Scope/Number Reached Focused

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Overview

Many enterprises believe that energy access is a good in itself and that it is more important to bring that good to as many people as possible than to get involved in the holistic impact of access. According to this approach, providing customers access to cheap bright light in their homes and phone charging without walking 2 hours, or the ability to cook without unhealthy smoke, creates enough benefit that a social enterprise does not need to involve itself in what customers do with that extra productivity or saved time and money.

The key element of this approach is that it is much lower-touch. If all that needs to be delivered is energy access through a product or power service, one can work through partners, retail channels, and franchisees without the capability to do community development. Organizations approaching impact this way generally measure their success by the number of products sold, or the low price at which they can deliver a kilowatt hour or a product, and extrapolate follow-on benefits from external data (average increase in income from energy access). Most of the for-profit organizations interviewed approached impact this way.

Pros

This approach is much less expensive per beneficiary, which makes profitability, attracting private capital, and scaling all much more possible. Many more distribution channels are possible if holistic impact is not required. This model is closer to private sector model, helping prove the potential of the enterprise approach. Specializing and letting other organizations take care of holistic impact allows enterprise to focus without being distracted by too many goals. While deeply impacting a few communities is important, the size of the need calls for an approach which can reach massive scale (assuming that that approach creates impact). This model also makes more sense with simpler products, such as lanterns, stoves, and the sale of power from company-run generators, rather than community based generators which require beneficiaries to be trained.

Cons

Many communities are underserved because they require more intensive focus for energy provision to actually be sustainable/create impact. Only focusing on the number of people served might lead to implementation which, in the long-term, is unsustainable or lacks real impact.

Case Study

Green Power

Green Power, which operates in the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, started in 2002 as VANREPA, a nonprofit designing and delivering energy projects through community-based implementation.

All of VANREPA’s projects have been supported by a community driven management, operation and maintenance plan, and include a focus on exploring how target communities can generate income to support the projects in the long term. Over the years, VANREPA received periodic requests from local community members to purchase some of the energy products it delivered in projects, since they were unavailable through the market.  VANREPA always refused because its focus was holistic. In late 2009 VANREPA decided to experiment with selling lanterns to anyone who wanted to buy them, creating Green Power, a for-profit partner organization to do so. In a little over a year, Green Power has sold over 22,000 lanterns, a huge leap in the scope of its impact.  It is now importing clean stoves as well. While potentially the overall impact on each buyer of a lamp is less than that of VANREPA’s holistic projects, it is easy to make the argument that the overall effect of Green Power’s work may be greater, especially since it is now capable of expanding its reach further into the Pacific Islands.

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