In this peer-reviewed journal article, we analyse access to conventional and modern energy sources in off-grid villages in rural Uttar Pradesh, India.
Oorja's biomass and solar-powered microgrids provide affordable and reliable electricity to off-grid communities in rural India.
One in five of the 1.3 billion people without access to electricity live in India.
450 million people in India lack access to reliable power, limiting their socio-economic opportunities.
Access to clean, affordable, reliable and sustainable energy is a priority for India's development needs while staying within the climate's limits.
The decentralised renewable energy sector in India is predicted to be worth more than $40 billion by 2020.
What if we could use some of the 200 million tons of crop waste and 2700 hours of sunshine available each year in India to light 1 million people’s lives while enhancing food security, reducing carbon emissions and accelerating economic development?
Oorja's mission is to provide clean energy access to the 450 million people without access to reliable electricity in rural India whilst promoting sustainable local economic development.
Lack of energy access
In rural India, 45% of households are unelectrified. A far larger share have persistent power problems, receiving less than four hours of power a day.
Villagers rely on traditional fossil-fuels such as kerosene and diesel for their energy needs. Up to 20% of household income is spent on these fuels, endangering health and environment.
Declining crop yields
Of the two-thirds of India's population that lives in villages, nearly 75% depend on agricultural for their livelihood. A major driver of poverty is crop failure due to declining soil fertility, made worse by the devastating effects of climate change.
200 million tons of crop waste are produced in surplus in India every year. Open burning of this waste emits black carbon, that is partly responsible for India's escalating greenhouse gas emissions.
Affordable energy access for all
Oorja aims to use locally available crop waste and solar energy as resources to power rural communities.
Our hybrid solar and biomass-powered microgrids will provide affordable and reliable electricity for commercial power and household lighting. Oorja's focus is on productive uses of electricity, while low-income households in nearby villages are cross-subsidized so that everyone can benefit.
Biochar, a natural and safe soil enhancer
Oorja's hybrid power plants will sustainably transform crop waste through gasification to generate electricity, biochar and waste heat. Biochar is a natural charcoal-like substance that can be used in sustainable agriculture.
Biochar sold to farmers will help restore degraded soils and increase crop yields by improving water and micro-nutrient retention capacity.
A sustainable and community-owned model
Oorja builds and maintains easily operable mini power plants
These plants will be owned and operated by local micro-entrepreneurs and women's self-help groups.
Our model relies on enhancing local knowledge, skills, employability and income by building on existing networks within communities.
Tackling energy poverty, soil degradation and climate change
Poverty Alleviation and Employment Affordable and reliable electricity can provide household savings and stimulate other socio-economic opportunities, as new and existing businesses can expand and thrive. Farmers' incomes will increase through use of biochar.
Education Lighting extends the productive hours of everyone in the household, enabling children to study at home after dark.
Health Clean electricity avoids the indoor burning 3-4 liters of kerosene per family per month, reducing the incidence of respiratory diseases and burns.
Climate Change Replacing kerosene and diesel through provision of electricity made from revitalized crop waste can save 500 tons of CO2 per village per year, enabling development while avoiding emissions.
Our pilot location
Uttar Pradesh, where over 80% of rural households are un- or underelectrified and the largest producer of crop waste
Uttar Pradesh is India's most populous state. Nearly 1 in 5 rural Indians live here. It is also the largest producer of crop waste in India.
160 million people receive less than 4 hours of electricity per day, and mostly live within Uttar Pradesh's 67,000 off-grid villages.
Oorja in two minutes
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We support 12 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals!
Clean energy is fundamental to poverty reduction and a critical enabler of sustainable development. It empowers people as they seek a whole range of development benefits: from cleaner indoor air and safer homes, to lives of greater dignity and less hard labour, and to better livelihoods and quality health and education. Access to affordable, clean energy services can change the lives of women and girls and help to generate local income when linked to productive activities within their communities.
In 5 years, we aim to impact 1 million people and to save 200,000 tons of CO2 - that's equivalent to wiping out the annual emissions of one coal-fired power plant!
