The best solutions come from within the community, working on the ground with dedicated entrepreneurs and local groups, who best understand the needs of their community.

People Planet Profit

E+ Co | E+ Co

People Planet Profit
The best solutions come from within the community, working on the ground with dedicated entrepreneurs and local groups, who best understand the needs of their community.
People Planet Profit
E+ Co - Energy Through Enterprise

The Need

Dirty and inefficient fuels are changing the planet. If the poor countries of the world industrialize in the same way as rich countries, we will change forever how and where food is produced, the shape of our coastlines and endanger the very existence of small islands.

That message is oft-repeated, but this message is heard far less:

Most families that buy candles for light and dry-cell batteries for a radio can afford electricity produced by solar panelsSolar power, or even a turbine in a tiny stream, can provide enough electricity for lights and a radio.

The needs of the world's energy poor, the 1.6 billion people that live without electricity and the 2.4 billion people that use dirty, dangerous fuels for cooking and heating [1], may seem insurmountable. The situation is forecasted to remain virtually the same in 2030, despite projections that US$17 trillion ('04$) will be spent globally on energy over the next 24 years, almost half in developing countries where the energy poor live. But look again at the statement above.  It isn't all about money; it's about access.

If woman spends four hours a day hauling water, her chances of escaping poverty are very lowIf a child collects firewood instead of going to school, his/her child is likely to do the same.  Animal waste for fuel and technology at a cost of 30 cents per day can change that.

Without energy, the more than three billion energy poor are powerless to fulfill basic human needs such a nutrition, heating, hygiene, and health.  Or with a dependence on dirty sources of energy comes inevitable environmental degradation, with local and global consequences.  Most importantly, time-consuming and costly sources of energy leave them powerless to break the cycle of poverty. Only when the cycle of poverty ends, can development of better lives begin. Clean energy will improve their lives and the global environment.  Technology is not the problem. Business models are not the problem. Demand for the product is not the problem. Ability to pay for it is not the problem. The ability to access it is.

The cause of the problem is a lack of local, market-driven human infrastructure that provides access to viable energy alternatives.  Traditional top-down energy and finance models have brought energy to large parts of the world, but not all of it, and usually not cleanly or efficiently.  The best solutions come from within the community, working on the ground with dedicated entrepreneurs and local groups, who best understand the needs of their community.

Energy Through Enterprise

E+Co, a public purpose investment company of entrepreneurs, investors, strategists and mediators, was established in 1994 to address issues of energy poverty and energy access.  The mission:

"Bringing together technology, people and funding to create viable local enterprises that deliver affordable and clean energy to those in need."

E+Co's approach is to empower local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that supply clean and affordable energy to households, businesses and communities in developing countries. We do this through the "enterprise centered model" of providing business development services and investment capital to enterprises. The combination of services and capital distinguishes E+Co's work from others in the clean energy field.

The Enterprise Centered Model for Clean Energy Companies

E+Co's financing to SMEs mostly consists of "seed capital": modest amounts of financing for the early stage of an enterprise. At that stage, entrepreneurs have little or no track record in the business. Generally, only the idea, the opportunity and a champion exist. Often the business plan still needs to be developed.

E+Co's "enterprise development services" (EDS) assist the entrepreneur prepare his/her business idea for investment, by E+Co or others. Through the EDS, E+Co's knowledge of the clean energy market, business models, technologies and our local networks help entrepreneurs get started and are crucial to reach the stage where seed capital investments can follow.

The challenge undertaken by E+Co is to create a means by which these clean energy businesses are supported, financed and expanded on a scale sufficient to meet the massive energy needs of households, businesses and communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America in a manner that is financially, socially and environmentally sustainable, or as E+Co measures it, across the "Triple Bottom Line".

Since 1995 E+Co, has successfully pioneered triple bottom line investing in some of the world's poorest countries.  E+Co has invested in small and medium enterprises 31 countries. These enterprises yield "Triple Bottom Line" returns, including:


  • 2.8 million people with access to modern energy in developing countries

  • 2,600+ jobs generating over $6 million a year in income


  • 35,000 households with access to clean water

  • 203,710 tons of firewood displaced


  • E+Co's $16 million invested has mobilized over $128 million

  • E+Co repaid $4.1 million to investors.

E+Co's experience supports the conclusion that the critical element of success is not simply money, an investment model, or developing procedures and practices. The critical element is finding and investing in men and women who want to make their livelihood supplying clean energy to their neighbors. Investing in that small or mid-sized company is an indispensable step for sustainability. There is a huge potential of viable clean energy companies and an enormous pool of potential entrepreneurs.

To learn more about E+Co's services, visit

New Energies, a South African company, is becoming the leading supplier of solar-heated water to large institutions  

Village Energia Ambiental, a family-owned Brazilian company, sells and installs PV powered water pumps and provides sustainable agricultural development services to rural households and communities.

CleanTHAI develops financially viable methane gas recovery and waste-to-energy projects in two core industrial sectors in Thailand: livestock and the food & beverage industry.



[1] World Energy Outlook, 2004; International Energy Agency
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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