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• Investing in Energy Access as a Critical Climate Solution

September 17 2018
September 17 2018

Confluence Philanthropy,  Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, and the Wallace Global Fund Investing in Energy Access as a Critical Climate Solution. Speakers included Christina Borsum, CFO, California Clean Energy Fund; Ellen Dorsey, Executive Director, Wallace Global Fund; Heather Grady, Vice President, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors; Dana Lanza, CEO, Confluence; Neha Misra, Co-Founder and Chief Collaboration Officer, Solar Sister; and Mali Ole Kaunga, Director, IMPACT.

The session explored how philanthropies and their partners can help fill the energy access investment gap. The audience was introduced to varying types of capital deployment strategies, a few examples of the sorts of capital stacks needed to scale solutions, and suggested guiding principles for impact investments in the access-to-energy sector.

Ellen Dorsey began the session by sharing the Wallace Foundation’s ambitious commitment to invest in energy access. She laid out the statistics: 1.1 billion are living without basic energy – they make up less than 1% of this total, which is $13 billion per year. It is estimated that an annual $50 billion in energy access investments could end energy poverty, leaving an investment gap of $37 billion. Mission-driven institutions can help by investing in energy access to meet the United Nation’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goal.

“The energy transition is happening. To not reach the 1.1 billion people who do not have energy access would be immoral,” said Ellen Dorsey. “We can achieve 100% energy access.”




Mali Ole Kaunga passionately explained that the green energy revolution is creating “carbon cowboys” that run over rural and indigenous communities seeking quick project completion and profit at the cost of community engagement, and ultimately, human rights. Renewable energy development must start with respect for peoples and their homelands. He suggested the importance of investors knowing these regions and partnering with those on the ground.

Christina Borsum spoke about how CalCEF is growing an ecosystem of entrepreneurs and investors to enable a clean, global energy transition. CalCEF’s focus is launching clean energy startup businesses, building incubators and accelerators, supporting entrepreneurs, and developing early-stage social ventures around the world.

Neha Misra of Solar Sisters started with a story about the mountain of intersectionality that must be climbed. She explained how the traditional roles of women are to provide fuel for homes in much of the developing world. For that reason, clean energy is not just about technology; it is about engaging all users, especially women and girls. Done right, the renewable energy revolution can create livelihoods, improve health outcomes, and empower entire societies.

All of the speakers were concerned with the questions, How can energy access be transformative, inclusive, and respect human rights imperatives? And how can energy access increase social and economic benefits for communities?

Through the five presentations, a set of guiding principles emerged, including:

  1. Develop governing principles for impact investing and be willing to be held accountable.

  2. Work with humility when serving the most underserved.

  3. Build local capacity.

  4. Model intersectionality.

  5. Develop systemic funding and investments through grants, NGOs, governments, and private investments.

  6. Move from non-profit project support to core support.

  7. Improve the agency of grassroots organizations and activists.

  8. Provide full disclosure of deal flows; benefits, money, ownership, and real value.

  9. Work in places where your organization or representatives have authentic connections.

  10. Take adequate time to understand people and cultures. Does anyone on your team speak the local language(s)?

  11. Deploy the right kind and amount of capital.

  12. Always apply the U.N. Human Rights standards of informed consent.


The session concluded with questions from the audience and the final response was an invitation to learn about the Shine Campaign,

Shine is a global campaign dedicated to ending energy poverty and unlocking new opportunities for billions of people. Partners from the faith, development, and philanthropic sectors are mobilizing new forms of capital, scaling resources, and generating momentum to achieve universal access to clean, affordable, and reliable energy by 2030 – a Sustainable Development Goal.

Heather Grady and Ellen Dorsey shared that SHINE can help your organization map deal flow across geographies, asset class, return on capital, and help solve problems you will encounter along the journey.

“The challenge of energy access is achievable by 2030 as we follow the lead of communities,” said Heather Grady.


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