Bijli - Clean energy for all



The Climate Group’s access to rural energy in India project, Bijli - Clean Energy for All, which is principally funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery, ran in 2014 and 2015 and helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions and simultaneously enhanced the lives of rural villagers in India.

The Climate Group delivered this project by working with local delivery partners across three different off-grid electrification models (hand-held lights, home-lighting systems and micro-grids). So far, the Bijli- Clean Energy for All project has provided energy access to over 65,000 people in the states of Maharashtra, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, India to clean, affordable solar power.

About 30% of India’s people (77 million households which is around 360 million people) lack adequate access to electricity- a number we could eventually connect via cheaper, cleaner and more reliable renewable sources. A sustainable and scalable model is essential to allow hundreds of millions of people – many of whom have to rely on expensive and dirty kerosene lamps for lighting – in India and elsewhere in the world to access affordable, low carbon, renewable energy.

In addition to providing access to suitable renewable solar energy to rural consumers, Bijli – Clean Energy for All project identified sustainable off-grid energy business models, addressed the challenges of scaling up clean energy solutions to benefit large numbers of people by developing viable financial mechanisms, and also helps Indian businesses and communities lead and benefit from the emerging global low carbon economy.

The Climate Group has identified several sustainable off-grid business models with high potential to scale up. Debt financing has been found to be the primary unmet need in the off-grid sector. To build on our learning and help fill this critical financing gap, The Climate Group is working with partners to create a debt fund to enable flexible and catalytic financing for the distributed renewable energy sector in India that will bridge the gap to mainstream financial institutions.

  • Additional achievements of the Bijli project are:
  • With the Bijli project, we identified that:
    • Access to energy is one of the basic requirements for escaping the poverty trap and, although the conventional grid has reached almost all villages in India, millions lack access to reliable and affordable lighting
    • Bijli-Clean Energy for All has successfully demonstrated that solar systems can meet basic energy needs, not only for the households that lack access to grid electricity, but also for those who do have such access
    • The different energy partners we worked with have different business models and each have been found to have unique strengths. However, different models are more suitable for different geographies and market segments
    • The role of customer financing to reduce the upfront cost of technologies is key to scale-up of solar systems
    • Lack of access to debt finance for off-grid energy entrepreneurs is a key barrier for scaling off-grid energy access in India
    • In general, a high level of customer service satisfaction was found in operation and maintenance of solar equipment across all installations
    • Bijli-Clean Energy for All project found to significantly offset the use of kerosene and grid electricity as primary energy source for lighting
    • Popularity of solar lighting even in areas with grid connectivity indicates a high potential consumer base and market size for all energy partners
    • Though highly varied across business models, statistically significant reduction in GHG emissions were found from reduced use of non-solar energy sources through the project
    • There was significant increase in self-reported study hours (1 to 2 hours every day) and convenience of studying was reported by families as an important additional benefit of energy access

If you'd like to be part of our work or are interested in learning more about this program and the debt fund, please contact: Jarnail Singh, Program Manager at

Explore our picture gallery of the Bijli project and India.

Watch our 6 minute video on the Bijli project:

Bijli - Clean Energy for All

Watch our 3-minute Bijli video:

BIJLI - Clean energy for all

Dutch Postcode Lottery

The Dutch Postcode Lottery is the principal funder for the Bijli – Clean Energy for All project, donating US$3.5 million.

The Dutch Postcode Lottery was founded by Novamedia in 1989 to support charitable causes. Today, 2.5 million people in the Netherlands play every year, vying for hundreds of thousands of prizes each month. As they play, they’re supporting charitable causes: half the price of each ticket is distributed among 85 charitable organizations.

Since 2005, the Postcode Lottery has also been operating in the United Kingdom and Sweden, where the People’s Postcode Lottery and Svenska Postkod Lotteriet respectively raise funds for good causes. In the Netherlands, the Dutch Postcode Lottery works with the BankGiro Lottery and Friends Lottery under the Charity Lotteries umbrella. All charity lotteries are operated by Novamedia, the third largest private charity donor in the world.

Since the start of the Dutch Postcode Lottery in 1989, Novamedia's charity lotteries donated US$7.2 billion to over 300 charities for people, nature, culture and health & welfare. The numerous organizations receiving annual support include UNICEF, WWF, Amnesty International, The Clinton Foundation, Human Rights Watch and The Climate Group.

