Transcript

PrintPrint EmailEmail ShareShare CiteCite
Style:MLAAPAChicagoClose

loading...

Leveraging New Technology for Women's Economic Empowerment: Setting the Context: Challenges and Opportunities

Speakers: Leslie Cordes, Director of Partnership Development, Energy and Climate, United Nations Foundation, Gail Karlsson, Adviser, United Nations Development Program and Energia, and Richenda Van Leeuwen, Consultant and Former Senior Adviser, Good Energies, Inc
Presider: Isobel Coleman, Coleman, Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program and Senior Fellow for U.S. Policy, Council on Foreign Relations
Introductory Speaker: Lorie D. Jackson, Director of the Women's Economic Opportunity Initiative, Exxonmobil
April 21, 2010, New York
Council on Foreign Relations

Media

Share

ISOBEL COLEMAN: Good morning, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us here today. I think this is a really interesting topic.

I am Isobel Coleman, senior fellow here at the Council on Foreign Relations and also director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program.

And about seven or eight years ago I read a newspaper article that was talking about the use of solar cookers in various different settings, and how this was having a profound transformation on global health because women were no longer forced to both forage for firewood, which exposes them to grave danger -- in particular, sexual violence -- and so that they're no longer cooking over open flames.

And as many of you may know, respiratory illnesses are a pandemic around the developing world and the major leading cause of death among women and children in particular.

But as I was reading this, I began to think about many other huge benefits from this, which is really as an enabler for girls to be able to go to school. Because as you probably also know, while many parents, fathers in particular, want their girls to go to school, it's only if they can also get all the work done at home, which includes collecting firewood and clean water. And they spend many, many hours a day doing this.

And if you can introduce new technologies -- solar cookers, solar lanterns, solar water filtration systems, whatever it may be -- these become, in effect, the washing machines that have enabled women in the industrialized world to be able to cut down on housework and pursue other interests. These become the washing machines of the 21st century for women in the developing world.

So I have long been fascinated by this subject. I think we are at a real inflection point today with the new technology and the coming down in cost and new distribution systems. And so I think this is a very timely event.

I just want to take a moment to thank ExxonMobil in particular. This is the second meeting in the ExxonMobil-Council on Foreign Relations Women and Development Series. We launched that initiative in the fall, and Lorie Jackson, who is the director of the Women's Economic Opportunity Initiative at ExxonMobil, is here to say a few introductory words.

And before I hand it over, I just want to have a few housekeeping elements, which is it would be great if you could all turn off your cell phones. This is an on-the-record meeting. We are taping. There's an audio of the meeting, and that will probably be posted later today or this week on the Council's website.

And lastly, you can see from the agenda there are no built-in breaks, but this is not boot camp. You can just get up and go to the bathroom if you need to. There's bathrooms downstairs. And we will end each session about five minutes early to allow for you to stretch your legs and for the new set of panelists to come up.

But with no further ado, let me welcome Lorie Jackson. Thank you. (Applause.)

LORIE JACKSON: Good morning, everyone.

As Isobel said, my name's Lorie Jackson. I'm the director of ExxonMobil's Women's Economic Opportunity Initiative. And on behalf of ExxonMobil, I want to say it's a tremendous pleasure to partner with the Council on Foreign Relations in this Women and Development Series.

It's also a great privilege to work with the brilliant Isobel Coleman in a variety of areas, but particularly in developing this series. And I want to thank you, Isobel, for bringing together such a marvelous group of thought leaders in the field. I think we're going to have a very robust discussion today, and I'm looking forward to it.

I am very grateful to all the panelists who are with us today and for their commitments in leveraging technologies for women's economic empowerment.

Our support of the Women and Development Series and this issue of technology are important to ExxonMobil's Women's Economic Opportunity Initiative, which is a global effort that we launched in 2005 that seeks to help women in developing countries fulfill their economic potential and serve as drivers for economic and social change in their communities.

After five years of investment in this area, we've narrowed our aim to three programmatic areas. And the first is to help build the next generation of female entrepreneurs and business leaders.

Our second is to reduce the barriers to women's economic participation, and the third is to help identify and deploy technologies to accelerate women's economic advancement.

As a technology-based company, we have a special interest in exploring how new or existing technologies can transform the way women in developing countries live and work. And I love the example Isobel shared about the potential of creating the washing machine of the future for women in the developing world.

Before launching our programming in this area, we asked the International Center for Research on Women -- and Kirrin Gill, the leader of the research we're doing, is here today -- we asked them to examine how technology has and can economically advance women around the globe.

And this research culminated in a white paper entitled "Bridging the Gender Divide," which provides a useful foundation for today's discussions. There are copies of the white paper outside, and I encourage everyone who hasn't seen it to read it. I think it's brilliant.

And simply put, they found that as women's use of technology increases, economic activity is enhanced, drawing women into higher levels of economic achievement, which enables women to contribute to increases in the welfare of their entire communities, resulting in widespread social and economic benefits.

And perhaps most importantly, their research highlighted the fact that when women are involved in various facets of the technology life cycle, such as the development of the technology, its implementation and its enhancement as well as its distribution, they're more likely to use the technologies to their benefit and to involve more women in the process.

By sharing their expertise and experiences related to the various facets of the technology life cycle, today's panelists will bring to life and show how these ideas are being demonstrated in real time.

And together, we look forward to uncovering the pathways that will enable a critical mass of women to leverage technology to improve their own lives and strengthen their communities.

Before I close, I'd like to highlight an upcoming opportunity for your potential involvement: our Women/Tools/Technology Challenge, which is a partnership we launched in January with Ashoka Changemakers to identify transformative solutions for promoting women's economic advancement through technology. It is a good example of a vehicle that can bring together many of these promising ideas.

The Challenge, which just ended last week, generated a very strong response -- almost 250 submissions from 65 countries, from innovators from around the world with proven concepts of women benefiting economically by being integrated into the technology development life cycle.

And we're delighted that the Challenge's two early-entry prizewinners -- the Solar Electric Light Fund, SELF, and Solar Sister -- are represented on today's panel today. And they were selected from 45 early entries because of their applications -- the fact that their applications best demonstrated the selection criteria of innovation, social impact and sustainability.

The finalists at the -- from the whole competition will be selected by an expert panel of judges as the most promising initiatives warranting additional support, scale-up, partnership and further investigations among investors, social entrepreneurs, and policymakers.

We hope that you and others will take a close look at these finalists when they're announced, and I welcome your thoughts on the most effective ways to get traction for them and other proven concepts in the field.

We encourage you also to vote for your favorites among the finalists, around June 2nd, via a link on the Challenge website. And that's noted on rack cards that are also outside on the table. So please do pick up a rack card and share your ideas on who you think are the best examples from the Challenge.

