Head of Global Energy, Acumen
What energy solutions have you or your organization been working on?
At Acumen, we’ve been changing the way the world tackles poverty since 2001. While tackling poverty is our focus, it is impossible to disentangle poverty from climate. As a result, much of our work has the dual impact of helping low-income people, and smallholder farmers specifically, adapt to and mitigate against climate change. In energy, this connection has driven our work. Acumen has the largest equity portfolio of energy access enterprises in the world, with investments in 38 energy access companies spanning off-grid products, clean cooking solutions, mini-grids and productive use technologies in East Africa, West Africa, India, Pakistan and Latin America. Acumen and KawiSafi Ventures, Acumen’s growth fund in energy access, have jointly contributed to more than 48 million tonnes of CO2 emissions abated.
From our work in 2007 providing the very first seed investment capital to d.light, a company that has reached more than 100 million lives today with basic lighting services, to our investment in S4S, an Indian solar drying company that supports entrepreneurs to increase their margins on sold fruit and vegetables by 30%, we’ve demonstrated that with patient capital you can support enterprises, realize financial returns and radically change the lives of the poor.
Nothing matters except how customers experience these products and services. We have heard customers say: “My life has changed because I can save money now.” “To me, the solar product is one of my best assets.” “My income has improved so I can use that amount for my family like buying food and exercise books for my children.” For us at Acumen, impact lies with those who are using these products and services. By understanding their perspective, we can understand the positive effects of our work and also understand where we need to be improving and pushing harder to ensure the market is working for the poor.
Why is the High-level Dialogue on Energy important at this time?
It’s 2021. We have less than ten years to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and universal energy access is the one SDG that is truly within reach. In the last decade, groundbreaking off-grid and on-grid solutions have led to more than 500 million people gaining access to electricity. The HLD comes at a critical moment; nearly 760 million people are still without power, but with the right decisions and investments, we can achieve SDG 7 by 2030.
Can you give a preview of what commitments you might include in a potential Energy Compact by your organization?
Acumen is committed to standing with the poor, and we are thinking big: how can we reach the 760 million people currently living without energy access by 2030? For all the progress that has been made, which has been substantial, this progress has largely been reaching the most accessible customers and those with clear ability and willingness to pay. The work ahead will be the hardest — customers in more remote geographies with less ability to pay — and will require more innovative, outside-the-box thinking and ideas.