Dr. Veena Soni
As nearly a fifth of the world's population still lives without access to electricity and double that number with no access to modern cooking technologies, both public and private sector players have invested resources in developing infrastructure to address this energy gap. While there have been exceptional cases like China, Vietnam and Brazil, where the public sector led grid expansion achieved incredible gains in expanding access as to electricity, the general trend over the years in most developing countries has demonstrated that both public and private led approaches have been unsuccessful in independently yielding the desired acceleration and continuity to deliver universal energy access. Despite the inherent benefits of both public and private sector led initiatives, typical systemic inefficiencies and inadequate capacities in both approaches prevent them from fully addressing the principal objective of facilitating energy access for the poor in the long term. Also, even if required investments were adequately capitalized, with the current population growth rate continually outpacing the rate of interventions, the number of people who remained energy poor 15 years hence, would still be the same. Thus, not only is there is a need for providing energy access to the existing population mass, but an equal need to do it fast enough to truly reduce the number of energy poor across the globe. An alternative approach therefore needs to be explored that juxtaposes the social welfare objectives of public sector led initiatives with the enterprise development and growth objectives of the private sector, to support the creation of an enabling ecosystem and a viable value chain that successfully and effectively delivers energy solutions to the last mile. Such a pro-poor hybrid model will essentially address the inefficiencies and inadequacies of both public and private approaches and capitalize on their strengths through a complementary mix of social and commercial goals. The model facilitates collaborations at the corporate, institutional and individual levels to drive individual parts of a unified energy provisioning system, making it adaptable, dynamic, flexible and maneuverable within structures, relationships and entities. Policy level support and accompanying regulatory frameworks are critical for clear role definitions, proper planning and execution.
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