We expect to save 200 tons of CO2 annually for each plant we install by eliminating kerosene and fuel consumption.
Innovation and technology
Hybrid solar-biomass plants transform sunlight and crop waste into clean electricity and biochar
Oorja microgrids are powered by hybrid decentralized renewable energy systems. Electricity is generated through biomass gasification and solar photovoltaic technologies, and is then distributed through smart microgrids to power businesses and households. Each system has a capacity of up to 40 kWe, enough to meet the needs of 20-60 businesses and 60-120 households. Each power plant will also produce up to 10 tons of biochar per year. Oorja will provide regular plant maintenance, repairs, safety inspections and training of staff that run the power plant. It will also provide farmers with tillage tools, soil testing and the necessary training in farming techniques to correctly apply biochar.
CTO & Co-Founder
Clementine is co-founder and chief technology officer at Oorja, where she is responsible for plant design and construction to ensure Oorja plants are robust, affordable and easy to operate and maintain, and technical partnership building. She gained her expertise in cost-effective technologies to harness the power of biomass at Imperial College London where she is presently completing a PhD, and holds a first class Master's degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Cambridge. Clementine's passion lies in using locally available renewable resources as a catalyst to bring about lasting socioeconomic and environmental change.
CEO & Co-Founder
Amit is co-founder and chief executive officer at Oorja, responsible for business strategy development, supply chain management, fundraising, and partnership building to deploy our decentralized waste-to-energy technology in agrarian rural communities. He has diverse global experience in business consulting, financial services, and development practice. He holds a master’s degree in International Affairs with a concentration in poverty alleviation from Columbia University and a professional certification in Social Entrepreneurship. Amit hopes to champion decentralized energy systems to reach the most marginalized in society.
Director of Operations
Aklavya is a management professional with 15 years’ experience in the decentralised renewable energy sector in India. He has practical field experience of designing and delivering rural electrification projects and has a strong knowledge of technologies including biomass gasification, solar PV and hybrid mini-grids. Aklavya is responsible for heading Oorja’s operations in India and is involved in project development, procurement and rural load management.
Xiaoxiao is a first year MBA student at Yale School of Management with a focus on renewable energy project finance. Pre-MBA, she spent 9 years working in clean energy project finance in China. She is a professional contract manager, and has diverse experience in managing multinational contractors and suppliers in the energy industry. Xiaoxiao holds a BS in Management from Harbin Institute of Technology, China.
Board of Advisors
Venture Partner, Idinvest Partners
Fabio Mondini is an international venture capitalist with over 20 years’ experience in 20 countries. He focuses on growth capital investments in the Cleantech sector, where he specializes in renewable energy. Before joining Idinvest Partners, Fabio held roles including managing multi-billion dollar acquisitions at ENEL Group and founded and sold RenEn, a leading Italian renewable energy firm that has deployed over 300 MW of solar projects. He holds an MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering degree from MIT and MBA from INSEAD.
Managing Partner, Merian Ventures
Alexsis de Raadt St James is
an investor and entrepreneur with over 25 years of investment experience. She is the founder and managing partner of Merian Ventures, a US and UK venture-
capital firm that partners with exceptional female entrepreneurs. Prior to creating Merian Ventures, Alexsis held leadership roles and board seats with companies she funded or founded, senior executive roles in YBA Ventures, Commerce One and Shell International. Alexsis has an MS in Network Economics from MIT, an MBA
from Erasmus University and a BA from UT Austin.
De Montfort University
Prof. Bhattacharyya is an internationally renowned energy specialist with deep knowledge of global energy-environment issues. He specialises in techno-economic, regulatory, and environmental studies of off-grid energy systems for rural electrification in
developing economies, particularly India. Subhes' research is supported by energy-environment systems modelling and regulatory and investment analysis tools. He holds a PhD and Master's degree in Applied Economics and Energy Economics from UPM France.
