Two Indian agri-energy organizations make shortlist of Ashden Awards
Strong points :
They are both part of a new wave of innovation showing how clean energy can drive entrepreneurship and inclusive development in low-income countries, creating opportunity in even the most marginalized communities.
The Collectives for Integrated Livelihoods Initiatives and Oorja Development Solutions, pioneering agri-energy organizations working with smallholder farmers in India, are shortlisted for the Ashden Awards. This year, the awards received 148 nominations from around the world.
A statement from Ashden says: “Indian initiatives include Integrated Livelihoods Collectives initiatives that help tribal farmers swap dirty diesel generators for clean energy, cutting bills in half. And Oorja Development Solutions which trains people to set up and maintain community-run solar-powered production centers that provide farmers with paid irrigation, milling and cooling.
Besides Oorja and CILI, the other shortlisted organizations come from Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Togo and Turkey. They are both part of a new wave of innovation showing how clean energy can drive entrepreneurship and inclusive development in low-income countries, creating opportunity in even the most marginalized communities.
Oorja is pioneering an inclusive pay-as-you-go model to provide an alternative to expensive diesel through solar-powered agricultural services for low-income farmers. Users pay according to the volume of irrigation water used, the quantity of cereals processed or products stored in cold stores. The focus is on one-acre farmers earning less than US$100 per month and disproportionately affected by climate change. Oorja aims to empower 10 million farmers globally by 2030.
We spoke to Clementine ChambonCo-founder and CTO at Oorja Solutions for a few quick questions.
SaurEnergy: Are your solar initiatives part of government-sponsored subsidy programs or are they independent of them?
Oorja is a for-profit social enterprise registered in India and the UK with operations in the northern states of India. Oorja’s clean energy services meet energy access needs in the agricultural sector in low-grid areas of the country. The company provides solar-powered irrigation, mulching and cooling services to smallholder farmers under a pay-as-you-go business model. These agricultural services are not provided under any government sponsored subsidy program and Oorja independently installs, operates and maintains these agro-energy services. We do not depend on any public funding for the implementation of the solution and raise private funds to invest in the decentralized solar infrastructure.
SaurEnergy: How do you approach the challenge of maintaining these facilities?
Oorja operates using a cluster model where a cluster consists of 4 pumps, 1 mill and 0.5 cold stores (only in horticultural regions). To manage the maintenance of these decentralized clean energy units, Oorja hires people from the BoP community and trains them as operators for daily operations and maintenance, customer service and payment collection. Each Cluster is led by two or three Operators residing in the local village. In addition, our project engineer makes a monthly visit to all project sites and performs any routine or corrective maintenance required. We have integrated all engineering functions, including installation and maintenance, so we are not dependent on external vendors for this. As these are solar powered systems, maintenance requirements are minimal and any issues can usually be repaired within 1-2 business days. Some of our solar systems include remote monitoring and can be monitored regularly by a mobile app to oversee day-to-day operation and our engineering team receives notification of any technical issues.
SaurEnergy: How many solar powered pumps/chillers/mills have you activated so far?
So far, Oorja has deployed 48 solar powered irrigation pumps, 9 agro-processing plants and 1 solar powered cold store in two districts of Uttar Pradesh (Bahraich and Shravasti) and Muzaffarpur district, Bihar.
SaurEnergy: What is the most ambitious goal for the company at the moment?
Oorja’s mission is to empower 10 million farmers worldwide by 2030 with the solutions they need to sustainably increase their incomes and quality of life. Our most ambitious goal at present is to offer digital consulting and input supply services to complement our physical agri-energy services. We plan to launch a farmer-friendly mobile app by the end of 2022. This will help farmers leverage science-based techniques, high-quality inputs and accurate information to move towards climate-smart agriculture while doubling their income.
Ashden is also hosting three awards focused on climate innovation in the UK this year. Shortlisted organizations in all six categories will undergo a rigorous evaluation with judges from Ashden and industry experts. The international winners of the 2022 Ashden Prize will be announced in Nairobi in October.
Harriet Lamb, CEO of Ashden, said: “Boosting economies and increasing incomes are just two of the many reasons to invest in energy access. But with 940 million people around the world living without electricity and 3 billion without safe cooking, there is clearly insufficient support for frontline innovators. A shortage of skills and training is a major obstacle to progress”.