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SOCAP11 Social Entrepreneur Spotlight: Firas Ahmad, Emergency BioEnergy Inc. (Bangladesh)

SOCAP August 29, 2011

What problem are you addressing? Why should people care?
We are addressing the persistent lack of access to reliable energy in rural parts of low-income countries, particularly in South Asia and Africa. There remains more than 1.5 billion people without access to electricity. Many rely on burning biomass for cooking purposes, an unsustainable source of energy that is harmful to the environment and dangerous for the users health.  While solar-home-systems have made tremendous impact in terms of consumer lighting and device charging, at Emergence BioEnergy Inc. (EBI) we believe our approach based on processing agricultural waste into energy at a small-scale will also have significant impact.
EBI has developed an integrated franchise power product that works in tandem with small dairy farms, processing cow  manure into biogas and in turn operating a small 3 kW cogeneration micro-combined-heat-and-power engine (micro-CHP). The overall system is capable of providing electricity, refrigeration and other values. The combination of these outputs keeps the price of energy low, while creating robust and diverse sources of revenue for the operator. In addition, by producing more than a kilowatt of electricity, the power output can be used to by small businesses or cottage industries, generating income and employment opportunities otherwise impossible without reliable access to power. Each system could be owned by an individual who could retail energy services to consumers and small businesses, creating an economic impetus for widespread adoption.
People should care because lack of access to reliable energy services is widely recognized as one of the key inhibitors to economic development and prevents millions of people from emerging out of poverty. Given the reality that grid access will not be extended to the vast majority of currently un-electrified people anytime in the near future, it is imperative to come up with distributed power models that are renewable and draw from existing resources in rural areas. In addition, the EBI model drives access through entrepreneurship, creating jobs and ensuing that if the owner/operating is making profits, economic forces will push for widespread adoption of the product.

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