Copyright: Hewlett (India)
Briefing: Gender & Off-Grid Energy
Globally, one billion individuals still lack access to modern electricity – nearly three billion people rely on wood, coal, charcoal, or animal waste for cooking and heating and more than one billion people living in the hottest climates are at risk of insufficient energy for cooling.
For people in locations where the electric grid remains unavailable, unreliable, or too expensive to connect, off-grid energy can provide viable power solutions. Throughout the world, a growing number of companies are leveraging this business opportunity by designing, producing, selling, and distributing off-grid energy technologies – which span solar lights, solar home systems, mini-grids, and clean cooking solutions (including fuels and cookstoves). Companies in the off-grid energy sector have much to gain through taking a purposeful gender lens throughout their operations and supply chains.
For example, in most off-grid households across the globe, women are primarily responsible for the collection, cultivation, and use of energy resources. They spend many hours each day collecting fuel wood, cooking over an open flame, and engaging in manual labor. Given these gender roles, women are important consumers of off-grid technologies within households and enterprises. Lack of access to clean, efficient energy solutions also affects women the most. As the predominant household cooks globally, it is women who bear the time burden and negative health impacts of dangerous and inefficient cooking methods.
Such consumer insights indicate that clean cooking products should first and foremost be tailored to women’s needs, with marketing and after-sales efforts adapted to their preferences. Women also use and benefit from other off-grid energy technologies differently than men, such as solar lanterns and mini-grids. Many companies overlook the influence of women end-users if the majority of their sales are to men. Understanding how and why women benefit from off-grid energy technologies enables companies to unlock market insights and potential new customer segments. Marketing products specifically to women can capitalize on women’s spending power and household influence. It can also catalyze their economic empowerment through productive uses of off-grid technologies, such as energy-efficient cookstoves to prepare food for sale, and solar lighting that allows women to keep shops open later at night.
Various research highlights the link between greater diversity in leadership and on teams and financial performance as well as innovation. Beyond the general diversity dividend, there are key advantages to off-grid energy companies engaging women as staff members and entrepreneurs throughout the value chain: