Making the transition to clean energy is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, but a quick glance at the news is enough to make anyone feel discouraged. Evidence of the worsening social and environmental impacts of climate change are all around us, and it’s going to take some serious innovation to halt and reverse it.
But there is reason for optimism: social enterprises, like the 20 featured below from our S-GRID accelerator program and broader global community, are driving the innovations we need to actually do something about it, while making the entire energy infrastructure more sustainable.
Continue reading to learn more about the innovative solutions — from biogas to solar power to bioluminescence — developed by each, and how you can support their work!
Remote Energy: Remote Energy trains and mentors solar energy educators and technicians in underrepresented populations worldwide to bring energy independence, career opportunities and improved quality of life to their communities. Remote Energy actively works to address the severe racial, gender and economic disparities in its industry by working with women’s groups, school groups, rural energy technicians, electricians, farmers, community leaders, health care professionals, teachers, vocational schools, and more in over 25 countries.
ARED: ARED is a platform-as-a-service company that is working to democratize digital access in Africa, particularly in semi-urban, rural, and refugee communities. Its solar-powered kiosks provide a host of on and offline digital applications and services via WiFi, along with a host of phone charging solutions for off-grid communities to be able to participate in the digital revolution. The ARED kiosk is a self-contained mobile energy source, powered in a sustainable way, that creates micro-entrepreneurship opportunities for women, people with disabilities, and refugees in particular though its franchise model.
Agsol: Agsol is a social enterprise working at the intersection of agriculture and energy. Nearly a billion people living off-grid depend on agriculture for their livelihood. That means their best chance to generate income is through improved agricultural practices. By linking productive agricultural machines to solar power, Agsol offers a unique solution for income generation, food processing and access to meaningful and scalable energy.
BURN Manufacturing: BURN Manufacturing is a social enterprise on a mission to impact lives and the environment through clean and efficient cooking appliances. The use of open fires and solid fuels for cooking is one of the world’s most pressing health and environmental problems, directly impacting close to half the world’s population and causing nearly 4 million premature deaths each year. BURN is the only vertically integrated modern cookstove company in Sub-Saharan Africa, and offers fuel-efficient appliances that can run on charcoal, wood and briquettes, and electricity. Its solar-powered facility currently has a capacity of 45,000 stoves per month and employs over 400 people, 60% of whom are women.
Inyenyeri: Inyenyeri is a Rwandan social enterprise building a cleaner world one kitchen at a time. In the developing world, over three billion people cook every day using unhealthy fuels, like charcoal, because they are inexpensive and available. This has devastating effects on the environment and human health. To address this, Inyenyeri’s offering consists of a bundle of products and services that meet customer needs at every stage, including: the cooking stove, the wood pellets used with the stoves, stove installation, and training services to use the stove. With this bundle, customers in urban areas, rural areas, and even refugee camps can safely use the Inyenyeri system without needing additional resources.
Green Bio Energy
Green Bio Energy: Green Bio Energy is a Kampala-based social enterprise whose primary focus is the promotion of green energy through innovative and self-sustaining solutions aimed at continuously improving the local population’s quality of life. Green Bio Energy is Uganda’s leading provider of eco-friendly briquettes, and uses an Integrated Management and Manufacturing Model that creates independent companies which manufacture them. With this objective, each company remains unified through GBE’s central mission to continuously improve the local population’s quality of life through women empowerment and by fighting poverty, deforestation, and climate change.
Quintas Renewable Energy Solutions
Quintas Renewable Energy Solutions: Quintas is a social enterprise on a mission to make alternative energy more accessible. Quintas products provide steam and clean heat energy from biomass for agro-industrial processing and hybrid biomass/solar solutions for off grid uses. Its primary focus is on the development of equipment and deployment services in the biomass, solar and natural gas energy resources to address the huge energy gaps in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Potential Energy: Potential Energy is a social enterprise dedicated to making cooking safer and more cost effective for women and their families. Potential Energy partners with local communities to assemble and distribute the Berkeley Darfur Stove: a stove designed specifically for and by the users themselves. The stove saves money, creates jobs and is better for health and the environment.
Khethworks: Khethworks is a social enterprise that builds affordable and reliable solar-powered irrigation systems that enable its customers to farm year-round. In India, there are 30 million farmers who tend to an acre or less of land, where 60 percent of renewable groundwater is unused and agriculture-grade electricity is patchy. Khethworks works to alleviate poverty and enhance food security among these farmers. The Khethworks solar-powered irrigation system allows small-plot farmers to affordably cultivate crops year-round, increasing their livelihood and food production. When a farmer switches from renting diesel and kerosene to using Khethworks’ system, they can increase annual profits by 170 percent.
