Power to the People: Investing in Clean Energy for the Base of the Pyramid in India

Research Team: Santosh Singh, Sreyamsa Bairiganjan, David Fuente
LEAD Centre: Centre for Development Finance ( CDF)
Focus Area: Environment and Climate Change
Project Geography: Across India
Partner: New Ventures and World Resources Institutes
Status: Completed

Background:

India, a rapidly emerging economy with the world’s second largest population, is facing a surging energy demand. Its rural Base of the Pyramid (BoP) consists of 114 million households, representing 76 percent of India’s rural residents and almost 60 percent of the country’s total population. Despite their low income, these households constitute a significant consumer market for the energy services and products required to provide daily necessities such as cooking and lighting. Using the most recent available expenditure data (2004/2005), we estimated that India’s rural BoP consumers spent INR 224 billion (US$4.86 billion) per year on their energy needs.

In 2005, approximately 45 percent of India’s rural BoP households still did not have reliable access to electricity and relied on kerosene for lighting, and more than 85 percent of rural BoP households mostly used conventional free or inexpensive sources of fuel, such as firewood and dung, for cooking. These fuel sources, however, are not only harmful to users’ health but also contribute to pollution and environmental degradation.

A growing number of Indian companies see a market opportunity in providing rural BoP households with access to alternative cooking and electricity solutions and consequently are developing clean energy products and services for this market.

“Clean energy” refers to products and services that produce energy from renewable resources and emit fewer greenhouse gas emissions than does energy from conventional fuel sources. The lack of a reliable supply of power from the electricity grid and the availability of free and inexpensive fuels, such as wood and kerosene, are key influences on this market. In this report, we focus on two areas in this growing, high-potential market: clean energy electricity systems and clean energy cooking and light products. We examined a representative selection of companies selling solar lanterns, solar home systems, energy-efficient cookstoves, and electricity generated from decentralized sources, including small hydro power plants and biomass gasifier systems.

Related Resources
REPORT – Power to the People: Investing in Clean Energy for the Base of the Pyramid in India