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Published on March 6th, 2015 | by Zachary Shahan


Solar Power Empowers The Poor (Video Interview)

March 6th, 2015 by  

Getting back on the wagon and sharing the many video interviews I recorded in Abu Dhabi, below is another one. This one is with Richenda van Leeuwen of the UN Foundation, one of my new favorite people.

Richenda is Executive Director, Energy and Climate, Energy Access Initiative team, and also a CleanTechnica subscriber! She is also on the Zayed Future Energy Prize Selection Committee, on the board of SELCO India, and has just been doing awesome things for years.

I’d rather you just watch the video interview, but I know some of you avoid videos like the plague, so below the video is a quick summary of what we discussed.


Bringing Sustainable, Clean Energy To The Developing World

The first thing we discussed was SELCO India, one of the world’s premier social enterprises. Since 1995, SELCO has been bringing sustainable energy solutions to the poor. This includes solar PV panels as well as “solar-powered indoor & outdoor home lighting; solar-powered street lights; solar thermal hot water heaters; solar inverter systems related to appliances like ceiling fans, TVs, music systems, sewing machines, and computers; and more.” But it has been bringing these technologies to rural corners of the developing world not as a charity but as a profitable company. As Richenda notes, one of the key points co-founder Dr Harish Hande has “always said” is that “renewable energy services have been counted as too expensive for the rich in the US and other developed countries in the OECD, but in fact they’ve been the most affordable type of energy services for the poor.

She also highlighted that SELCO is very innovative and “always looking for new approaches, new products, new ways to bring these services to different populations, to help people do their work more effectively….”

SELCO is certainly no longer the only company bringing solar and other cleantech options to the developing world (there are hundreds or thousands of such companies) but it was an early leader and visionary. Richenda also mentioned M-KOPA, a wonderful young company in this field that won the 2015 Zayed Future Energy Prize in the SME category thanks to the innovative and effective way it is bringing solar to the developing world. It is companies like these that are best positioned to bring electricity to the 1.2 billion people lacking it.

Trickle Up

I noticed while looking into her background that Richenda was previously executive director of an organization called Trickle Up. Loving that term (as a response to the sketchy/myth-filled ideology of “trickle down economics“), I was curious to hear her talk about it a bit. I’d just encourage you listen to her and/or check out the Trickle Up website in order to learn more about it.

UN Climate Talks In Paris

Lastly, in this interview with Richenda (I had two), I asked her about her take on the upcoming UN climate talks in Paris. Again, I encourage you to listen, but if you want a summary, I already wrote about this portion of the interview alongside Al Gore’s response regarding the matter here: Al Gore Optimistic About Paris Climate Talks (Exclusive Videos)


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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species). He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor. He's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

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