Entrepreneurs Discuss Opportunities In Clean Energy Space At TiE Sustainability Summit 2021

An expert panel at the summit discussed affordable renewable energy for the bottom of the pyramid and the role of startups

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The pandemic has made sustainability a dinner table conversation for people from all walks of life including world leaders and businesses. The need to respect nature and its limits is being highly felt today. Ensuring nature is safe is the common aim for everyone around the world. TiE’s Sustainability Summit 2021, which started on 4th October 2021, was also a step in that direction. 

TiE Summit screenshot

The summit features 225 speakers, 65 sessions over six tracks and 200 investors. It offers a  platform for entrepreneurs to share their thoughts on sustainability.   

Delivering the keynote address on day one, Gautam Adani, chairman, Adani Group said, A few research studies indicate that the Indus Valley civilization underwent a period of climate change about 4,000 years ago. The outcome then appears to be uncertain. However, today, we are aware of the effects of climate change and hence the outcome should not be uncertain.”

He also added that what we need is the will. “And, who better than the Indus entrepreneurs to enable this will. The TiE platform is unmatched in scale, and it must take the responsibility to trigger a movement that brings together an ecosystem of entrepreneurs and investors that work together to build equitable solutions for a sustainable world,” said Adani. 

Affordable Renewable Energy For The Bottom Of The Pyramid

On day 3, a panel of speakers including Mateen Abdul, CEO and co-founder at Grassroots Energy, Sandeep Singhal, co-founder, Nexus Venture Partners and moderated by Murali Talasila, partner and innovation leader at PwC, discussed making affordable renewable energy for the bottom of the pyramid a reality. 

Talking about the role of startups towards the same, Singhal, said, “Startups should think about the end-user and the economic value that is being created over there and work backward from there. What is the use, will it generate extra income and will it allow the end-user to afford to pay for whatever you are providing, these are the questions one should ask before getting into entrepreneurship in the renewable energy space.” He also added that startups should focus on technology aspects, the unit economics, which will have an impact on scalability. 

“If anybody wants to create an impact in this space, they need to understand what is the real impact they create for the end-user or consumer and start from there,” agreed Talasila.

Abdul spoke about the opportunities in the space for entrepreneurs. “There is a significant amount of opportunity in this space. You can use gas for many purposes, be it mobility or cooking. Discussion on economic viability is increasing by the day. Today the question is how do you structure your offering for the end-user,” said Abdul. 

Abdul also spoke about how he enables energy planning in the villages. “Solar still has an important role to play, which makes it a primary source. And any form of bioenergy can complement that. That gives an overall energy mix that is balanced and has a price point that can make sense for the end-user. We cater to different segments of the community including households, MSMEs which use energy and then we also have activity-based needs,” said Abdul. 

The panel discussion also touched upon how the payment mechanisms and usage of technology can go a long way in making energy affordable for everyone. “We need payment mechanisms, which people now understand. This has made it easier for us to sell the concept. A lot of technology is being used in metering, limiting usages in terms of timings and certain applications and for preventive measures like theft etc. So, a lot is being done. With scale, we can bring in a lot of efficiencies, which can be further passed on to the end-users,” said Abdul. 

According to Singhal, the challenges for entrepreneurs in the space is also high. “The biggest risk in this space is financing. There is capital available in terms of impact funds who are looking at this space. But in India, we don’t have too many of them. So capital is a challenge,” he said.

He, thus, believes that startups in the renewable energy space should focus on customization at individual use case level and then bring in scale and expansion to other cities and countries.

S Shanthi

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Entrepreneur Staff

Shanthi specialises in writing sector-specific trends,  interviews and startup profiles. She has worked as a feature writer for over a decade in several print and digital media companies. She is also a mom who looks forward to playing a game of cards with her tween daughter every evening after work.