Social Innovation Investment Is Becoming A Lucrative Market in India
Green technology and social innovation is proving to be a lucrative market in India, as clean energy investments are now worth $10.3bn, a growth of 52% in 2011, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. This means that India had the highest rate of growth in green technologies than any of the other major world economies, where most of the investment is in wind and solar. The REN21’s Renewable 2012 Global Status Report, launched on 11 June along with its sister publication, the United Nations Environment Programme’s Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment, both cited India as the star performer and says the country’s National Solar Mission has helped to spur an impressive 62% increase in renewable energy investment to $12 billion, the fastest investment expansion of any of the renewable markets in the world.
India suffers from using energy inefficiently. Many green tech entrepreneurs see social innovation as a way of connecting the dots to make money. Neha Juneja, with her business partner saw ‘a green business opportunity’ and invented the ‘Greenway Grameen Infra’, an eco-friendly stove. Millions of people in India still cook their food on dated mud stoves where the smoke emitted is harmful greenhouse gases. The Greenway stove is said to save 1,600kgs of wood, and lessens over two tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per stove per year. More than 6,000 of the stoves have been sold since they went on sale at the start of this year.
India is a rare market for alternative energy; it is a country that suffers from a large power deficit, high electricity costs along with challenges in traditional thermal power. Therefore the opportunity to create clean, green energy in India is big news. Yet, the social innovation driving the market is not about creating new technologies, it is instead about applying proven technologies in smaller, decentralised ways that can give a higher output and excess return.
This view is shared by long-time green technology social innovation investor, Sanjeev Krishnan. He believes that while the technologies are not groundbreaking, the ways they are being used in India are what is making a difference and changing the market. Mr. Krishnan cites the example of solar power schemes, which are providing off-grid electricity to power telecoms towers, and although they are established clean technologies, the way they are now being used is different. He says, "Waste is being turned into a commodity, instead of purely land-filled or renewable based micro-grids, and this has the potential to address many of India's energy issues at a time of economic slowdown."
So, while the world originally thought out-sourcing would be one of the ways that would help India’s economy grow, it seems the real money is in social innovation and clean technology investment. Global and Indian private equity funds all want to have a significant presence in this region and will be looking at sustainable solutions aimed at creating a low-carbon economy. Ironically, in power-deficit India, energy is becoming the moneymaking commodity.
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