Acumen, the global social impact organization, announced today its acquisition of the award-winning Research and Impact division of SolarAid, the international nonprofit and leading impact practitioner in the solar energy sector. In acquiring SolarAid’s research arm, Acumen builds on its decade of investing in off-grid energy, further deepening its understanding of the energy needs of low-income populations while measuring the social impact of newly electrified individuals and households. Acumen began investing in off-grid energy solutions in 2007 and today has the largest portfolio of companies committed to serving the poor.
Since its launch, SolarAid’s extensive research program has collected critical information linking energy access to poverty alleviation. The organization’s commitment to sharing its learning publicly has made its Research and Impact division a world-class resource for researchers, practitioners and funders interested in solar and off-grid energy. This acquisition provides Acumen with access to SolarAid’s extensive databases and research networks in East Africa, and brings SolarAid’s Director of Research and Impact, Kat Harrison, onto Acumen’s staff. Under the direction of Ms. Harrison, SolarAid developed the largest, most comprehensive database on lighting in developing countries, with a particular focus on the impact of small-scale solar lighting in Africa. Kat will build on that work as Acumen’s new Associate Director of Impact.
“There is much we still don’t know about the impact of off-grid energy solutions on the lives of the poor,” said Acumen’s Chief Innovation Officer Sasha Dichter. “Even within Acumen’s energy portfolio, it is a challenge to gather robust data on how poor customers are using off-grid energy products, and the long-term impact our energy companies are having in alleviating poverty. With Kat and SolarAid’s research now powering our work, we can start to truly understand how energy is transforming the lives of the poor.”
In her role at Acumen, Ms. Harrison will continue to lead a number of research projects initiated at SolarAid and supported by major funders. These projects include the first large-scale study on the impact of solar lights on poverty reduction, supported by Google, and an investigation on the impact of solar lighting on education outcomes in partnership with Stanford University, supported by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID).
The arrangement with SolarAid comes on the heels of a major year in Acumen’s investing history, in which it added nine new social enterprises to its clean energy portfolio. Acumen’s investing in these companies is to drive innovation to find faster, more efficient solutions that provide the poor with new opportunities and the promise of a brighter future. While providing access to energy to the poor has been a core component of Acumen’s approach to tackling poverty, its vision is to create an off-grid solar ecosystem that fills in the missing gaps in the value chain and accelerates energy access across the developing world. Since 2007, Acumen has invested more than $17 million in 15 off-grid renewable energy companies working across India, Pakistan and East Africa.
“We’re obviously sad to be saying goodbye to Kat but we’re delighted to have found a new home for our award-winning Research and Impact department,” said SolarAid’s UK Operations Director, Richard Turner. “Acumen shares many of the same values and goals that we hold—including an unwavering commitment to catalyzing solar markets for the poor—and we are confident that Kat’s research will go from strength to strength, taking what we have built to the next level. And most importantly, improving energy access in some of the poorest regions of the world.
To learn more about Acumen’s energy portfolio, visit http://localhost/sectors/energy/.