We look forward to continuing to support creative and sustainable approaches that enable more women from developing countries to be active contributors to, and leaders in, our rapidly changing environment.

And with our mutual interest in women's roles in strengthening the global economy, and particularly the role of technology to facilitate women's economic advancement, ExxonMobil hopes that we can be powerful partners with many of you who are here at this event today.

Thank you very much for your time. Looking forward to today's session. Applause.)

COLEMAN: So good morning again.

Each of you should have a roster that was on the table outside that provides a full bio of all of our speakers, panelists, today, so I'm not going to go through reading out their bios to you. Let me just do some very brief introductions.

Leslie Cordes is the director of Partnership Development, Energy and Climate for the U.N. Foundation. Gail Karlsson is an adviser to the United Nations Development Program and ENERGÍA. And Richenda Van Leeuwen is an adviser for Renewable Energy Access and also a former adviser to Good Energies, Inc.

And I'd like to start out by asking the panelists why should we even be focused in this session on women. What is specific about women's access and use and utilization of new technologies that warrants a session here, that looks specifically at women?

Leslie?

LESLIE CORDES: We shouldn't have to ask that question. I wish it was just something we all took for granted and understood as part of the work we do every day.

I think it's terrific that you're addressing this topic. It's not addressed enough in terms of international discussions. I used to work at USAID, and we didn't ask that question at the time. And I think it's a critical one.

For a variety of reasons, women need to be at the table when we discuss energy and transformative technologies. They're the ones most impacted by the effects of technology.

And we had talked earlier about the stoves; you gave a terrific example. Women and children are disproportionately impacted by the smoke and the health impacts. They're also impacted by environmental impacts of using energy.

So technologies that can help reduce the environmental impact will help in terms of preserving their environment and helping them make a living.

I think it's also critical that we take into account the needs of women beyond the technologies themselves in terms of training, the culture, the societal impacts of these technologies. So it's not enough to introduce a new stove technology, just like it wasn't enough to introduce a new washing machine.

We have to make sure people understand how these new technologies are used, understand why they're important, and make sure that they work for their needs. And so that's why one particular stove technology might work in one place, another might work in another place, and pulling women into that dialogue is really critical.

COLEMAN: Gail?

GAIL KARLSSON: Thank you. I have to say it's a real pleasure for me to be here; I've never been here before.

And it's really exciting to see so many women in this audience, but I look on the walls and -- (laughter) -- I don't see them there. And that's part of the issue.

I spend a lot of time trying to explain about women and energy, because I kind of drifted into this on assignment for the U.N. Development Program and their energy group. It was a woman named Susan McDade who focused the attention on this.

For me, as an environmental lawyer, I got involved in looking at sustainable development and clean energy technologies. But within the U.N., they're looking at it in a global level. What you find is that the focus is on the 2 billion people who don't have any energy access at all.

And what they're doing is, all the energy in many developing countries comes from firewood. It's maybe 80 percent of the energy sector in a lot of countries in Africa and Asia. And so within the U.N. Development Program, looking at how to address energy access issues, it became apparent that it's not just about the technology and dropping some kind of new technology.

You have to look at the social dynamics of the situation, and why isn't there investment in -- particularly in rural areas where -- because women are getting all these respiratory problems, and all the other time and labor that's taken up in trying to collect firewood.

And one of the things that we found is that women's labor isn't valued very highly, so that there wasn't really, either on a public or a private -- there wasn't a lot of incentive to reduce women's labor or be concerned about their health; that the investments that were being made were generally in the urban areas or for industrialization.

And so through that work I met a group of women in this ENERGIA, which is a network on women and sustainable energy. And began working both with the UNDP and ENERGIA to build an advocacy program at international meetings and within the U.N., trying to call attention to this issue.

And one of the points that I want to make sure that I make today is that it's not just about women as victims; women suffer, women need welfare or they need to be helped. What we are trying to do is help women become entrepreneurs, energy entrepreneurs.

Our theme is that energy is already women's business; what they need is the investment and the training and the capacity building to take that to a different level so that what they're -- the energy that they're handling isn't just collecting firewood or making charcoal or collecting dung and burning it over open fires.

So we're looking at where to get the investment and the initiative to take up these issues in rural areas.

COLEMAN: Richenda?

RICHENDA VAN LEEUWEN: I think -- energy access is a huge issue. And Leslie's already talked about the people who are working on cook stoves particularly. There are 1.6 billion people today who don't have access to electricity.

Now, it's not exclusively a woman's problem -- let me just put that out there first -- but it is particularly a women's problem. And once you've been inside the homes of people in rural parts of Africa, even Haiti, Asia, you understand the day-to-day struggle that people have.

I've been working a lot with helping to look at the elimination of kerosene-based lighting, which is particularly a women's problem. And when you go in these homes, they're full of smoke from the firewood. In India you have a chula, a traditional-based cooking fire which is actually inside the home, so the home gets extremely smoky.

And then if you're using kerosene for lighting, in fact, it creates respiratory problems, particularly for the women and children because they spend more time in the home.

We also, on the energy side, I have to say it's not only at the customer level. Of course, we need to be focusing on the energy access. But I do find that women are underrepresented in other parts of the supply chain as well.

And having come out of a number of years in the venture capital industry, I have to say that we do not yet have gender equality in terms of elsewhere in the supply chain in venture capital and in investment.

And the reason that matters is because I think that we do inherently focus more on inclusion of women in all parts of the supply chain, not only as customers, but as entrepreneurs, as investors. And I think in terms of our ability to be able to solve this problem, whether it's the 2 billion or the 1.6 billion, we really need to be thinking about women in all parts of the supply chain.

COLEMAN: And over the years, new technologies have come and have promised to be transformative and have disappointed. And we can look back over history at many different technologies that were meant to change the world in all sorts of good ways and actually did not live up to expectation.

When you look today at the possibility of solar cookers, of solar lanterns, of all these different things, how transformative is this for the 2 billion people at the bottom of the pyramid who are, as has been pointed out, living off any type of energy grid today? How big a potential is this?

CORDES: Potentially enormous and, in some cases, very small.

And I say that because in some cases the right technology is applied in the wrong way, and so you don't get those huge gains. And in other cases, you may make a smaller change, going from kerosene to oil for stoves or ethanol for stoves as opposed to going to solar, and you may see huge benefits.

I've worked on a number of projects in which it wasn't a technology fix at all; it was an application fix. I'll just give you an example.

I worked on a water and energy project in South Africa in which water was extremely scarce. People didn't pay for the water they had because services were so poor; the utility wasn't willing to provide water because people didn't pay for it. And we had this situation that went back and forth.

It turned out that the toilets in these shantytowns failed in the "on" position. So when a toilet broke, and they did frequently, it would run and run and run, wasting huge amounts of water.

