Oorja is being incubated by Villgro, India's oldest incubator for social enterprises.
India recently announced "100% village electrification". Read about why rural India needs innovative companies like Oorja delivering clean energy access in this recent feature on Villgro's newest incubatees in NextBillion. Villgro's program supports rural renewable energy access companies working in low-income states of India funded by GIZ, the German development agency.
Read the full interview here.
Through this alliance with wPOWER, we hope to harness the evidence and best practices disseminated in developing robust entrepreneurial training programs targeting women and empower them through reliable clean energy access.
In this interview by Sun-Connect News, the leading news platform for the off-grid energy sector, CEO Amit Saraogi discusses the need for an integrated energy policy to bring clean energy access to over 235 million people.
Oorja designs and installs solar-powered mini-grids and pumps for businesses, farmers and BoP households in rural India that lead to improved livelihoods, job creation and access to services.
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 market size for decentralised renewable energy solutions in India is $48 billion per year. This is equivalent to 2 GW of generation capacity, which can be met by 10,000 mini-grids with the potential to create 860,000 jobs by 2022.
What if we could use some of the 2700 hours of sunshine available each year in India to significantly increase the income of marginal farmers and business owners while enhancing food security, reducing carbon emissions and accelerating rural economic development?
Oorja is a for-profit company founded in 2016. We are a project developer, installer and operator of decentralised renewable energy systems - mini-grids and solar pumps.
Acute energy poverty
In rural India, over 450 million people face persistent power shortages or complete lack of electricity. Having a grid connection does not mean the end of energy poverty: businesses and homes receive less than eight hours of intermittent, poor quality grid supply per day. This forces them to spend up to 25% of their income on polluting and unhealthy fuels, mainly diesel and kerosene, for their energy needs. Lack of reliable energy access limits commercial activity, leading to a stagnating rural economy and contributing to the rural-urban migration crisis.
The agrarian crisis
Another major driver of poverty in agrarian Indian communities is lack of affordable irrigation solutions, especially marginal and small farmers (80% of the farming population). Over 30 million farmers rely on diesel surface pumps, the running costs of which make up 50% of their input costs. They cannot afford to sufficiently irrigate their farms, leading to declining crop yields. Limited water supply also prevents farmers from diversifying their cropping systems to grow high-value crops, further limiting their meagre opportunities for earning income.
Reliable, affordable solar power
Oorja installs solar PV mini-grids that generate, store and distribute three-phrase AC electricity to power "productive" energy users along the agro-industrial and commercial value chains.
Provision of 24x7 supply of clean energy services allow consumers to transition away from fossil fuels. Small businesses significantly increase their income by saving on diesel costs, extending working hours and increasing productivity through adoption of energy-efficient appliances.
Community solar pumps
We also install and operate community solar pumping systems, eliminating the the upfront cost barrier for the vast majority of BoP farmers who cannot afford to buy an individual solar pump, even with government subsidies. Oorja's solar pumps provide water as a service to small and marginal farmers so they can affordably irrigate year-round. Training on efficient agricultural practices helps them intensify and diversify their crops, increasing farm productivity per hectare and therefore income, while improving food security and increasing farmers' resilience to droughts and climate change.
Increasing rural prosperity and mitigating climate change
Poverty Alleviation & Employment Fuel savings and greater productivity help to increase income. Existing and new businesses can expand and thrive, creating jobs and stimulating rural economic development.
Health Avoiding the burning of kerosene and diesel indoors reduces the incidence of respiratory diseases.
Gender Equity Reduction of drudgery, job creation and increase in disposable income are fundamental to empowering women.
Climate Change Replacing fossil fuels with clean energy reduces GHG emissions.
See our work in action
Watch this video of the installation of a 10 kWp smart solar mini-grid in Uttar Pradesh.