SwitchON (Environment Conservation Society)

SwitchON is a grass-roots non-profit organization that began in 2008 to create an ecosystem that facilitates last mile access to energy and promotes livelihoods through rural energy entrepreneurship by training, building capacity, and supporting innovation. SwitchON’s solar projects primarily serve off-grid urban and rural areas of East India to include West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Orissa. SwitchON has trained over 800 people in the above states and has a presence in over 1,000 villages of East India.

In addition to providing access to renewable energy technologies, SwitchON trains both entrepreneurs in business development and sales, and solar technicians in maintenance and product servicing. SwitchON’s innovation incubator pilots new business models and innovative technologies to determine sustainable solutions of energy access for India’s ‘bottom of the pyramid’. It is a registered not-for-profit Society, certified under Indian FCRA and 80G of the Indian Income Tax Act, 1961. It has a successful track record of implementing projects with many organizations including GIZ, Halloran Philantorphy, ETC foundation, WWF India and Times of India.

The Climate Group is supporting SwitchON on a revolving fund basis under the Bijli – Clean Energy for All initiative to reach out to 2,500 rural families with a low cost line of credit, to enable them to purchase affordable and ultra-reliable portable solar lights. This would involve identifying rural entrepreneurs, offering credit facilities to purchase solar products, providing technical and business training, building community awareness, and managing the revolving corpus fund.

ONergy (Punam Energy Pvt. Ltd.)

ONergy (Punam Energy Pvt. Ltd.) is a leading renewable energy social enterprise providing decentralized energy solutions to rural households and institutions. The company started in 2009 to address last mile distribution and servicing needs identified by their partner organization, SwitchON.

ONergy provides reliable and affordable clean energy solutions across lighting, cooking, and electrification. To date, ONergy has provided solar solutions to over 25,000 households. ONergy aims to empower its customer by providing a complete package of products, after-sales services, and access to consumer financing. ONergy operates through ten renewable energy Centers (RECs) located throughout West Bengal, Jharkhand and Orissa, which allow ONergy extensive reach into rural areas of East India.

For Bijli – Clean Energy for All, ONergy will be providing the required technology support through approved solar products with mobile charging capability to SwitchON. ONergy would also extend its wide network of distribution channels already created through their REC model to SwitchON

The Postcode Lottery Green Challenge

The Dutch Postcode Lottery has held the Green Challenge every year since 2007 as part of its efforts to make the world a greener place. The Postcode Lottery Green Challenge, the world's biggest annual sustainable innovation competition, is aimed at creative, innovative thinkers.

Every eco‐friendly product or service that cuts CO2 emissions and excels on design, user‐friendliness and quality has a chance to win. Entrants submit detailed business plans for consideration by an expert preliminary jury. The winner receives €500,000 (~US$690,000) to carry out his or her plan. An additional €200,000 (~US$280,000) will be awarded to one or two runners-up.

Previous winners have achieved success with their inventions, in part thanks to the publicity and contacts they obtained through the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge. The Climate Group partners with Green Challenge Runner-up for year 2011, SunSaluter in the Bijli – Clean Energy for All project.


Bhagini Nivedita Gramin Vigyan Niketan (BNGVN) works to empower villages to have the capacity to provide a means to livelihood and a self-sustaining ecosystem. BNGVN empowers villages by providing opportunities for people to live with dignity. Their activities include providing microfinance and logistical support to farmers and village entrepreneurs at reasonable terms of repayment, organizing women into Self Help Groups to encourage savings andimpart skills for alternate livelihoods, creating a village fund to drive community activities, and allowing villagers to borrow from and build sanitation systems. With the support from The Climate Group, BNGVN is providing the grassroots anchorage for reaching out to 700 households in rural and remote off-grid communities of Nandurbar district along with SELCO and Small Scale Sustainable Infrastructure Fund.


SELCO Solar Pvt. Ltd, a social enterprise established in 1995, provides sustainable energy solutions and services to under-served households and businesses. SELCO aims to empower its customer by providing a complete package of product, service and consumer financing through grameena banks, cooperative societies, commercial banks and micro-finance institutions.

SELCO currently employs about 295 people in Karnataka, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Bihar and Tamil Nadu, spread across 40 energy service centers. Since 1995, SELCO has sold, serviced and financed over 150,000 solar systems.

With support from The Climate Group, SELCO will be providing Technology Support for reaching out to 700 households in rural and remote off-grid communities of Nandurbar district along with BNGVN and Small Scale Sustainable Infrastructure Fund.