A very simple fix to get the toilets to fail in the "off" position saved huge amounts of water, allowing more people to have access to water and saving energy in terms of pumping that water to the local inhabitants. That's not so much a huge technology fix, but it was transformative.

So I think when we try to think about ways to change people's lives, there are the huge leaps -- the solar, the cell phone technologies, the things that make differences in every aspect of people's lives. And then there are also very small but very crucial technology fixes that we can address.

Cook stoves initiative that the U.N. Foundation has embraced and is working very hard on, we really view as a transformative issue, as Richenda said, because so many people are affected.

Upwards of 2 million people year die from breathing cook stove smoke, more than die from malaria -- which is to me just an incredible number, because you hear about malaria so much more than you hear about these respiratory impacts from cook stoves.

The potential to change people's lives, change the number of hours they spend collecting firewood, as you say, keep their children in school, start small businesses -- and when we talk about -- when Gail talks about the economic impacts, I see that as a real benefit.

To the extent that you can free people up from the toil of collecting wood, dung, water in some cases, that allows them to be more productive within their own small agricultural plots, if they have them; to start a small business, either a home-based businesses, et cetera. So that can change people's lives.

We also want to talk about energy has a way to change local economies. So that in some parts of Africa -- and I know the U.N. system works very closely on this project -- you have people grow crops, sometimes very small plots of land growing very small amounts of fruit, nuts, whatever, and then it's shipped off somewhere else for processing.

If we can develop very local and possibly distributed sources of energy so that those products can be transformed in their local communities, so that there can be value added, either drying nuts or drying fruit or small packaging, et cetera, we can change the economic conditions of women as well.

And one final impact that technology can have -- and I think this is really important -- we can't underestimate the impact ill health has on women. When you think about the aches and pains that we have, where we might have a cold or stay home or whatever, these women don't have the opportunity to stay home.

They need to collect firewood for their families; they need to collect water; they need to cook. And yet many of these women, especially in the case of those who use traditional biomass cook stoves, are breathing the equivalent of 40 cigarettes a day. That's two packs a day.

And the lung, the respiratory, the glaucoma, the -- all the various health problems that they have decrease their ability to care for their children, impact their children's health, decrease their ability to fight off other diseases, harvest crops, et cetera.

So the economic trickle-down is huge, and I think these technologies, much like the washing machine transformed lives, can really make a difference in all these difference aspects.

COLEMAN: There was an article in The New York Times maybe six or eight months ago talking about the black soot that comes from the cook stoves, and citing a study that showed that the black soot in the atmosphere is actually contributing 20 percent -- they came up with this number -- 19 percent of global warming is from this black soot.

So we think of these huge factories in the United States and China belching out smoke and chemicals and everything else, and they're saying in this study that in fact it's the tiny, little rural villages across Africa and India and these cook stoves and the black soot coming from it that is contributing 19 percent of global warming.

First of all, how accurate is that? And secondly, that information, has it created new opportunities? Are people, from the sustainable energy, from a climate change perspective, now much more interested in the cook stove work that you've been doing?

CORDES: The answer is yes. So the climate impacts are real from cook stoves. But it's not just the black carbon and the particulate matter; it's also the CO, it's the methane, it's the kind of short-lived forcers.

That's a fancy term for greenhouse gases that go in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming, perhaps in a way that's much more powerful or much stronger than even carbon dioxide.

What I think we want to be careful of is shifting the blame. So while cook stoves and small diesel engines, from these two-stroke tuk tuks and scooters and things that are so common in the developing world, present a very large impact on climate change.

On a per capita basis, people in the developing world still use far less energy. And what I'm finding in my discussions with folks in India and others is an unease with shifting the blame.

So we have to be very careful to couch it in development, in health terms, in positive economic terms -- and I know Gail and Richenda know this well -- and not talk about, well, you're a big part of the problem. Because historically the developed countries have been really the source of much of those emissions.

What it has done, however, is pull new parties into this and heighten interest in an issue that's languished on the back burner, pardon the pun, for many, many years. So we're seeing new institutions like the Environmental Protection Agency and large foundations that are interested in stoves because there are co-benefits. In addition to the health component, you've got the climate component.

You're also seeing a real interest in stoves because of the ability to use carbon finance. There just aren't that many easy solutions and easy places to find available carbon --

And cook stoves present a real win, especially for those --

COLEMAN: Carbon credits.

CORDES: Carbon credits -- especially for those who are interested in the social benefits. And so we're seeing climate play a much more important role.

When I worked on this issue 20 years ago, climate was not part of the equation. People did not mention it. Now, in many cases, it's the primary reason people are interested.

COLEMAN: Gail, ENERGIA is an international partnership that examines specifically the relationship between gender and energy. Can you tell us a little bit more about ENERGIA and what it does and its focus today?

KARLSSON: I can, but I'd also like to try to respond to the question that you asked initially, which is how transformative do you think that these technologies can be.

And it's not just the technologies. In my work with ENERGIA and with the U.N., we're looking for a big impact, not tinkering with the edges.

And we see that this is a tipping point. This is an opportunity. The black soot was very much discussed in Copenhagen, but -- and not really in the blame context, but focusing more attention on these women's issues.

Cook stoves is something that has primarily been a women's issue, and then also not well addressed. Not really -- we haven't come up with seeing a lot of solutions and a lot of investment in it that's actually, so far, been really transformative.

But what we're now doing is there's a collaboration between the U.N. Development Program, ENERGIA, IUCN, many of the other U.N. agencies, in the women's global climate alliance. And there's a lot of advocacy that's being done in connection with the Copenhagen and, now, the continuation of the treaty negotiations.

And we are looking for the big, win-win-win context where if you engage women in making this transformation to alternative energy systems, clean energy systems, then you can promote economic development. Because half the people in the country can then become more productive, after they get the cook stove issues and the collecting firewood and collecting water. Energy's a big part of their getting access to water, also, with water pumps.

Once you've freed up women's time and ability to engage in income-generating activities, then you have women's empowerment, economic development. And then we want to be tapping the climate funds in a big way, to try to get --

There's a huge amount of money that's now -- not so much the mitigation, because that hasn't turned out so well. The clean development mechanism under the Kyoto Treaty has been very difficult to access, especially for small projects.

But the adaptation funds are huge, and there's a --

COLEMAN: Can you give us a sense of the scale?

KARLSSON: Well, when Hillary Clinton came to Copenhagen, she was talking about, I think, $30 billion in the next three years and raising $100 billion by 2020.

And when the U.N. secretary-general set up the advisory panel -- because this is money that would come through the U.N. -- there was a big hubbub because there were, like, 50 people that were selected and there were no women at all on this advisory board.