We support 12 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Affordable, reliable energy is fundamental to economic activity and poverty allevation. It empowers people as they seek a range of benefits and services: from better livelihoods to quality health and education, from cleaner indoor air and safer homes, to lives of greater dignity and less hard labour. Access to clean energy services can transform the lives of youth, women and girls by significantly increasing income when linked to productive activities within their communities.
In 5 years, we aim to impact 1 million people and save 50 million kg of CO2.
CEO & Co-Founder
Amit has 15 years of diverse global experience in business consulting, financial services, and development practice in India, the US and Switzerland. He brings to Oorja a strong grasp of business strategy, financial acumen and operations expertise. Amit has also conducted impact evaluation in rural India and Gambia for UNICEF. 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 is an Echoing Green Climate Fellow and was named on the SE100 list of the most Inspiring Social Entrepreneurs. He hopes to champion decentralised energy systems to reach the most marginalised in society.
CTO & Co-Founder
Clementine obtained her PhD in bioenergy from Imperial College London, equipping her with expertise in cost-effective design of distributed energy systems from an engineering, economic and socio-cultural perspective. She has worked as a renewable energy consultant for New Climate Economy, the European Commission, and the Grantham Institute for Climate Change. Clementine holds a Master’s in Chemical Engineering from the University of Cambridge. She has strong communication skills in six languages and is a Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneur and MIT 35 Under 35 Innovator. Clementine's passion lies in using renewable resources as a catalyst to bring about lasting socio-economic and environmental impact.
Lanvin is our data ninja, handling energy auditing, techno-economic analysis, and feasibility assessments for new solar projects. He also provides support for Oorja's impact assessment efforts. Lanvin previously worked as a green energy engineer at FAO and UNDP, where he drafted business cases and evaluated tenders for solar hybrid systems in UN country offices. Lanvin obtained a degree in Mechanical Engineering from MIT Manipal and holds a Master's in Sustainable Engineering from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, UK in 2016. He has a keen interest in how solar energy can be exploited for economic and social development.
Pushpendra is a solar technician at Oorja's sites in Bahraich, Uttar Pradesh, where he is responsible for installation, day-to-day operations, maintenance and customer service of our mini-grids and solar pumps. He holds a B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering and previously worked as a graduate technical apprentice with Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd, India’s largest power plant equipment manufacturer. Pushpendra also has experience in solar street lighting installation. He hails from Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh.
Purushottam is a Pump Operator at one of Oorja's 5 HP solar pumping sites in Bahraich district, U.P. He distributes affordable water services for irrigation and collects payments from farmers in his village. Purushottam's family is engaged in sugarcane farming so having year-round access to water is a critical priority.
Ramchandra is a Pump Operator at Oorja's solar pumping site in Bahraich district, U.P. He is responsible for water distribution and payment collections from a 5 HP and 3 HP solar pump. He grows rice, wheat and maize for his family's own consumption.
Divyank is an intern in Productive Uses of Energy at Oorja. He is currently pursuing a Master’s in Environment and Sustainability at Monash University, Australia. He has internship experience at SELCO Foundation in the field of solar water purification. Divyank is an Ashoka Youth Venture changemaker and started a non-profit education initiative working to impart quality education to the underprivileged in small cities of Uttar Pradesh. He is passionate about solving challenges around community development, especially food, energy and drinking water issues.
Gulnar is a volunteer with Oorja, supporting the organisation through research on financing. She is currently working as part of the Strategic Planning team at Kinara Capital in Bangalore, and has previous experience in technology consulting and impact investing with a focus on clean energy. Gulnar is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University with a BA in Economics and Writing Seminars.
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.
Partner, DBL Partners
Marc is an active impact investor and director at DBL Partners and has focused on cleantech, energy and advanced technology investments for the past 10 years. He specializes in the clean energy, clean water and semiconductor industries and previously spent 25 years in both venture-backed startups and multinational public companies in Silicon Valley and abroad. Marc is a graduate of Santa Clara University with a degree in Electrical Engineering.
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