Energy: From Patient Capital to Catalytic Cipital —-Medium com-acumen-ideas

Solar Energy


What we didn’t expect was how quickly our bet would become a reality. In the last decade, we have invested roughly $20 million in 18 enterprises working across every rung of the energy ladder and built the largest portfolio of off-grid companies serving the poor.

Our investees have provided tens of millions with access to energy, saved them more than $1.7 billion in energy-related expenses and offset more than four million tons of CO2. We have made incredible headway because these entrepreneurs not only possess grit and determination, but they also know how to seize opportunities emerging from a rapidly evolving energy landscape. As the price of solar dropped from $4 to less than $1 per watt, the cost of LED lamps fell by 85 percent and mobile technology penetrated the world, even its hardest-to-reach places, our entrepreneurs revolutionized the energy industry. They developed affordable, decentralized energy solutions and financing tools to bring power to low-income communities everywhere, proving the days of relying on dirty fossil fuels while waiting for the grid were numbered.

Those days are now upon us. Solar has never been cheaper, the price of LED lights continues to drop and the proliferation of cell phones has put purchasing power in more hands than ever before. More and more countries in the developing world are opening up their markets to private investors. And thanks to the success of catalytic companies like d.light and M-Kopa, the world now understands the investment and impact potential that off-grid energy represents. What was a moonshot a decade ago is now within reach.

With off-grid energy poised to leapfrog the inefficient, expensive grid to bring electricity to millions of people, now is not the time to walk away. There is a large and growing pipeline of renewable energy companies — both in their early stages and on their way to massive scale—committed to tackling poverty, and they need our support. Although they have moved tens of millions up the energy ladder, many of these companies remain small and under-funded as they try to do too much with too little capital.

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