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Sustainable Energy and Poverty Alleviation

There are proven sustainable models and processes that link sustainable energy solutions to poverty alleviation. But they get lost in the large picture because of lack of understanding of the grassroot problems that exist among the underserved communities of India. That needs to change if we have to tackle poverty in a more systematic way – decentralized sustainable energies like solar, biomass, small wind, etc. provide these solutions.

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Policies not conducive for Grassroot level Energy Enterprises

Time and again policy makers have spoken of the importance of emergence of rural enterprises in India; especially in the rural sector. Reliable rural energy service can only be provided by ground level rural enterprises; an entity that has to be at the doorstep of the rural client for it to deliver the required service.

Many policies around the country have been formulated in order to cater to the needs of these rural enterprises. Sadly negligible numbers of these policies are pragmatic in approach. Most of the policies are directed towards creating monopolies of certain urban financial and manufacturing institutions in the rural areas and thus making the sustainable rural dependent on the unsustainable urban world.

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Energy and Livelihoods – The Missing Eco-System and SELCO’s Solutions

Poverty alleviation is a need of the 21st century. Time and again SELCO has reiterated the need for energy access to alleviate people from poverty. For this, conducive eco-system has to be provided and filling the gap is vital.

The Economic Pyramid – As we see it

The economic pyramid as defined today is too simplistic. It is interesting that all types of ‘poor’ segments are clubbed into one – thus creating a homogeneous segment. Thus many of the models that target the “bottom of the pyramid” do assume one size fits all methodology and completely disregard the numerous segments in that category. This does not work effectively as the bottom part can be divided into many parts depending on income streams, geography, nature of work, culture etc.

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Energy and Livelihoods

Now, in the 21st century it is critical that for overall development of the society to take place poverty has to be alleviated. For poverty to be reduced in a sustained manner, poor need income generating activities and become owners, employers and asset creators. They just cannot be considered as a labor force for the other parts of the world – a situation that will be lead to social unsustainability.

For development to happen in the way explained above – energy will play a key role. Over the last two odd decades, numerous documents and studies have kept repeating the number that more than 2 billion people in this world lack access to electricity (otherwise known as off-grid) and 3 billion still use other forms of dirty fuels for basic cooking. These numbers in the last 20 years have not changed.

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Energy Sources for Poverty Alleviation

In an age of increased disparities, very few income-generating opportunities are thought of for the poor.  Lack of opportunities are forcing the poor to be part of a larger service industry rather than shaping their own livelihood options – all resulting into increased migrations and thus putting additional pressure on already over-burdened urban spaces.

Many of the world’s problems today, whether social unrest or environmental degradation, are related to poverty and more specifically energy poverty. While the growth engine in many of the developing countries is moving at a fast pace, it is leaving behind millions of people thus creating an ever widening gap between the rich and the poor.

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