And so there's a lot of advocacy. It ends up sounding like, why are these women complaining? (Chuckles.) But this is enormous investments that are being made, and there need to be women at the table.

So a lot of what ENERGIA is doing now is in collaboration with the U.N., is on advocacy and within the climate context, to get the investments that we need.

COLEMAN: Richenda, do you want to comment on this opportunity?

VAN LEEUWEN: Absolutely. I think, in terms of the technology, we've already said it can be life-changing at the level of the individual household. And by household, I'm not excluding the men in the household as well, but also particularly for the children, as well as the women.

In terms of technology being game-changing, I'd like to think that probably the biggest social development tool of the end of the 20th century was the last mile of getting cell phones across the world. That's been an amazing technology that has, I think, leapfrogged into all sorts of areas beyond anybody's imagination.

And today, mobile banking is sort of the next big thing, particularly in many parts of the developing world, that actually has implications for how we work with micro finance, particularly in terms of executing transactions that can help a woman buy an improved cook stove or help a woman and her family buy an improved solar lighting system or some other technology to address this.

From the venture capital industry, if people could know what was going to be game-changing ahead of time, then all the money would go there.

What I think has been a real benefit, however, is there have been so many changes in technology because of this focus on renewable energy in the developed world, if you will -- although I don't like to use that term -- that these technologies have, in fact, been able to bring solar electricity into the realm of affordability for much poorer households than in the past.

In the past, 10 years ago, we'd say well, solar power is really -- a solar home system is for the top of the poor or the lower middle class. It's just really not affordable, so therefore we shouldn't even bother to sort of try and push it down to the very poor.

The technology has changed so much in the last few years -- improvements in LED lighting, improvements in the actual solar panel technology -- that in fact we're saying okay, now it's really -- it is affordable. It's a myth.

People say today here in the States, well, solar is still unaffordable. It's a myth. It's unaffordable maybe if you're middle class here in the U.S., unless you have some subsidies involved. It's actually the most affordable technology for the poor, and is a much more modern technology than the older technology, which is the kerosene-based lighting distribution system.

So when you have a technology that provides better lighting, where it's equally affordable -- in fact, more affordable because you have lower operating costs -- when it's healthier, when you can provide educational advantages because you can read in the evening, your kids can read in the evening using a lighting system, and it's better for the environment, to my mind it's why on earth wouldn't you do that?

And just to say one other last point on this, in a sense the question of why are we doing this is really the wrong question, in a broad sense. Nobody has ever asked me, living in the States, why, for my -- I live down in the D.C. area, PEPCO -- why my PEPCO bill -- what can I justify in terms of the economic development advantages that it's bringing to me, as a woman living in the United States, of why I should have access to electricity?

So it's a given. We take it as a given here. Why don't we equally take it as a given in other parts of the world?

COLEMAN: I was in Rwanda last week, and it was really striking to me, because I was on the border of Rwanda and Congo, on my cell phone as clear as day. It could have been -- better service than I get in Long Island.

And we ended what we were doing quite late and drove back to Kigali at night. And there were no lights. In a three-and-a-half-hour drive, there were no lights. Everybody has cell phone in Rwanda, and there's great cell phone coverage. But there is -- there were no lights.

And you would see off in the distance a glow from a house that was a kerosene lantern or a candle, and there were hundreds and hundreds of people walking in pitch dark along the road, and every now and then you'd see a little glow from a cell phone. But that was it. No light.

So I'm just concurring with what you're saying which is you see already how transformative the cell phone technology has been and how widespread access is today, and yet just no access to electricity.

Richenda, maybe we could --

KARLSSON: How could they charge them?

COLEMAN: You know, I think --

VAN LEEUWEN: I can answer that.

COLEMAN: Go ahead.

VAN LEEUWEN: A lot of times, if you don't have electricity in your village, what people will do is go to the nearest town a couple of times a week. I was actually down in northern Nicaragua on the Mosquito Coast, and people would literally go in their dugout canoe and go 45 minutes to the nearest town that did actually have access to electricity in order to be able to charge their cell phones.

We were putting in a small wind turbine through one of our project partners that enabled people to actually charge their cell phones in the village.

But people use car batteries. They will use anything that they can have access to.

MS. : (Off mike.)

COLEMAN: One thing I thought might be helpful is if one of you could just describe the process of the kerosene lantern business, in effect, of how -- my understanding is that people are spending quite a lot of money and time collecting kerosene, which we know is dirty and dangerous.

And I ask that because I think it's relevant for what we're talking about today, which is what is the payback on investing in a solar device? Do any of you --

VAN LEEUWEN: I'd be happy just very quickly to address that.

It depends, country by country, but often women spend between 10 (percent) to 20 percent of their household income on lighting. It's not only kerosene; it's also candles and it's dry-cell batteries.

When I was in Ethiopia last June, that was actually what was most stunning in walking around the villages that didn't have access to electricity, was seeing a lot of batteries that were discarded, because there's no recycling, there's no safe trash disposal. And apparently the little kids in the villages like to open up the dry-cell batteries and use the powder to play in the sand. So it has toxic effects, as well.

So people are using between 10 (percent) to 20 percent of their income on kerosene. In India, in fact, kerosene is subsidized. But the problem there is the lack of access.

Even though technically you have a voucher or a right to have access to kerosene, in fact, the black market doesn't work that way. So even though you have a right to it, you can't get it. So you have to sort of go through informal channels.

So in terms of the distribution chain, we sort of tend to think, well, kerosene, it's sort of like the traditional solution that mankind was using when we were still in our caves. It's only been around, that distribution chain has only been around for, what, 150 years, something like that.

So people have a hurricane lantern, and some cultures are very comfortable with that design. And so some of the early companies were actually redesigning hurricane lanterns to switch out the kerosene portion and put in solar LED lighting. I think we've moved beyond that now, but --

It's a distribution chain that does go down to the village level. So we can do it; there's absolutely no reason why we can't do it.

COLEMAN: The kerosene distribution chain?

VAN LEEUWEN: Yeah. Again, depending country by country. In some places that -- there aren't so many issues with accessibility. And we can talk about that a little bit more.

COLEMAN: Leslie, I want to come back to cook stoves for a moment, because one of the criticisms of cook stoves has been that they've designed these cook stoves and then they give them to the women, and the women say, well, we can't really cook what we cook with them.

How have you -- those women in that country can cook what they cook, but we now here, in this country, can't cook what we cook. There're very different cultural constraints.

And how do you get women involved in the design of cook stoves? I know that's been a big focus of what the U.N. Foundation has been doing.

CORDES: That's a very good question, because if people aren't using the technology, the technology has little value. And I've seen that time and time again.

