How an Australian Startup Is Lighting Up Indian Slums with Clean Energy

An Australian-led team is in the running to win up to a million dollars for its work providing solar power to Indian slums.Australian company, "Pollinate Energy," is one of27 finalists in a global competition that rewards new companies who are using business to create positive change.The company has its headquarters in the Indian city of Bangalore, now known by its official name, Bengaluru.On the edge of Bengaluru, wedged in between a railway line and an apartment block, sits an Indian slum.From a distance, it looks like any other impoverished settlement - a cluster of ramshackle tents, hordes of dirty kids, piles of rubbish crawling with flies.But look closely and you'll see something a little different from other slums.Here, 90 per cent of homes have small solar panels perched on their roofs that power the light inside.The thousand residents here have ditched kerosene for clean energy. It's not only improved their health, it's provided a better quality light.Laxshmi, a resident of the slum told SBS Hindi, "We had kerosene lamps before. We're very happy to have the solar lights now because we can work inside the house and the children can study inside."For the past four years, "Pollinate Energy" has been selling life-changing products to India's urban poor.It's what's known as a social business, which aims to find a business solution to a social problem.Six young Australians founded Pollinate including Alexie Seller, a mechanical engineer from Sydney. She's now the organisation's chief operating officer."I'm kind of amazed that we've reached 60,000 people already. That's 60,000 people who have clean energy in their home - something they would not have been able to access maybe for another decade at least," Seller told SBS.Bengaluru is one of India's most cosmopolitan and prosperous cities, a place where the wealthy can buy flash cars and Jimmy Choo shoes.But in the cracks of this metropolis are those who'd be happy with any pair of shoes.These people are so poor it's almost impossible for them to borrow money - and that's where Pollinate comes in.It offers its customers a five-week payment plan.The default rate is one per cent.Pollinate also trains its local employees, calling them 'Pollinators', to sell products like solar lights, water filters and mobile phones.Manjunath. one of its most successful salesmen said, "I've been working in this slum for three and a half years. We are helping the poor people. They're very happy to buy the solar lights, nobody is using kerosene any more. Sometimes they take the lights back to their villages."This slum may be using clean energy, but there are millions of other people across India who have no access to power - solar or otherwise.The International Energy Agency says 240 million people in India - that's 20 per cent of the population - don't have access to electricity.That massive figure may be daunting but the immense scale of energy poverty offers Pollinate Energy a vast market for growth.The business is already working in three Indian cities - Bengaluru, Kolkata and Lucknow - but wants to expand, as Pollinate's Alexie Seller explains."We have quite a clear vision that we want to scale this across India. We're seeing this work very, very well in the cities we're in at the moment and so many more people are going to migrate into the cities in future that we have the opportunity to serve."By 2020, Pollinate Energy aims to be in 20 Indian cities, enlightening the lives of millions of slum dwellers.

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My guess is not very often.Leaving an unused device “on” when leaving a room does not strike one as much as leaving water taps open.And so we waste a lot of energy and money, while a bit of care and attention could change a lot.I was convinced that at WWF we also need to do more about our energy impact, and walk the talk, and wanted to ignite this change.I worked over 10 years on energy policy for WWF, but I wanted some practice. Thanks to an MSc in Wales at CAT and solar work experience at Hassler Energia I acquired more hands-on, practical knowledge needed for this new challenge.Now I am looking for ways to make our offices more energy efficient, and to switch our energy supply to solar.Fifteen WWF offices across the world are already running on solar energy and I’ve seen the energy consumption drop drastically in all offices where we trained staff and made some technical changes, like replacing inefficient air conditioners. It works!But I couldn’t have done this without my colleagues.While they are concerned with other environmental issues in their day to day work, they are still enthusiastic to learn more about their impact and reduce their energy consumption.Switch off the plug — switch on the sun: Energy policy into practiceThis week it is WWF EPO’s turn!We have launched a Sustainable Energy Week, a chance for everyone to learn and share how to make energy changes that matter and to become more familiar with the solar installation on our roof and smappee.This cute device enables everybody to easily check at any time how much electricity we use and solar electricity we produce.Everyone in the office can do it, techie or not.When do you start? You might be surprised what a difference it makes.Jean-Philippe Denruyter is the manager for Applied Energy Solutions at WWF. He is based in Belgium. jdenruyter@wwf.euLearn more about WWF’s work on solar energy.·RELATED QUESTIONWhy don't hotel rooms have ceiling lights?My hotel building is over 100 years old, so we have ceiling lights. We also need a ladder to change a bulb 11' from the floor. It can take 20 minutes for 1 bulb! This is one reason that we have changed to the longer lasting (and more economical) low-energy bulbs.I would be delighted to have wall lights instead. Retro-fitting them would however be even less economically sound.Higher than average ceilings mean ladders to change the bulbs in ceiling fittings, and this extends the maintenance time and convenience for staff enormously. Even normal height ceilings mean that a chair is needed to swap a bulb out. Wall fittings are so much more convenient for both staff and customers, reducing the time taken to get light again!As Michael Forrest Jones says - anything other than a simple bulb swap requires the power to be cut to the whole circuit (which may be more than just a few rooms). This makes it very awkward to do emergency repairs after dark! -- Been there done that... Go with wall fittings that can be isolated in-room!In short:I have ceiling lights.I don't like them, as they are awkward for maintenance.Replacing them would be expensive and extremely difficult - basically a total rewire of the hotel lighting system.Design engineers are not stupid. they note the first 2 points!
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