With almost four years completed since the United Nations adopted the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we face a narrowing window of opportunity to mobilize the disruptive solutions and ambitious partnerships needed to bend the curve and improve the lives of billions within that timeframe, or indeed sooner. Nowhere is a sense of urgency greater than with SDG 7 (“Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy access for all”) – which addresses an area that is both lagging, and simultaneously, viewed as one of the most solvable.

The Rockefeller Foundation is working to apply the lessons from our decentralized rural electrification initiative, Smart Power India, to markets across sub-Saharan Africa. The renewable energy mini-grids supported by the Smart Power initiative in the Indian states of Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are now powering micro-enterprises and homes in more than 200 villages. Improved energy access has transformed the lives of over 160,000 people, including thousands of small businesses. A joint report, Rural Electrification in India, Customer Behaviour and Demand, launched in February 2019 in partnership with Johns Hopkins University, contributes to a growing body of data that shows low-income, rural consumers are ready and willing to pay for reliable electricity access. Smart Power India mini-grid partners average 97–100% on-time revenue collection, and 80% of household users and 90% of enterprise users report themselves “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their mini-grid connections.

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