Asian Development Bank's Energy for All Initiative

21 July 2011
ITC News

As part of its ‘Strategy 2020’ objective for inclusive growth, the Asian Development Bank’s Energy for All initiative promotes new approaches to scaling up access to energy for the poor. 

In Asia and the Pacific, more than 800 million people still have no access to electricity. About 1.8 billion people still rely on biomass fuels (such as wood, dung and crop waste) to meet cooking and heating needs. Added to the fact that the poor are disadvantaged by the time and effort required to collect biomass materials, jeopardizing their capacity to participate in income generating activities, this reliance brings with it ongoing adverse health consequences.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has acted to tackle this problem by introducing its Energy for All Initiative. In recent years, the ADB has financed programmes in conjunction with government and non-governmental organizations in Sri Lanka, Viet Nam, the Philippines and Bhutan that provide more than just power to the poor.

By providing access to clean energy and greater livelihood opportunities through education, health and safety, these programmes highlight the benefit of community empowerment through development.



In Sri Lanka, through a US$ 1.5 million grant from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR), the ADB worked to provide greater access to electricity for the nation’s poor. Providing capital, issued through micro-financing vendors, the JFPR ‘Power Fund for the Poor’ grant was designed to negate the initial high cost of connecting households to the power grid. As a result, the revolving fund provided electricity to 15,000 homes from 2004 to 2009.

Loans are seen as the key for poor households to overcome the high initial cost of connection. Under this project the national utility, Ceylon Electricity Board, provided installment credit to poor households to pay for the upfront cost of connection at an average connection cost of 15,000 to 20,000 Sri Lankan Rupees (SLR) – roughly US$ 130 to US$ 170. With repayments for connection fees paid in monthly installments over two to three years, the loans are affordable for poor households as demonstrated by the 95% loan recovery rate.

Following the success of the initial project, the Government of Sri Lanka requested an additional US$ 3.5 million Asian Development Fund loan to scale up the Power Fund for the Poor as part of a US$ 165 million Clean Energy Access and Improvement Project, approved in 2009. The scaling up of the micro-finance fund will be done through a loan-funded credit support programme with the goal of equipping an additional 60,000 households, representing 8% of the total number of poor households, with electricity by 2016.



For many rural communities in the Philippines, electricity is still inaccessible. On the island province of Negros Occidental, in the country’s Western Visaya region, eight communities are benefitting from a US$ 1.5 million grant from the JFPR. Designed to supply renewable energy resources to these locations, the grant focussed on the promotion of living standards and the livelihoods of the communities’ inhabitants. With a key focus on community ownership and participation, the ADB worked alongside Winrock International to educate local communities on the maintenance and operation of hydro systems.

In Balea, a small community within the province, a 19KW river micro-hydro system was constructed to bring electricity directly to households. Through extensive community consultation, villagers, who paid a one-off fee to join the co-operative, were supplied with electricity. The programme was so successful that neighbouring villagers in Calapnsuan, some three kilometres away, rushed to join.

However, despite the successes of each programme, major issues were still encountered by the ADB. In Balea, delays, poor governance and miscommunication between stakeholders, villagers and local government authorities threatened to derail the project.

With continued investment into community engagement and education in the villages, the ADB is certain that local communities will accept full ownership of the programme.


Also on the Philippine island province of Negros Occidental, in the hamlet of Tara a ram pump was constructed to assist farmers with improved irrigation. Alleviating seasonal water shortages, increasing farming yields and limiting long travel times to acquire water, the pump uses gravity to propel water long distances – from the Binging River to the village.

Forged through the formation of community action groups, including the Tara Small Farmers Association and a water committee, the project marries hydro technology with the traditional subsistence farming methods of villagers. Implemented by the Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation, the ram pump has been operational since 2004 with approximately 450,000 litres of water having been distributed to the village and surrounding farms. Creating flourishing environments for crop growth, irrigation has seen the planting of an eclectic range of new vegetable crops, attracting interest from commercial markets. In one instance a local farmer was able to grow three crops each year on his once infertile land.

However, despite the successes the process of gaining local acceptance and agreement on ownership of the ram pump was lengthy.

The ADB aims to use continued investment and education in the region in order to gain full acceptance and ownership of the programme by local communities.



With pig farms comprising 80% of Viet Nam’s livestock industry, the ADB has implemented a programme that provides greater financial access to clean energy and agricultural safety.

In 2003, the Government of Viet Nam and SNV Netherlands Development Organisation developed a programme that allows farmers to process pig waste into clean, efficient energy. By taking advantage of biogas technology, some 60,000 farms across Viet Nam recycle potentially harmful waste into energy.

While the programme has significantly reduced agricultural waste, the high price of one biogas digester (US$ 500) has made it largely unaffordable for rural farmers. To combat this issue, the ABD, through a US$ 19 million investment, has restructured the project to include a line of credit for farmers. Distributed through regional financial partners, and capped by a fixed interest rate, 40,000 rural households and businesses will be equipped with biogas technology by 2015. Creating six times the waste of humans, pigs will now provide the country’s rural farmers with substantial savings on fuel costs, while limiting CO2 emissions by up to 60,000 tons per year.



In the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, power is big business. Almost all of the electricity generated in the country from river hydropower systems is sold to India, making power export the biggest component of Bhutan’s GDP. In spite of this, the population of Bhutan is not fully electrified.

The Bhutanese government has set an ambitious target of universal electrification by 2013, but a major challenge facing this target is supplying energy to the widespread, isolated villages that dot Bhutan’s mountainous countryside. Remote villages would benefit from on-site power generation, but isolation remains an issue when it comes to servicing the equipment.

In order to address both issues – off-grid power generation and technical knowledge – ADB partnered with Barefoot College in India to develop a unique approach to sustainable rural electrification. With a US$ 1 million grant from the JFPR, women from selected communities were trained to be rural electricians to install and service solar photovoltaic panels and batteries. The project also covers the cost of solar home systems for all households in the selected villages – at an average of 15 households per village.

The first three months produced immediate success. Solar panels were installed in 504 households in 46 rural and isolated villages. As the project continues to grow the ADB is now looking at local training solutions to empower more rural communities without removing women from their families.