The Small Scale Sustainable Infrastructure Fund (S3IDF) reduces poverty in developing countries by supporting small-scale enterprises that meet basic infrastructure needs and provide opportunities for economic advancement. S3IDF uses its Social Merchant Bank Approach to provide entrepreneurs with three bundled services: leveraged co-financing, technology access and knowledge, and business development support. Philanthropic and development capital are leveraged to mitigate risks and encourage local financial institutions to lend to the traditionally un-bankable.

By tailoring the approach to local conditions and markets, S3IDF enables the poor access to employment, asset-creation and ownership opportunities, and basic services. Our diverse project portfolio includes solar, biomass and biogas, water and other technologies for small-scale industries.

With the support from The Climate Group, S3IDF is  providing low cost financial capital to more than  700 households in rural and remote off-grid communities of Nandurbar district, along with BNGVN and SELCO.

Mlinda Fundation

Mlinda’s founders have had a long-standing interest in nature and wildlife conservation, which has led them to a deep concern for the impact that economic growth has on the environment. They created the Mlinda Foundation in 2005. The front line of Mlinda’s work is currently India, an expanding economy that has the potential to learn the lessons from the negative effects of economic development in the western world.Specifically, Mlinda has been drawn to the Sundarbans in West Bengal, an area of immense biodiversity where populations are struggling to co-exist with a natural environment that is threatened by rising sea levels.

With the support from The Climate Group, Mlinda will form community owned joint liability groups (JLG) in West Bengal, support these JLG’s to access finance to purchase micro-grid based solar lighting and procure and install AC mini-grid to households and entrepreneurs in West Bengal. Each AC solar lighting micro-grid will consist of 6 rural households. Each household will be provided 3 LED light points and one mobile charging point. Mlinda will also establish and manage a revolving fund. The purpose of this fund is to recycle all principal and interest payments from the loans for the micro-grids described here, into a separate fund that will be used to obtain funding to install an additional, larger micro-grid in the next five years.


To accelerate the development new, bold solar projects, The Climate Group partnered with SunSaluter, an award-winning social enterprise founded by the young engineer Eden Full.

SunSaluter’s aim is to  increase energy and clean drinking water accessibility to off-grid communities, and thus mitigate the environmental and health implications from traditional energy and water sources. Furthermore, the SunSaluter helps to eliminate the need for villagers to travel to areas with grid electricity, thus reducing fuel consumption and increasing quality of life. By creating designs that are intuitive and locally sourceable,  SunSaluter empowers the local community through education and sustainable design. 

In 2011, Eden Full's project was a runner up in the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge Competition.

Eden Full's technology was built from developing a low-cost rotating tracker for solar panels, based on a simple but ingenious mechanism. Bottles full of water are attached to the solar panel with a counterweight to the other side. The water then passes through a filter and goes to a receiving container, so the more water is filtered, the less it remains in the bottles. This make the solar panel rotate and follow the sun for maximum exposure, and so harnesses the most power.

The system increases solar panels’ energy output by up to 40%, by the end of the day producing at least 4 litres of clean water. Since September 2014, the company has deployed over 20 installations throughout India aiming to increase this number to 45 for the pilot phase. With support from The Climate Group and the Dutch Postcode Lottery, SunSaluter is gathering vital data to demonstrate how this innovative concept can be scaled up.


Indian Grameen Services is registered as not for Profit Company under Section 25 of Companies Act. Established in the year 1987 by Vijay Mahajan, Deep Joshi and Sankar Datta, IGS is engaged in Livelihood promotion through capacity building, research & development.

Since inception IGS has been striving towards Action research and promoting livelihood strategies and solutions that have potential to promote a large number of sustainable livelihoods.

IGS strives to achieve the twin objectives of developing sub-sector / vector intervention products, process for livelihood promotion through pilot intervention and providing technical assistance and support services to institutions (including Community based institutions) involved in promotion of livelihoods of poor and women.

Dr. S. P. Gon Chaudhuri

Dr. S. P. Gon Chaudhuri

Dr. S. P. Gon Chaudhuri is an Electrical Engineer and an expert in the area of renewable energy; he has a working experience of 27 years in the field. He is a specialist in the area of photovoltaic system engineering and design and has executed a large number of solar PV projects in different parts of India and abroad. The off-grid PV system with mini grid concept he developed received world-wide recognition. He also introduced solar lantern and remote solar PV based communication in India, and designed the first solar housing complex in India.

He traveled extensively in different countries of the world as a Member of the Indian Delegation and Expert of United Nations. At present he is the Member of the Tripura State Planning Board, India and Chairman of the Renewable Energy College, Kolkata, and Ashden India Renewable Energy Collective.

