A while back, Technology and Action for Rural Advancement, or TARA, received an initial $3.5 million grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to figure out whether its off-grid energy solutions project could really work.
It looks like that exploratory work has paid off and the project is both feasible and replicable. Before the original grant period has even ended (June, 2015), Rockefeller has awarded TARA with an additional one-year, $1.4 million to launch the project.
TARA is the flagship nonprofit of the New Delhi-based outfit Development Alternatives (DA). DA describes itself as “…the world’s first social enterprise dedicated to sustainable development.” The organization’s principal missions include eliminating global poverty and delivering socially equitable, environmentally sound, and economically scalable global development solutions.
Both the $3.5 million grant in 2011 and the recent $1.4 million grant were awarded out of Rockefeller’s Smart Power for Environmentally Sound Economic Development Initiative (SPEED). In 2009, Rockefeller partnered with several Indian organizations to address energy scarcity and poverty. To reach one of the initiative’s major goals of increasing electrification in rural India, Rockefeller hooked up governments, development finance institutions, energy service companies such as DESI Power, and NGOs like TARA and Pradan.
Access to a reliable electricity source is a big component of sustained economic development. Although Rockefeller has acknowledged that many energy access programs have launched in various parts of the developing world, the lack of buy-in from major stakeholders has contributed to the catalytic failure of these programs. The SPEED Initiative is working to turn this trend around by engaging governments, investors, and local communities to help stimulate and grow long-term solutions to rural electrification problems.
To do so, Rockefeller is leveraging existing cell tower energy loads to provide a base demand for electricity. The goal here is to offer aggregated demand in what was otherwise a disaggregated environment. Not only will this help to provide consistent energy demand and attract private enterprise investment, but by using clean and renewable energy, Rockefeller hopes to wean the cell tower companies from their current reliance on diesel fuel. Eventually, the program hopes to train local villagers in the maintenance and operation of the decentralized power grids, further promoting economic activity and stability. Read more about Rockefeller’s SPEED Initiative.
As for TARA, Rockefeller’s $1.4 million grant will allow the organization to launch decentralized power plants in rural India. The clean energy power plants will provide people that do not have access to a national power grid, with faster, more reliable energy services.