Today news of a brand new global charity called Energy Aid will start spreading around the world. Given that nearly half of the world’s population lacks access to modern sources of energy, the charity has an impressive mission to provide universal energy access. This means people in the world’s poorest areas including South America, South Asia and sub Saharan Africa could have their lives changed forever if they had access to energy for heating, lighting, cooking, communications and mechanical work.
With IBM and international development charity Practical Action already on board as founding partners Energy Aid plans to provide investment and resources including data, technology and skills to support charities and agencies running or planning energy projects in the target areas.
In the lead up to the global launch building a solid business case for the charity was key. A vital element of this planning was research conducted by myself and a team at the London School of Economics. We went out to visit and study organisations in India and Peru that could engage with Energy Aid in the future and make our recommendations on how Energy Aid could add value.
We analysed five case studies through site visits and interviews. The organisations were grouped into either partner organisations which illustrated how Energy Aid could contribute to existing issues, or peer organisations which illustrated how similar organisations went about achieving their objectives.
We found that many projects would welcome support from a charity like Energy Aid which provided multifaceted support including services beyond basic funding. We also drew on a number of existing online interfaces that suggested crowdsourcing is important. We concluded that at the Energy Aid core should be an online interface that connects owners and managers of projects on the ground with the knowledge base, experiential and financial support. We view this platform as a means through which these two groups can connect and develop a lasting collaborative bond.
Following our research Energy Aid finalised its business model now has three key strategies: an awareness campaign launching in 2012 dedicated to raising the issue of energy access in the public conscience, an open source of data, resources, technologies and research and a fund to raise and invest money into deserving long-term game-changing projects.
We are looking forward to seeing how Energy Aid develops over the next year and hope the issue of universal energy for all continues to grow in prominence with businesses and individuals.
We are not alone. Sustainable energy is an increasingly global concern with 2012 announced as the “UN Year of Sustainable Energy for All,” with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon giving a personal commitment towards the cause, and the UN Earth Summit Rio 20 in June 2012 will focus on alleviating energy access.