lives in 2008 as a global initiative to facilitate access to clean energy solutions for energy poor communities across the world. The idea was essentially to displace the use of non-renewable, inefficient and harmful lighting methods (kerosene lamps / candles) with cleaner, affordable and more reliable alternatives – not only for improved indoor environments and health benefits, but also to generate opportunities for higher productivity and alternative livelihoods. The programme concentrates on rural and remote end user communities that are either completely un-electrified, or are partially electrified, but receive very poor quality, intermittent or no supply from the central grid.

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Lighting a Billion Lives has reached more than 4.2 million people worldwide since 2008.

The programme is a collaborative effort and owes its success to the support received from over 121 public and private corporations, 99 individual donors, 26 international funding agencies, 47 government and public sector undertakings, and 215 other sponsors and over a 100 grass root partners. In India, the campaign has been implemented across 24 states, and complements the efforts of several government initiatives to expand off-grid/partial grid energy access to rural communities. In Africa, Lighting a Billion Lives has established a notable presence in facilitating the successful implementation of several clean lighting solutions in Sierra Leone, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Mozambique through knowledge and experience sharing and building capacities of local stakeholders to strengthen and reinforce implementation models.

Going forward, the programme envisions a steady growth in on-ground implementations, keeping a special focus on energy-starved regions in India, Southeast Asia, and Africa. Operations will be scaled up through the replication of proven business processes and localized models and through the development of new partnerships. Lighting a Billion Lives is committed to facilitating clean energy solutions for 10 million lives by 2018. As of 2015, it has already reached 40% of this committed target.

By Bigsna Gill, Associate Fellow, TERI

Bigsna is the communication and documentation expert of the Social Transformation Division at TERI and manages outreach for the Lighting Billion Lives campaign. A management post-graduate from the Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal where she majored in rural marketing, Bigsna loves travel, photography, the mountains and books.

To follow Lighting a Billion Lives: @labl_teri