September 10, 2018

Rajiv Shah, President of the Rockefeller Foundation
Johannes Urpelainen, Director and Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Professor of Energy, Resources and Environment
Founding Director, Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy (ISEP)

Rockefeller Foundation President Rajiv Shah visited the school for a discussion on access to affordable and clean energy in emerging countries. The discussion was moderated by Energy, Resources and Environment Professor and Founding Director of the school’s Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy (ISEP), Johannes Urpelainen.

As energy demand grows globally, many still lack basic electricity. Shah shared insights on how the Rockefeller Foundation has addressed these challenges, referencing ISEP’s partnership with Smart Power India, an organization established by the foundation that aims to bring power to the nearly one billion people that live without it. The effort, which has reached more than 65,000 homes and businesses to date, uses mini-grid installations to show that even the poorest households are willing to pay for high quality, reliable power and therefore the mini-grids are sustainable financial enterprises, Shah said.

Asked by Professor Urpelainen about his advice for students looking to pursue careers in the field of energy and development, Shah emphasized that building the technical expertise to be a professional in the field is crucial, as well as understanding the political and governance aspects of the places where you are working. “If you can turn the lights on whether it’s in Mogadishu, Kandahar or elsewhere, you are making a statement about the quality of governance and you are predictably improving people’s lives in a very tangible way,” he said.

Power and electricity are the baseline for growth, development, and poverty reduction, Shah argued. He said it will take government, big public utilities, and power generators working together to produce more power in an economically viable way to extend the reach of national grid systems.

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