People have come to us with an innovative cook stove design and then we said, well, have you field-tested it? And they said, no, it's worked in such-and-such country.

But each country has unique needs. So in a refugee camp in the Sudan you might be cooking a large pot of porridge. In the Guatemala highlands you might be cooking tortillas and boiling water for coffee. In Southeast Asia you might be cooking rice.

So you're absolutely right that stoves are not like bed mats; they're not a one-size-fits-all technology.

One of the things the U.N. Foundation has just embarked on is a new Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves. And the idea is to pull together collective action around some of these large-technology, training, financing standards challenges, to give people the tools and the resources they need to address these very things.

So there are a lot of really good projects. The Shell Foundation has one in India called Breathing Space that looks at working with women's groups and going into the local towns and villages to test stove design, to work on unique attributes of a particular stove that might be relevant or desired by the women using these stoves.

But that's been a real challenge. Recent tests in Guatemala found that almost none of the women were using the new stoves, although they reported that they were using the new stoves.

Polite social mores, et cetera, meant that when the researchers came in from California Berkeley and said did you use the stove, who's going to say no, I didn't use this beautiful, shiny new stove -- even though it may have been used for a table or taken apart to repair a leaky roof? Here's this nice piece of shiny metal, and that's a better value for what you need. So it's really important.

One of the things -- speaking of transformative technologies, we're starting to use mobile phone technology in terms of monitoring and evaluation of stove use. So in Guatemala, they've been using these remote testing devices on stoves so that we don't need to ask the women, are you using the stoves? Or we can still ask them, but we know if they're using the stoves.

And in some cases, the utilization rate was extremely low, and that's a good opportunity for us to jump in and say -- us, the collective cook stove community -- to jump in and say, how can we make these stoves more useful for you?

If a six-stone fire is what you want, who are we to go in and say this is what you should be using? And so working with these -- in India, the self-employed women's group has been very useful. In Guatemala, working with women, working to better understand the needs of the family.

If the first thing you need your stove for in the morning is boiling coffee for your husband to go off to work, then a solar cook stove doesn't meet your needs, because there isn't a lot of sun at 5:00 a.m. when your husband's going off to the fields. Or if, in a particular place, kerosene or ethanol is what's needed for a new stove and you don't have that supply chain, then that doesn't meet women's needs either.

So these are really critical questions and some that we're trying to address under this Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves. How do we take what's been a very fragmented field, lots of small, very well-meaning projects in a number of countries, and really build on the experiences and the lessons learned to address those very questions?

In Uganda there are 36 different clean cook stove projects going on now, different institutions working. And how can we share those lessons? How can we help facilitate that collaboration so that --

COLEMAN: Is your point that there are 36 discrete projects with no coordination, or is this a coordinated effort?

CORDES: Well, we're finding the former is true. I'll be on the phone to -- we're getting lots of calls at the U.N. Foundation now that we've started to put together this Global Alliance, from people who want to be part of it.

They'll say, oh, I'm working in Kampala, or I'm working here or working there. And we'll say, oh, you must be working with so-and-so. No, I didn't know about that.

So one of the things we want to do is facilitate that collaboration and give people the resources so that they can share experiences, work with the local community, women's collective groups. Women's self-employment groups can be tapped. There's a variety of U.N. programs that are taking and leveraging the lessons from economic development programs and using those to facilitate better utilization of clean cook stoves.

So it's a really important issue. It's critical, because you can spend all the money in the world; if they're not used by the population, it's a waste of money.

And there's the climate component too. If there are carbon credits associated with the use of that stove --

COLEMAN: And they're not being used.

CORDES: -- and they're not being used and you're not having that greenhouse gas reduction, then that's a problem as well.

COLEMAN: Gail, what is UNDP's focus in this space? Maybe it's across the board, or --

The U.N. Foundation has really got a whole initiative on cook stoves. Is UNDP sort of broadly focused, or is there a particular area?

KARLSSON: Well, UNDP doesn't directly fund many projects anymore, except through the small grants program. So what they do is give advice to governments.

COLEMAN: Yeah.

KARLSSON: And so a lot of the sharing of lessons, gathering the lessons, trying to channel -- on energy, looking at what's worked.

The U.N. has had its own issues about whether women were involved, however -- (chuckles) -- in the design and what that would mean. And it's baffled a lot of people, because generally the energy experts have been male engineers.

And so this idea that you engage women, how do you engage these illiterate women in rural villages? What exactly are they going to contribute?

And so again, this is -- the stuff that I am, as a lawyer, most involved in, not as an engineer or a technical person, is trying to explain that it really is a waste of time and money. There've been, over 30 years, many projects where there were good ideas that were well funded. You go and look, and the thing is in the bush or, as Leslie was saying used for some completely different purpose.

And solar cookers have been something that we saw a lot of resistance to. Just -- women didn't like them; they don't fit their needs.

They've been successful in certain areas, like in Afghanistan or areas that are deforested. There really isn't -- you can walk as far as you want, but you're not going to find firewood. In that case, then people are (damped ?), what they cook and how they cook it.

But if there's alternatives, people tend to stay with what's most available to them. And so you can't just come in and say, well, you women have to cook some different way.

And so the idea of then taking these social issues like what do women want, what do they -- how do they actually live their lives, what are they required to do? This are social issues, not engineering issues. And they are disturbing.

And ENERGIA and UNDP have, from time to time, been involved in something like the World Renewable Energy Congress. You go there, and then people don't want to hear about women and gender issues. They want to hear what's the biggest technology, what's the newest thing.

And those things maybe will work in the so-called developed world. In New York, people don't -- it doesn't make sense to focus on gender and energy, for the most part. There are still the issues of representation and women engineers and how much they're involved.

But the issues are just very different, and it's hard to explain to people. I would talk to friends of mine; they're saying what do you -- gender and energy, why do you look at this? And I'd say, well, what if you had to get up in the morning and you had to -- you only had a three-stone fire and one pan, and then you have to go get the water, get the wood, grow the food, process the food, all without any kind of mechanical energy or electricity or anything.

COLEMAN: We'd starve. (Scattered laughter.)

KARLSSON: Yeah, it's not what we are accustomed to do. And I have to say, my own ancestors came from northern countries where the fuel came in terms of trees. And it was men's work to get the wood, not the women's work. You may have to do the cooking and everything, but -- this idea that it's women's work to go and gather wood is not that easy to understand.

And so a lot of what the energy group, as well as the UNDP gender team that I'm working with is trying to look at ways of not only integrating women's concerns into these -- it's not directly working with the designers, but trying to get the governments, the government agencies, the energy departments to take these rural energy access issues seriously and to see what the potential is.

And what that means also is that you have to work at the village level. And you have to take a different kind of --

Rural electrification in this country was done by the federal government. Spread the wires; it didn't require going into each village and say, well, how do you use energy? What would you like it to be like?

