Partner Spotlight: Oorja

Of the two-thirds of India’s population that lives in villages, nearly 75% depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Approximately 200 million tons of crop waste are produced in surplus in India every year. Open burning of this waste emits black carbon, that is partly responsible for India’s escalating greenhouse gas emissions.

Oorja, a for-profit social enterprise, aims to use locally available crop waste and solar energy as resources to power rural communities.

Oorja’s mission is to provide clean and affordable energy access to the 450 million people without access to reliable electricity in rural India. It uses decentralized energy systems to address energy poverty, stimulate local economic development and tackle climate change. It leverages a micro-franchise business model to deploy mini-grids for power generation, transmission and distribution. They focus on meeting productive energy needs along the agricultural value chain as anchor load and cross-subsidize low-income households.

One of Oorja’s many women customers from the first mini-grid in Sarvantara village, Uttar Pradesh. She is happy that with access to Oorja’s clean energy she doesn’t have to inhale the polluting smoke from the kerosene lamp she previously used for lighting

Oorja endeavours to integrate women along the entire energy value chain from being plant technicians to customer service agents. They believe that each aspect of rural electrification entails livelihood opportunities for women, thereby increasing the income that they can spend on children’s education and family’s health.

“Today is a very special day for us. For the first time after India’s independence, we have elec­tricity to fulfil our basic energy requirements like lighting, fan, mobile charging and irrigation pumps. Children can now study longer, women will feel safe at night and farmers can increase their agricultural productivity.”

– Mannu Lal, Head of Sarvantara Village Council

In June 2017, Oorja installed and commissioned a 10kW smart solar mini-grid supplying affordable energy to 100 rural households and water for irrigation through solar-powered pumps to 50 smallholding farmers in rural Uttar Pradesh. They are now working on building a programme to train 1000’s of energy entrepreneurs. They intend to conduct capacity building workshops to provide technical and business skills training, particularly to assist women in setting up small businesses that would be powered using Oorja’s clean energy services.

In 5 years, Oorja aims to impact 1 million people and to save 500,000 tons of CO2 by replacing the use of kerosene and diesel – that’s equivalent to wiping out the annual emissions of one coal-fired power plant.

“We see the alliance with wPOWER as being crucial in providing agency to the last woman standing in line. Our visions of promoting the role of women in clean energy entrepreneurship are closely aligned and we hope to harness the evidence they produce and best practices they disseminate in developing robust entrepreneurial workshops. The training will equip women at the BoP to exercise their full potential, launch their own enterprises, become economically independent, make their own decisions so they are seen, counted and lead a dignified life.”

– Amit Saraogi,  CEO & Co-Founder, Oorja

Oorja’s solar-powered pump will enable women and men farmers to better irrigate their land year-round, grow more crops, increase productivity and incomes.