• Renewable Energy

    Not a pipe dream – simply the best choice

    Renewable energy creates access to clean energy without destroying the environment, particularly for marginalized people living in remote areas. When created sustainably, it helps to alleviate poverty, improves living conditions and propels economic development.

    Our context

    Extracting and consuming fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal makes a considerable contribution to climate change and pollution around the world. Although rich countries are responsible for historic emissions and much of the consequent climate change, emerging economies such as India and China now rival their emissions. And while many people are already investing in producing their own renewable energy, for example through solar energy or biogas, this positive example for change has not yet attracted sufficient investments by governments and large companies.

    Worldwide, more than a billion people do not have access to affordable, reliable and clean energy. There must be much more investment in decentralized renewable energy if we are to ensure that all people have access to sufficient and sustainable energy sources.

    Worldwide, more than a billion people do not have access to affordable, reliable and clean energy.

    Our aim

    We know that a shift towards renewable energy, especially for marginalized communities, is key to tackling climate change and to shifting towards more inclusive, green economies. So we want to ensure millions of men and women in rural and poor communities embrace smart, affordable and clean technologies ‑ and actually use them ‑ in the next few years.

    We aim for both national governments and international institutions to adopt the necessary policies and programs to make energy systems green and more inclusive.

    But we also realize that job and income generation are effective means of helping people adapt to the impacts of climate change. Hivos wants to see thousands of starting entrepreneurs, especially women, apply business models that provide green and socially inclusive energy products and services to rural and marginalized urban communities. These are the groups most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

    Our approach

    We help build resilience to climate change and create green economies by investing in the technical and business skills of early-stage energy entrepreneurs so they become “green entrepreneurs.” We also promote the use of inclusive finance streams and empower women and men by increasing their energy access options, thus boosting their income. Finally, with energy mainly being used for cooking in many parts of the world, while three billion people lack access to clean cooking methods, we promote clean energy solutions like biogas for clean cooking.

    On a larger level, Hivos participates in multi-stakeholder initiatives that bring civil society organizations, governments, financial institutions and entrepreneurs (especially women) together to spur economic development and job creation with renewable energy services. At the same time, we engage with all these actors to improve policies and to come up with new forms of financing to scale up successful renewable energy solutions.

    Our contribution

    This thematic area contributes to Sustainable Development Goal 7 (Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all) and Goal 13 (Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts).

  • New initiatives

    25×25 collaborative

    Together with Power for All, Practical Action, and SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, Hivos has initiated a new partnership to accelerate universal access to energy. The organizations recognize that the level of ambition and urgency for achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 is far from what’s needed to deliver modern, affordable, sustainable and reliable energy for all before 2030.

    This situation demands a much greater degree of coordinated and collective action. The four organizations have committed to deepening their collaboration to catalyze the market transformation (in finance, policy, supply and demand) that is necessary for decentralized renewable energy solutions that can deliver universal access to energy in 25 underserved countries before 2025, i.e. “25×25”.

    The ​25×25 Energy Access Collaborative​ will partner closely with international, regional and local partners, leveraging impact by implementing a sustainable, multi-stakeholder public-private market activation and transformation model that delivers scale at speed at the national and sub-national levels. The Collaborative and its partners will work to identify barriers to market development, and remove them, thus stimulating growth.

    For more information download the concept note or email 25×25@powerforall.org.

  • Areas of action

    Renewable Energy Entrepreneurship

    Creating fair and equal access to sustainable energy sources, essential for human development, is easier said than done. But innovative micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) run by passionate “green entrepreneurs” can bring us a big step closer. More and more, running a successful business goes hand in hand with the sustainable use of resources. Hivos specifically looks to provide long-term support and opportunities to renewable energy enterprises that also pay living wages and create jobs for youth and women. We identify them through our local networks, and provide support and mentoring through our programs and tools developed by practitioners, investors and regional experts. By both stimulating and filling local demands for green products and services, these enterprises can also help reduce unemployment while protecting the environment.

    Decentralized Energy Access

    Despite the rapid growth of renewable energy, more than a billion people do not have access to affordable, reliable and clean energy. Decentralized renewable energy is the ideal solution for those who cannot access a central grid. Hivos therefore focuses on the energy needs of rural or marginalized communities where households, shops and workplaces are underserved. Clean cooking solutions must also be part of the mix: carbon emissions from burning solid fuels for cooking not only pollute the environment, but also cost 14,000 lives each year (WHO estimate). Finding alternative best practices, technologies, and delivery models is at the core of our work. Hivos supports frontrunners and entrepreneurs, brings together stakeholders, and advocates for inclusive policies and financial instruments around decentralized renewable energy so no one is left behind.

    Renewable Energy Policies

    The increasing array of renewable energy solutions calls for greater awareness and knowledge among policy makers. Because the true impact of public spending on energy access is measured not in numbers, but by who it reaches and how it helps reduce poverty. And higher priority must be given to financial instruments like blended finance that can bring energy access affordably to remote or underserved communities. Hivos calls upon governments, energy companies and multilateral institutions to drastically reform their policies, shifting away from massive fossil fuel subsidies and investments. We use our position as a leader and practitioner in decentralized energy to encourage all stakeholders to support locally produced renewable energy in order to achieve SDG7 by 2030.


    Equal and equitable access to energy for women and men is essential for human development. However, rural women and girls in developing countries are those most held back by a lack of energy access and clean cooking solutions. Yet they have huge potential. Studies show that women reinvest 90 percent of their income in their families and communities, while men reinvest only 30 to 40 percent. So it makes sense to support rural women energy entrepreneurs and provide women and girls with improved cook stoves. This lets them look beyond immediate needs, invest in their future and generate income to benefit the entire community. We strengthen women-led energy enterprises by advocating for gender mainstreaming in energy policy and practice based on solid evidence gained through research.

    Financing for Renewable Energy

    Renewable energy solutions are available, but require investments to make them affordable for many rural women and men. Hivos has a strong track record using blended finance practices (combining smart grants, loans and equity finance) to do just that. In 1994, the Hivos Triodos Fund was created to support the development of microfinance institutions. Since 2015, this Fund is also investing in renewable energy. Other examples in the energy sector are partnerships with financial institutions and dairy companies to support biogas credit in Indonesia and Cambodia, and women’s enterprises in Nepal, Kenya and Senegal. Carbon finance, for example, can make biogas digesters more affordable. Although the current trend is to ask the private sector to provide affordable financing for renewable energy, “smart subsidies” are vital to reach everyone. This is why Hivos works in this sector.