Electricity doesn't necessarily make the kind of -- even if you did invest in it -- the kind of change that we're looking for. Because it doesn't necessarily mean that women can earn income.

And what we've focused on is the mechanical energy. If you can -- some of the most -- a lot of the investment that on this original women and energy project went into these multifunctional platforms, which are a diesel engine and it's mounted on a platform and you can add different kinds of attachments to it. You can generate electricity; you can run a welder.

But the thing that the women use it mostly for is processing their food, which they've grown, which is nuts and -- things that have to be ground up. And you could spend all day grinding that stuff up. (Laughs.) Whereas, if you have -- and the mill may be a long walk to the next village or two villages over.

So these are things that, if you -- they also, on the one hand, reduce the women's labor, but they also may help them produce products that could be sold and then --

So we're looking at how do you build those markets, and so it requires building these supply chains and also to -- looking at the obstacles that keep women from being able to use it.

COLEMAN: I'd like to turn to your questions now. And I'd like to do that because we're going to run out of time, and I wanted to ask Richenda about Haiti, where she's done a lot of work. So maybe one of you will ask that question. (Laughter.)

But anyway, can you please stand. I think -- John, are there microphones, or -- no? Just stand and speak clearly and loudly, please, and just state your name and affiliation.

Thank you.

Right here. No microphone. Just speak loudly.

QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)

COLEMAN: So the question, just in case you didn't hear in the back, is has anyone studied this in the United States, where women often are still cooking over coal or cut off from electricity because they haven't paid their bills? Is this an issue relevant in the United States today?

CORDES: I can answer that. I know it's, as a percentage of the U.S. population, still very, very small.

But there is a sizeable number of folks, especially in the Northeast, who use wood stoves. And the Environmental Protection Agency has just issued new efficiency standards for these stoves, to try to improve the efficiency and reduce the emissions from the stoves.

Obviously, that doesn't help address the stoves that are already in use, but there are rebate programs, because stoves contribute to pollution with smoke as part of the haze in the Adirondacks and other mountain areas.

There are rebate programs some states have instituted to -- much like there are rebates for inefficient dishwashers or air conditioners or whatever, to get people to turn in their stoves and use more efficient stoves.

But this issue of electrification, especially on Indian reservations in the U.S., is an important one, and we've looked at solar and other sorts of technologies in much the same way: How do you reduce people's bills so that they're spending less of their disposable income on energy in the U.S., and more on productive things like school uniforms or food on the table or their rent.

The Department of Energy has a low-income home energy assistance program and the U.S. government is trying to spend more of that money on energy efficiency improvements for permanent savings, as opposed to just helping people pay their bill.

And the Obama administration, I think, just ramped that up to $8 billion, so it's a sizeable program now.

COLEMAN: Linda?

Oh, wait; we do have a microphone now. I'm sorry.

QUESTIONER: Thank you.

You've talked about many different kinds of technologies that all have some problems, and you've also talked about the success of cell phones. It occurs to me, would it be helpful if any one of your organizations was to go through, pick out the thing that you think works the best -- whatever the best cook stove is -- and partner with somebody like the largest cell phone company, say, in Bangladesh, which has already got tremendous acceptance in villages.

If you were to use that distribution network and that well-accepted and well-loved, probably, provider to push through whatever you thought was best practices and partner with something that's already to scale, would that make sense?

VAN LEEUWEN: I'd be very happy to take that one on.

You just mentioned two words that I think are part of the key to whole question around access, which is distribution channels. And that is a real challenge in certain parts of sub-Saharan Africa -- for example, in Kenya, going the last mile; much of rural Kenya doesn't have access to electricity -- and having the distribution channel set up in the absence of grid.

And I think we could step back and talk about grid as well. And it's really been a failure of a lack of political will -- which means political won't, really -- for governments to step in and bring the grid to their rural populations. Ideally, it should be a cleaner grid.

So I'm not opposed to grid extension, but it's either a lack of political will or it's also a question of cost and the money just often isn't there.

Absolutely, distribution channel's the key. And one of the things that I've been working in in Haiti is talking to the two largest cell phone companies there, Digicel and Voila.

I was with them before the earthquake, talking to both of them, saying you care about selling more cell phone minutes in Haiti; I care about lighting. The cell phones need charging solutions, so you care about people being able to charge their cell phone regularly.

There are a lot of devices now, small-scale solar devices, some of which you'll be hearing more about that actually do have a combination of both cell phone charging and lighting capability. So is there a way that you as a company can use your distribution channel?

And Digicel has 80,000 -- or did before the earthquake -- 80,000 street salespeople selling cell phone minutes. Is there a way that we can have a win-win here?

So yes, absolutely. The GSM Association, the association for the wireless companies, has been looking at this and looking at ways that we can be combining both the cell phone charging and also the lighting side of the equation.

So that was an excellent question.

COLEMAN: Yeah?

CORDES: Can I just comment on that too? The U.N. Foundation has been working very closely with Vodafone and the Vodafone Foundation on something we call our mHealth Alliance to tap this confidence in cell phone distribution and the cell phone service for health improvements and data collection, et cetera.

So it's being tried in a number of pilots where people will get information on taking medication or prenatal care or a variety of different health messages that are hard to convey over traditional communication channels in Africa or rural Haiti where people aren't turning on CNN while they're blow-drying their hair in the morning, but actually getting their information by word of mouth, radio, et cetera.

And it's been very effective, and is really a growing form of getting health information, collecting data and also distributing information of a health nature.

And like Richenda said, we're tapping stoves much the same way. Lighting is being tapped for charging cell phones so that there's a dual benefit. The heat, the excess heat from these stoves can run a small fan or a light or charge batteries. And as these stoves develop in terms of the technology, that may be one application you'll see is these co-benefits.

So the cell phone folks are very much interested in this, and we're talking with them as well.

COLEMAN: And I'll just put a little plug in for a report that came out recently from the Cherie Blair Foundation. So this is a --

Cell phone and women's access to cell phone technology in developing countries is something that that foundation has looked at very carefully, and Cherie Blair herself has been very involved in.

Okay. So back here.

QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)

COLEMAN: Just a second.

QUESTIONER: Sorry.

COLEMAN: Thank you.

QUESTIONER: Monique Alfazy (ph). I have sort of a follow-up question.

Is there a way to democratize access to these technologies? Because I do some work in rural Kenya, and for years now we've heard about things through the village, which is sort of ready to self-empower, have heard about things. And when we reach out to the appropriate organizations, particularly U.N. organizations, they say, well, we're not working in your sector.

And so we've got a U.S. community willing to fund these things, a community in rural Kenya that's organized enough to sort of make use of various programs and technologies.