Leaf Resources: Leaf Resources is an Australian social enterprise that turns pine tree by-products into sustainable and natural plant extracts that have the potential to replace virtually all petroleum-derived materials. Leaf Resources has developed a world first revolutionary process using natural organic solvent extraction from woody biomass in a sustainable and scalable way. Its technologies enable the replacement of petroleum-based chemicals and plastics, with the aim of moving society towards the bio economy.
Magnuss: Magnuss is a maritime technology firm that provides modern auxiliary wind propulsion for global shipping. The Magnuss VOSS, or Vertically-Variable Ocean Sail System, is a proven and reliable fuel efficient technology that supports the de-carbonization of the shipping industry.
Canopy Power: Canopy Power designs, builds, and finances optimized renewable energy microgrid solutions for businesses and communities who are dependent on diesel power generation and weak grids. These remote and island-based customers in SE Asia and Pacific often do not have access to the main electrical grid or are entirely dependent on intermittent energy supplies. Canopy Power’s solutions empower remote customers in their energy transition away from fossil fuels to provide access to more reliable and cleaner electricity, improve lives and boost business profitability, while minimizing environmental harm.
Glowee: Glowee is a social enterprise developing biological, living lighting systems to revolutionize the way we illuminate the world. Currently, light pollution affects more than 80 percent of Earth’s inhabitants. Glowee is reinventing light production with technology nature has already created, to make lighting more sustainable and healthier for both humans and the environment. Having identified the genetic coding that creates bioluminescence, Glowee inserts this code into common, non-toxic, and non-pathogenic bacteria to produce clean, safe, synthetic bioluminescence.
Energy Moto Ltd.
Energy Moto Ltd.: Energy Moto Ltd. is a Tanzania-based social enterprise that specializes in renewable energy, construction of biodigesters, and creating sustainable strategies for individuals and companies. The vision of Energy Moto Ltd. is that all rural and semi-urban farmers of Tanzania are using biogas technology to generate renewable energy for multiple purposes such as producing electricity, water heating, and cooking, to minimize or replace the use of charcoal and/or firewood to reduce the pressure on the environment also to generate fertilizer for the production of quality crops.
Takamoto: Takamoto is a social enterprise that works to improve the lives of small-scale farmers by providing energy security. Takamoto believes that everyone should have access to reliable, affordable and sustainable energy, and its team of engineers work to develop and improve biogas products to better meet the growing energy needs of rural communities. Use of biogas decreases deforestation, reduces the upcountry workload, and burns cleanly protecting the health of Takamoto’s clients.
Plentify: Plentify builds smart technology that makes electricity more affordable, reliable, and clean. African cities face the world’s most expensive and unreliable energy services. And these are getting progressively worse as rapid urbanization and climate change place our weak infrastructure under increasing strain. Plentify aims to address both of these issues by adding intelligence to an appliance that is already in many homes: the electric water heater. By optimizing each water heater around its home’s behaviour, Plentify can significantly reduce electricity bills. By timing when it heats based on when electricity on the grid is more abundant, Plentify helps avoid blackouts and utilize renewable energy when it is available.
Altech Group: 90% of Congolese people lack access to electricity. Altech Group was founded to address this energy deficit, and its mission is to expand access to clean, reliable, renewable and affordable energy for off- and poor-grid households. Altech offers a suite of safe, clean, reliable, and affordable energy solutions that help customers save money and improve their health, education, and environmental outcomes. Using a network of community members, Altech delivers affordable energy products like solar home systems, solar lamps, and clean cookstoves directly to customers’ doors.
Grassroots Energy: Grassroots Energy is a social enterprise working at the intersection of food, fuel, and fertilizer to mitigate methane and carbon emissions by turning biomass into energy. Grassroots Energy biogas plants avoid emission of tons of methane per year which is 25x more potent than CO2 in global warming. Bio-methane can then be used to replace fossil fuels while bio-compost replaces chemical fertilizers, magnifying the impact several times.
Jiro-Ve: In Madagascar, electricity for most people is not accessible or affordable. Even people that can afford these services often have blackouts for several hours a day. Jiro-Ve has come up with an innovative, inclusive micro franchise model to provide affordable, clean, and healthy lighting for marginalized communities. Its model involves renting out a rechargeable LED light for a price that is cheaper than candles or kerosene. For 250 Ariary per day (≈ 0,06 €) people get a fully charged light delivered to their doorstep, both in rural areas and neighborhoods of cities. Jiro-Ve hires local entrepreneurs and uses existing networks, supporting and developing entrepreneurship.
Village Energy: Village Energy is a Ugandan social enterprise composed of leading experts in solar system design and installation. Village Energy offers solar solutions including custom PV systems, hot water heaters, water pumps, battery backup systems, and outdoor lighting, and customizes each system to meet the unique energy needs of each client, including schools, health centers, hotels, farms, offices, and other institutions in both rural and urban areas.
Does your organization have an innovative social or environmental solution that you are trying to scale? Apply to SGRID for help building connections to corporations looking to find partners for their supply chains.