CleanStart organized a five-day training on business plan development for energy microfinance for nine financial institutions from Nepal in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India on 24-28 April, 2013. The purpose of the training was to guide institutions that have been successfully short-listed for the CleanStart programme through a step-by-step process of formulating a business plan for energy financing, as well as learn from the successes and challenges of fellow practitioners in India through knowledge sharing sessions and field visits.
In his opening remarks, Surya Sapkota, Assistant Director of the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre of Nepal noted “the importance and timeliness of the training and CleanStart as the Government of Nepal envisions a full transition from subsidies to credit in the long term with the recent establishment of the Central Renewable Energy Fund under the National Rural and Renewable Energy Programme.” He also stressed the importance of partnering with energy suppliers, whereby past experiences have shown to improve the viability of energy loans.
Financial sustainability, risk mitigation measures such as refinancing and guarantees, partnership modalities with energy suppliers, demand creation among clients and carbon financing were some of the common interests of participants, covered in the training. As noted by Priti Rana, Relationship Manager of Himalayan Bank, “energy microfinance is an attractive proposition but as a profit-making organization the first question that comes to mind of a bank is what is the risk and how can it be mitigated.”
Over the course of the training, participants brainstormed through case studies, had field interactions with branch managers and clients who have taken loans for improved cook stoves and solar home systems, and engaged in knowledge sharing sessions with financial institutions and energy suppliers of India who have successfully partnered in offering loans for clean energy. By end of the training, participants shared a common learning that business plans are living documents that should be adapted to changing external and internal environments. In setting out post-training action plans, Damodar Regmi, Senior Manager of Jeevan Bikash Samaj shared “we have experience in biogas and solar lending, but will now plan to look into improved cook stoves.”
As noted by the Lead Trainer, Aimthy Thoumoung of MicroEnergy Credits a key technical partner in delivering this training, “there has been a change of attitude from the initial skepticism that could be sensed on day one of the training. Above all, the financial institutions take with them not just knowledge but a sense of camaraderie in entering this new and innovative area.”
By 2017 globally, CleanStart aims to support at least 2.5 million low-income people benefit from cleaner and more efficient energy through microfinance. CleanStart will support financial service providers in scaling-up energy financing, and in Nepal envisions reaching 150,000 households and micro-entrepreneurs. Business plans of short-listed institutions from Nepal will be appraised for investment in the first half of 2013.
CleanStart is implemented by UNCDF, in close partnership with the United Nations Development Programme and the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre. It is supported by UNCDF, Sida, Norad and Austria.