Involving women as entrepreneurs or clients of energy access businesses improves their commercial viability. The off-grid rural electrification industry is progressively moving away from reliance on donor funding towards commercial finance. Viable business models increase bankability of projects with commercial lenders. Revelle Group gathered examples which demonstrate that women can play central role in making your energy access project more sustainable over time.
Data is already available to prove that involvement of women in energy access projects generates economic value. Arc Finance, which develops solutions for access to finance for clean energy, reports that microfinance organizations providing loans to women clients have 100% repayment rates. Microfinance research demonstrates that the risk of non-payment is likely to be lower for women entrepreneurs. Women are likely to know better their women clients and their ability to make regular payments. The Melinda & Bill Gates Foundation has recently pledged more than 80 million USD to research on women and their economic and social situations. More energy access information will come from there.
A number of businesses are already fully integrating women in their business models. Building pico and micro-grids in India that are paid for by the communities, MLinda, relies on women groups to generate additional income to make them affordable. MLinda loans to women groups for purchase of an electric rice-milling machine and trains them to maintain it and manage the business around it. Women earn monthly income, repay their loan and become natural advocates for clean energy in their community. SolarKiosk distributes its award-winning solar powered energy and connectivity distribution center through partnerships with local entrepreneurs who are preferably women. Solar Sister deliberately uses women-centered sales network to distribute its solar lighting solution in Africa.
Women have a measurable, positive impact on their community and can drive purchasing power growth. When securing additional income, women are more likely to reinvest in their community’s quality of living. Women entrepreneurs have the potential to lower acquisition and servicing costs. WPower Hub reported already in 2014 that women can demonstrate more than twice the business success than men. Other initiatives are also leveraging women’s strengths for energy access. UNEP and UN Women teamed up to launch “Women’s Entrepreneurship in Sustainable Energy Programme”. Energia is an international network which supports scaling up of women-focused energy businesses.
Women can energize the energy access movement. Involve them, cater for them. Why? Simple, it makes good business sense.
Katarina Uherova Hasbani, ARE Board Member & Business Development at Revelle Group