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Power to the Poor: Sustainable energy at the base of the pyramid

Emma Wilson, Lyuba Zarsky

Briefing, 4 pages

Four billion people – over half of humanity – live on less than US$2 a day, effectively forming the bottom of the world economic pyramid. This majority may have minimal access to cash but they need, and will pay for, essential goods and services – including energy. ‘The fortune at the bottom of the pyramid,’ a 2002 article, argues that if global corporations target this 4 billion, they can reduce poverty and make profit. That the private sector is already playing a key role in meeting development challenges, such as energy poverty, is increasingly recognised. ‘Inclusive’ and ‘shared value’ business approaches have begun to multiply. International energy companies, including hydrocarbon and renewable energy producers, can (and do) facilitate local access to energy in poorer regions of the world. To reach the poorest and to effectively contribute to sustainable local development in the long term, however, standard business models need to be modified, and alliances forged with government, local enterprises, donors and NGOs. Smaller local firms are often the ones that reach the poor more effectively. They just need the right support.

Keywords: business models for sustainable development

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