Public and private sectors: delivering energy access for people living in poverty

News, 4 June 2015
Representatives from the private and public sectors will meet this week in Brussels to discuss innovations in financing and supporting energy services for people living in poverty, as part of the European Development Days (EDD) – the EU's leading forum on development and international cooperation.

South Africa: Anna with friends and family in front of her new solar water heating system. It is often more cost-effective to provide energy services to poor communities via off-grid sources (Photo: Abri le Roux, Creative Commons via Flickr)

The session brings together perspectives from a private sector investor, a donor, an energy service provider, a project developer and policy expert, working in Kenya, India, Indonesia, Europe and globally.

Held on Thursday, 4 June at 4pm in room D3, the debate is organised by the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), CIDSE (Coopération Internationale pour le Développement et la Solidarité) and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

The debate will focus on:

  • Scaling up investment into the small-scale and decentralised energy services that poor people need
  • The respective roles of the public and private finance, particularly to reach the poorest, and
  • Building an enabling environment to help finance flow.

Lack of energy stops people lifting themselves out of poverty. It is often more feasible, sustainable and cost-effective to provide the energy services poor communities need through off-grid sources, rather than by extending the grid. 

While this argument is gaining ground among decision-makers, including in the discussions around the proposed energy Sustainable Development Goal, key questions remains around how to finance and support such interventions. 

A dilemma for policymakers is working out how scarce public funds should be best targeted to attract investment in off-grid markets and to fill the gaps where the private sector cannot reach.

Research, including by CAFOD and IIED, shows that a 'one-size-fits-all' replication of energy services is not the answer. Apart from finance that is fit for purpose, understanding the different needs of end-users and also the socio-cultural aspects of the enabling environment is critical when designing services. 

The solutions discussed at the EDD event will feed into debates around how the EU should prioritise investments in energy access. Media are encouraged to attend.

Panel speakers

Jorund Buen, co-founder and partner, Differ GroupDiffer is spearheading the scale up of small-scale carbon reductions in developing countries. Focusing on rapidly growing economies in Africa and Asia, they combine cutting-edge insights, identification of business opportunities and early-stage investments to develop long-term partnerships. 

Sam Duby, founder and chief technical officer, SteamaCo: SteamaCo's technology turns any solar installation into a utility service more advanced than you can find in most OECD cities and is committed to bringing visibility and control to the most remote, underserved areas of the world. Currently, SteamaCo technology is operating more than 23 microgrids in East Africa and Nepal, providing clean, metered power and water to 10,000 people. 

Klaus Rudischhauser, deputy director general at DG for international cooperation and development: the commission's directorate-general for international cooperation and development (DG DEVCO) is responsible for designing European international cooperation and development policy and delivering aid throughout the world.

Lucy Symons, co-founder, Village Infrastructure: Village Infrastucture's mission is to make solar energy affordable to everyone through long-term energy loans. Achievements include a trial of two 50-household solar stations undertaken in Karnataka, India and a pilot project to install eleven solar stations in Ghana. 

Fabby Tumiwa, executive director of Institute for Essential Services Reform: IESR is a think tank working to inspire, encourage and support civil society in the changes needed for fair use of natural resources for development. Activities include policy and advocacy, public campaigns, research, development and capacity-building of civil society organisations. 


For more information and interviewees, please contact:

Ben Garside, IIED:
Dr Sarah Wykes, CAFOD:

Katharine Mansell
Media and external affairs manager

International Institute for Environment and Development
80-86 Gray’s Inn Road
London WC1X 8NH, UK.
Tel: +44 (0)20 3463 7399
Fax: +44 (0)20 3514 9055


Notes to editors

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is an independent, non-profit research institute. Set up in 1971 and based in London, IIED provides expertise and leadership in researching and achieving sustainable development (see:

Was this page useful to you?