Pollinate Energy’s community in India

27 March 2013 – Pollinate Energy has recently launched a crowdfunding campaign on a new Australian site,  ChipIn to bring clean energy to India’s urban poor  writes Monique Alfris, a Pollinate founder, who recently presented on the topic at Green Cities 2013

Crowdfunding, although a new buzz word, is simply a pool of people each contributing a small amount to a project they would like to support. Hardly a new concept – there are reports of groups collaborating to finance book printing right back to the 17th century.

The internet, however, has taken crowdfunding to a new level. According to Deloitte US$1.5 billion was raised on crowdfunding sites in 2011, and it is projected that another US$3 billion is in the works for 2013.

Crowd funding clean energy

A relatively new entrant into the website crowdfunding space is clean energy. Mosaic, which launched earlier this year, was surprised by investors who funded all of their projects within 24 hours. From a 1.5 kiloWatt project in Arizona to a half megaWatt project on a convention centre, each investor received their funds and on some projects an interest repayment. In total the site has raised 1.1million and has had no delays in repayments.

Playing at the other end of the market is Australia’s own Good Return  which allows investors to lend  money directly to people living in poverty. Loans go towards buying solar lights and fuel-efficient cookstoves in the Philippines and biogas and solar systems in Nepal. Almost 1000 sales have been supported thus far – and demand remains high. A look while I was writing this article returned just a single loan still to be funded.

A new approach

ChipIn and Pollinate Energy are about to launch their own crowdfunding campaign – with another spin. ChipIn is a brand new Australian site, designed to raise fnds for Australian non-profits. The campaign will raise funds to incubate five new mini-franchises to sell solar lighting kits to temporary tent communities in Bangalore, India.

Countless campaigns to provide free renewable or energy efficient equipment to developing countries have resulted in misused, malfunctioning and ultimately abandoned equipment. The funds raised will go towards an initiative which overcomes these problems. Each will be provided with a month-long intensive one-on-one training program, an initial round of stock and a good kickstart to what will be their ongoing support network.

ChipIn’s view

I asked Prashan Paramanathan, founder of ChipIn about why he picked Pollinate as one of his first campaigns, and what he thinks about the future of crowdfunding clean energy projects in Australia.

Why did you select Pollinate Energy as one of your inaugural campaigns?

Chip In is all about celebrating innovative Australians tackling old social problems in new and exciting ways. Pollinate Energy is exactly that –  a group of switched-on Australian entrepreneurs combining the best of microfinance and clean energy to crack the problem of electrifying the urban poor in India.

Why did you select a clean energy project as one of your inaugural campaigns?

We think figuring out ways of scaling and distributing clean energy, particularly in places that rely heavily on coal and fossil fuels, is not only one of the most important problems for us as a society to be addressing, but it’s also one of the most challenging. We want to be supporting more ideas to flourish in the space and Pollinate Energy is a great example of a scalable solution we think is worth backing.

What do you think about the future of crowdfunding renewable energy projects in Australia?

One of the things we keep on hearing is that early stage seed capital is hard to come by for renewable energy projects in Australia. With a public that’s warming to the idea that we need to change how we meet our energy needs, I think it’s a ripe time for crowdfunding to come in to support these projects get off the ground. We’re hoping that Pollinate Energy is just one of many clean energy projects we’ll be supporting at Chip In – luckily it’s a pretty fantastic one to start with.

Monique Alfris is cofounder of Pollinate Energy, a not for profit social enterprise operating out of Sydney and Bangalore, India. Monique previously worked across Asia with Good Return, an Australian NGO.

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