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Power to the People

Investing in Clean Energy for the Base of the Pyramid in India

This report informs investors about the market potential of the clean
energy industry serving India’s rural Base of the Pyramid (BoP) market, by looking at its opportunities, challenges, and potential paths to growth.

Executive Summary

India, a rapidly emerging economy with the world’s second largest population, is facing a surging energy demand. Its rural Base of the Pyramid (BoP) consists of 114 million households, representing 76 percent of India’s rural residents and almost 60 percent of the country’s total population. Despite their low income, these households constitute a significant consumer market for the energy services and products required to provide daily necessities such as cooking and lighting. Using the most recent available expenditure data (2004/2005), we estimated that India’s rural BoP consumers spent INR 224 billion (US$4.86 billion) per year on their energy needs.

In 2005, approximately 45 percent of India’s rural BoP households still did not have reliable access to electricity and relied on kerosene for lighting, and more than 85 percent of rural BoP households mostly used conventional free or inexpensive sources of fuel, such as firewood and dung, for cooking. These fuel sources, however, are not only harmful to users’ health but also contribute to pollution and environmental degradation.

A growing number of Indian companies see a market opportunity in providing rural BoP households with access to alternative cooking and electricity solutions and consequently are developing clean energy products and services for this market.

“Clean energy” refers to products and services that produce energy from renewable resources and emit fewer greenhouse gas emissions than does energy from conventional fuel sources. The lack of a reliable supply of power from the electricity grid and the availability of free and inexpensive fuels, such as wood and kerosene, are key influences on this market. In this report, we focus on two areas in this growing, high-potential market: clean energy electricity systems and clean energy cooking and light products. We examined a representative selection of companies selling solar lanterns, solar home systems, energy-efficient cookstoves, and electricity generated from decentralized sources, including small hydro power plants and biomass gasifier systems.

About this Report: Informing Investors

The goal of this report is to inform investors about the market potential of the clean energy industry serving India’s rural BoP market, by looking at its opportunities, challenges, and potential paths to growth. The purpose of our report is to present an overall picture of these growing clean energy sectors, rather than to provide investment advice on individual companies.

The potential opportunity for investors in the Indian clean energy market for the rural BoP is significant. We estimated the aggregated potential market for the four sectors studied in this report to be INR 97.28 billion (US$2.11 billion) per year, including INR 94.06 billion (US$2.04 billion) for decentralized renewable energy services and INR 3.22 billion (US$70.1 million) for energy products per year.

Our analysis shows that clean energy services and products may require an upfront investment three to ten times greater than that for conventional energy sources such as kerosene and firewood, which often are subsidized or free to India’s rural consumers. Yet despite these and other drawbacks, the average annual gross revenue of the companies profiled in this report has grown 36 percent since 2004.

What is the Base of the Pyramid?

The Base of the Pyramid (also referred to as the Bottom of the Pyramid) refers to the estimated 4 billion people around the world who are poor by any measure and have limited or no access to essential products and services such as energy, clean water, and communications. Globally, people in this socioeconomic group earn US$1 to US$8 in purchasing power parity (PPP) per day. Yet these households often pay higher prices than wealthier consumers do for lower-quality goods and services because of uncompetitive markets.

Since this report focuses specifically on rural India, we define the rural Indian BoP market as households in the bottom four expenditure quintiles (based on data from the National Sample Survey Organization) that spend less than INR 3,453 Indian rupees (US$75) on goods and services per month. This definition represents a market of 114 million households, or 76 percent of the rural population.

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