And over and over and over we've been told you're too rural, you're too rural, we can't get to you, even though there's -- we're willing to sort of provide funding and transportation and things. And I can't imagine we're the only ones in that position.

So it seems the biggest problem are these communities that are actually too rural to have access to any of this, but have the sort of organizational skills to handle it. Is there a way to fix that?

VAN LEEUWEN: I'd like to just quickly jump in here first, specifically about rural Kenya.

You're absolutely right, in certain areas. I'm a big proponent of the private sector being involved in these distribution channels, because I think oftentimes the private sector can go to scale and drive efficiency more quickly.

But the challenge right now in -- particularly in rural Kenya with the dissemination of small solar lighting solutions, is that you do have these villages that have been sort of considered too isolated, too rural, for people to be going there.

And one of the challenges is many of the companies involved in this space are in fact small manufacturers. So they don't have the budgets for doing a lot of the outreach, specifically to create those distribution channels.

So there is a nonprofit group called the Solar Aid Foundation, which is based out of London, that has been working on specifically going into the most rural parts of Kenya, going into the villages, working through the tribal chief structure, and actually helping to identify potential franchisees in the local communities, both men and women, working with them -- a bit like an election campaign.

They've gone around the villages, having to get 10,000 signatures, so showing that they're trusted in that particular community of people who would sort of trust them to be the local franchisee. And then setting up these franchises in the most rural parts of the country so that the lighting manufacturers can then piggyback on that nonprofit initiative, to then be able to extend the distribution channels into those most rural parts of the country.

So I'd be very happy to give you more details later.

KARLSSON: If I can just make a quick remark, the U.N. is not in the business of rural electrification. And so there has to be private companies involved in it, and that's very important.

The reason that there isn't, is largely because of these issues. They're remote, it's hard to get to, the people don't have a lot of money, they can't make a lot of money on the -- it costs too much.

So part of what the U.N. is doing is trying to talk to the governments, and saying the money that you get for energy, how about investing it in either expanding the grid, if that makes the most sense, or trying to set up some kind of distributor generation in these villages. It ends up being -- if you wait for the government to try to get the money to do that, that's a very long process.

So we need the innovation and investment capital, but there has to be this kind of component of -- the profits just aren't that great in these areas, until --

So that's why we focus in our advocacy in looking at how can you provide technologies and products that allow people to make the income to be able to pay for the system.

And then you also need credit systems so that people can borrow money, because even in the micro finance, which is very popular, it's really often not enough money that anyone can borrow to buy the equipment.

So you can't just look at the U.N. agencies and say, well, what's the -- how do you build this market? But it'd be great to collaborate and to try to incorporate some of those -- the vision and the ideal of the Millennium Development goals that people have a right to have access to water and that people need electricity. It's not just like some benefit that --

But it's -- you can't set it up on a social welfare system, either. As an American, I believe that the market system does work and can work, but there needs to be the incentives. And usually it's the government that sets up those sorts of subsidies, just as the U.S. government sets up incentives and subsidies to promote solar energy now here, and other kind of renewable technologies and to make a transition away from some of the polluting energy sources.

CORDES: Can I just make one comment too?

I think you're also finding what a lot of folks are finding, that the trend in the donor community, especially the bilateral and multilateral aid communities, is moving away from funding small, individual projects for many of these same reasons -- issues of scale, et cetera -- and moving toward policy.

And that's just really a reflection of huge cuts in aid budgets. When I worked at USAID, my little energy office had 25 million (dollars). By the time I left, it was 3 million (dollars). And so there's been a real consolidation in how do we get the most bang for the buck, let's look at best practices, let's look at big policy things, when there are some very innovative, small projects going on.

And I'm starting to see that trend, that pendulum, swing back. And I'm starting to see a renewed interest among the funder community, as well as the bilateral aid agencies in looking for promising innovative solutions. And perhaps your project is one of those.

And there are folks out there who are also looking at that, looking at models where local health clinics, which are respected institutions in most villages, are the utility as well; where a diesel generator or a solar systems or a wind turbine, whatever, is used to power that health clinic and provide much-needed energy for refrigeration and water purification, et cetera, and then excess energy is sold to the local community.

And so a lot of the problems you describe are really, unfortunately, a change in the funding picture. I had a call with GTZed last week; same thing. They're moving away from, in some cases, small, individual project finance. And I think there might be, hopefully, a change in that.

But I think you're going to continue to see people look for big projects or projects where multiple villages or organizations get together to leverage a bigger project and pot of money.

COLEMAN: Okay. There are a lot of hands out there, so maybe we can get short answers. Quick questions and short answers.

I think Sandy, here.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Sandy Thomas.

I wondered if you could speak a little bit more about the educational process and how we are educating these women and young girls and young women also, so that they understand that we're not doing this for them, but with them, and that they're in the buying process of wanting to come along with these technologies.

And are we doing anything for the next generation in educating them as well?

CORDES: Well, one of the biggest things to do for educating the next generation is to relieve girls from the responsibility of -- the time and labor that's involved in collecting the water and the firewood and the food processing.

Because girls tend to stay out of school to stay home, help their mothers. Their mothers don't have time for education or to engage in a number of these projects that people come up with either, if they don't have the time. They're just trying to survive.

There's -- in this multi-functional diesel engine project, this is a village power thing. The way that that was set up is that it started in Mali as a project, and it's been expanded to a number of different countries in Africa.

But it's set on -- there has to be a women's group, a women's collective within that village that asks for the platform, raises money, puts in labor. And so there's a process of training that goes along with that, but the initiative, the desire for it has to come from the women themselves, because they see what's it's -- been used in a different village, it's been successful.

So we're looking for situations where looking at the demand, creating the demand side rather than the supply, here's what you need, put this in.

But again, that's kind of on a -- it's a small scale, very time- and labor-intensive. But you find that you have to go through all this -- it's illiterate women; how do you train them to run this equipment? What kind of business skills?

That's something that ENERGIA has been much more involved in, these training programs, and actually going into energy projects that are being organized by the government or NGOs or donor countries and trying to do that kind of training within the project.

VAN LEEUWEN: If I can just quickly speak on behalf of SELCO, which is an Indian solar social enterprise working specifically to help bring energy to the poor in southern India. They really work at what is the problem that people are facing, and then helping to fix that problem.

So for example, whether it's midwives who need solar headlamps because that will help to free up their hands to help a woman who's giving birth, that's -- they can come in and help customize a solution. So it's really the women themselves who are articulating what the problem is that they have.

They've been working also with rose pickers who send the roses to Delhi, in Gujarat. And they also needed solar headlights to be able to free up both hands to pick the roses, rather than only have one hand and the other hand having to hold the flashlight to do that. So I think that's also one way of doing it.