Founder and Managing Director, Arc Finance
Nicola Armacost has over two decades of development experience throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. She is an expert in microfinance, impact investing and clean energy finance. Niki previously served as a senior manager at World Women's Banking from 1993 to 2008. She was an early advocate of linking energy and microfinance services and was an advisor to Citi/USAID/SEEP Energy and Microfinance Research Initiative. She holds a BA in International Relations from the University of Toronto and LLM from Osgoode Hall Law School, Canada.
Our latest news, thoughts, musings and insights along our journey.
April 10, 2017 - Rohan Potdar Creative Media
March 24, 2017 - Inspiring Social Entrepreneurs Podcast
Inspiring Social Entrepreneurs is a podcast series where Fergal Byrne interviews changemakers and thinkers from around the world – exploring particular challenges they face and lessons and insights as they grow – to share with and inspire other social entrepreneurs.
January 31, 2017 - Soon Soon Soon [FRENCH]
November 24, 2016 - Mass Challenge UK
MassChallenge UK, the most startup-friendly accelerator on the planet, today announced the top 20 startups from its 2016 cohort of 100 startups. These 20 startups were selected by a panel of expert judges who evaluated each startup based on their impact and potential for success. The top 20 represent the top 1.5% of startups out of the over 1,300 applicants to MassChallenge UK this year. The Finalists will present at the Mass Challenge 2016 Awards on January 18, 2017.
Read more here...
November 18, 2016 - Social Entrepreneur
In Episode 127, Amit Saraogi and Clementine Chambon discuss their vision of electrifying rural India using waste. Oorja’s biomass and solar-powered micro-grids will soon provide affordable and reliable electricity to off-grid communities in rural India. This podcast is part of the series 'Five Clean Energy Social Enterprises'.
November 17, 2016 - BearingPoint Blog [FRENCH]
October 17, 2016 - Red Magazine
Every year, Red Magazine's Women of the Year awards draw attention to celebrate the achievements of women in the UK. Our CTO Clementine Chambon was named as one of the "Women to Watch" this year for her entrepreneurial achievements.
July 3rd, 2016 - La Chaîne Info (LCI)
May 6, 2015 - Radio France Inter
April 20, 2015 - Madame Figaro / Le Figaro [FRENCH]
Ten French innovators were rewarded on 13th April by MIT Technology Review, which highlights the most innovative start-ups launched by entrepreneurs under 35. Among them, three talented women who are plan to make their mark on the world
Read more here [in French]...
April 14, 2016 - L'Atelier [FRENCH]
Prizewinner of MIT Technology Review's Innovators Under 35 France, Clementine Chambon has developed a hybrid technology solution to electrify rural India with renewable energy. Through Oorja, her team aims to contribute to India's economic and social development.
April 14, 2016 - Le Monde [FRENCH]
Every year, MIT's prestigious publication MIT Technology Review highlights the best innovators under the age of 35 in several countries, including France. The fourth French edition of the awards, which was held yesterday in Paris, rewarded ten young innovators: seven men and ten women. Of these, two special prizewinners were announced, including the "Social Innovator of the Year" award for Clementine Chambon, co-founder and chief technology officer at Borja.
November 27, 2015 - Imperial College news
November 12, 2015 - WISE Campaign
Agriwaste to energy
October 2015 - Pure & Eco India
In rural India, 45% of households are off-grid and lack access to modern energy. After darkness falls, shops must close, women travel long distance to collect firewood and face an unsafe journey home...
July 21, 2015 - IDEX Accelerator
July 13, 2015 - The Huffington Post
Last month, Echoing Green announced the 14 recipients of the 2015 Climate Fellowship, built in partnership with The ZOOM Foundation. This Fellowship, which recognizes emerging social entrepreneurs working around the world, is specifically targeted for next-generation leaders committed to working on innovations in mitigation and adaptation to climate change.
Read more here...
July 8, 2015 - Imperial College London
May 19, 2015 - Imperial College London
April 22, 2015 - The Times of India
A rural project in the heart of Uttar Pradesh that plans to use abundantly and cheaply available agricultural waste as feedstock to co-produce reliable and affordable electricity and clean household cooking gas has become the runner up for the first prize floated by world famous Imperial College for its most innovative female student entrepreneurs in science and technology.
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