Dr. Chaudhuri is an Adjunct Professor of Bengal Science and Engineering University, Kolkata. He has received many national and international awards for his outstanding contribution in the area of renewable energy. He has published more than fifty papers in the sector with special reference to solar PV applications in remote rural areas. He has also written four important books on Solar Energy Application, Climate and Energy Conservation.

Gerry George

Prof. Gerry George

Professor Gerry George is Deputy Dean of the Business School and Director of the Rajiv Gandhi Centre at Imperial College London. The Centre facilitates Imperial College's strategic commitments in India for joint research initiatives and educational programs in innovation and entrepreneurship. Professor George also serves as the Editor of the Academy of Management Journal, the flagship empirical journal in the field of management.

An award-winning researcher and teacher, Professor George has published several articles in leading scholarly journals. He was awarded a prestigious Professorial Fellowship (2011-14) from the UK's Economic and Social Research Council to work on resource-constrained or inclusive innovation. His work investigates business models, organizational design and its implications for innovation and entrepreneurship in multiple settings. He is co-investigator in a five-year Energy for Development collaborative project with the University of Southampton that studies the effects of rural electrification, community development and social enterprise. As an Advanced Institute of Management Innovation Fellow (200709), he studied technology commercialization, entrepreneurship and growth of young firms.

He serves as a non-executive director and chairs the Risk Management Committee of India Infrastructure Financing Corporation (UK) Limited (IIF), a Government of India enterprise subsidiary in the UK. IIF (UK) provides dollar denominated financing for capital equipment in large Indian infrastructure projects such as power generation, urban mass transit, and ports among others. Before joining Imperial, he held tenured positions at the London Business School, where he served as Faculty Director of the Institute of Technology, and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he directed the Weinert Applied Ventures in Entrepreneurship Program. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Dr Kirit S. Parikh

Dr Kirit S. Parikh

Chairman, Integrated Research and Action for Development, New Delhi; Chairman, Expert Group for Low Carbon Strategy for Inclusive Growth, Planning Commission of India. Former Member, Planning Commission.

Dr Kirit S. Parikh has a Doctor of Science in Civil Engineering and a Master's Degree in Economics from MIT, USA. He has been a Professor of Economics since 1967. Widely recognized as architect of India’s Integrated Energy Policy, he was a Member of the Economic Advisory Council of five Prime Ministers of India, Atal Behari Vajpayee, P.V. Narasimha Rao, Chandra Shekhar, V.P.Singh and Rajiv Gandhi. Honored with Padma Bhushan by the President of India in March 2009, he is also a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, India and honorary life member of the International Association of Agricultural Economists (on an average given to two persons a year in the world).

He was honored as the most distinguished and illustrious alumni of the decade from India by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA in September, 2007, and was conferred the Distinguished Alumnus Award by Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur in September, 2007. In 1978 he was given the “Vikram Sarabhai Award” for Systems Analysis and Management. In 1999, he was given the "Visveswaraya Award" by the Engineers' Foundation in Kolhapur. He is also a recipient of the “Nayudamma Award” for contribution to the welfare of mankind through developments in the fields of Economics and Energy in February 2005.

He was Founder Director (Vice Chancellor), Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai – An Advanced Research Institute from 1986 till 2000. In 1997-98, on sabbatical leave from the IGIDR, he was Special Economic Adviser to the Administrator, United Nations Development Programme, New York. From 1980-86, he was Program Leader of the Food and Agricultural Program of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Austria. From 1960-80, he was Professor of Economics (and sometimes Head) of the Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi.

Dr Parikh has authored, co-authored and edited 29 books in the areas of development planning and policy concerning planning, agricultural development, poverty, energy, environment, water resource management, trade and general equilibrium modeling. He has also published numerous articles.

Jeffrey Prins

Jeffrey Prins

Jeffrey was born and raised in Michigan, US. After receiving his college degree (Bachelor of Arts) he decided to move to the Netherlands permanently, where both his parents are from, and to study in Amsterdam for his Master’s Degree. He subsequently worked at the European Parliament (Brussels and Strasbourg) and then the Dutch Parliament (The Hague) as a policy advisor. He also served as a City Council Member (Amsterdam).

He joined DOEN Foundation in 2005, the main fund of the three private charity lotteries in the Netherlands and originally founded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery. At DOEN he is responsible for establishing investment priorities and allocating funding, particularly in the field of climate change and energy, and DOEN’s most recent program: “designing a new economy”. This particular investment program includes support to organizations such as The Cradle to Cradle Institute (San Francisco) and The Biomimicry 3.8 Institute (Missoula).

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