And as with any technology, you have the early adopters and then the later adopters. I think there's a lot of peer-to-peer education that goes on as well, in that process.

CORDES: And I was going to say, many of the incentives that we put in place in this country, in Europe, et cetera, to get people to do things that may be in their self-interest, but not be readily apparent.

In the U.S., we provide all kinds of incentives -- tax incentives, et cetera -- for people to buy energy-efficient equipment, even though they would save money on their energy bill if they bought that equipment without the incentive.

And so the U.N. Foundation and others are looking at what kinds of incentives and helping to design those incentives with the participation of the women's groups and the input of the women and the girls themselves, so that there are things that meet their needs -- projects and technologies that meet their needs -- and there is an incentive for them to take advantage of those.

COLEMAN: There and here.

QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)

COLEMAN: Can you just wait for the microphone? Thank you.

QUESTIONER: Janine (sp) Scott.

I was wondering if any of you have had any experience with looking into wind technologies. I personally have worked on activities in Chad, for example, where we were using wind technologies specifically for water harvesting.

And I wonder if that's something that is also catching in other areas, and what the experience has been.

And also, with regard to the platforms, I think the platforms have really transformative effects when you have these women's groups, because not only are they labor-saving devices and going into providing technologies that enable them to lighten their workloads, but because of the other types of effects that they have in terms of allowing them to earn incomes and to have many other spin-off effects that take place in the family as a result.

So I think that the platforms really do catch on, and they have significant transformative effects at much lower levels and across other levels.

So those are my two --

CORDES: I can just speak for the U.N. Foundation. We've funded quite a few projects, wind projects. The Galapagos project is one example where wind turbines help reduce the need for diesel to be brought from the mainland and provide more lighting for the islands.

So yes, that's very much part of the technologies we look at.

KARLSSON: Just in terms of these diesel engines, we are not promoting that everything should be run on diesel. And so where it's possible we have tried to promote the idea of a hybrid.

So you can use diesel if that's available, but often it could be combined with wind or some other -- maybe micro hydro, just depending on the context. And then in some contexts, we've also been trying to see whether it's possible to run these engines on biofuel.

But wind is a -- in the context where -- the reason we focus on biofuel in these simple engines is that for lot of remote villages, there might be some wind potential, but it's difficult. It's expensive, and it's more -- there's no one to maintain it, there's no one to install it. There's all the issues about keeping something like that running.

But it's not that it's not a good idea, but it's more difficult. Most places have diesel and then some places they can also create their own fuel. And in that situation you need a lot less intervention and you can kind of run your own operation.

VAN LEEUWEN: Can I just say, on the wind side you're absolutely right. And what Gail said is correct; for each geography it's a different combination of solutions.

The challenge with wind is I'd really caution people against doing it on very much a project-by-project basis, specifically because of the maintenance issue.

One of the things that we found in Nicaragua where Blue Energy has been working in the Caribbean Coast, is that in fact when they had originally sourced small wind turbines from U.S. manufacturers, because there wasn't a large market there, there was very little interest in actually helping them with the maintenance.

So they ended up actually designing and manufacturing their own wind turbines locally and making sure that every part could also be maintained locally. Because if they were relying on the U.S. company, it was taking four to six months to get the replacement part, whereas they could do it within a day or two.

And when the wind turbine is providing the energy for the village, you can't be waiting four to six months before you get that spare part.

COLEMAN: Okay. I think I have time for one last question. Over here; I'm sorry, we're running out of time. Last question.

QUESTIONER: In terms of specific --

COLEMAN: Can you use the microphone? Thank you.

QUESTIONER: Sure. Hello. In terms of specific technologies, you've touched on quite a few different technologies.

But I'd be curious to know, if each one of you had a pot of money to be able to invest in one technology with extraordinary transformative power for women, what do you think that would be?

KARLSSON: I wouldn't invest it in technology. I don't think that's the key, to me. We're not promoting any particular technology.

People don't want technologies. They want to have energy services, and they want to have the services that they need. They want lighting, they want mechanical power, they want refrigeration for health clinics, they want communications technologies.

And just like -- until recently, anyway, people here don't care where their energy comes from. It's not really about I want that technology. It's about how you get the services. That's just from my perspective, for me.

We don't promote any particular technology. And we look at what people want and then try to work with them.

VAN LEEUWEN: I would say I agree with Gail, but having said that, I would put that money --

I wouldn't actually just do it in one technology. I would invest the money with some of the small-scale manufacturers that are out there. Because there's very little in the way of social venture capital going out there into renewable energy right now.

A lot of companies are struggling. You're not getting the kind of returns that really make private equity and venture capital investors excited. You're looking, after expenses, at single-digit kind of (IRA ?) return profiles.

But people aren't really looking at the social return. When you bring in the social return, in fact, the totality of the return is fantastic.

So I would invest in some of those companies that are out there that are struggling to try and get to scale because they lack sufficient access to capital.

CORDES: I would agree. I think we're at a point right now where innovation in things like solar cell or chips or wind turbines are really happening on their own, and that investment is taking place, in large part, driven by the developed countries' interest in renewable energy.

But there are a lot of projects. We just held a clean cook stove summit, and we probably had half a dozen stove developers who have the technology, who -- the design is terrific, but don't have that investment from venture capital or the financing to manufacture the product in any kind of large-scale way.

So that really is the tipping point for many of these innovative technologies.

COLEMAN: Well, I think this has been a great opening to get us into all of these issues. We're going to hear more about design challenges, innovation, distribution, all of these issues in the next tow panels.

But thank you Richenda, Gail and Leslie so much for being here this morning. (Applause.)

(C) COPYRIGHT 2010, FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., 1000 VERMONT AVE.

NW; 5TH FLOOR; WASHINGTON, DC - 20005, USA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ANY REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED.

UNAUTHORIZED REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION CONSTITUTES A MISAPPROPRIATION UNDER APPLICABLE UNFAIR COMPETITION LAW, AND FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. RESERVES THE RIGHT TO PURSUE ALL REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO IT IN RESPECT TO SUCH MISAPPROPRIATION.

FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. IS A PRIVATE FIRM AND IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. NO COPYRIGHT IS CLAIMED AS TO ANY PART OF THE ORIGINAL WORK PREPARED BY A UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE AS PART OF THAT PERSON'S OFFICIAL DUTIES.

FOR INFORMATION ON SUBSCRIBING TO FNS, PLEASE CALL CARINA NYBERG AT 202-347-1400.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.

More on This Topic

Audio

Diversifying Global Supply Chains

Speakers: Astrid Pregel, Anabella Ruiz de Freeman, and Elizabeth Vazquez
Presider: Isobel Coleman

Astrid Pregel, Anabella Ruiz de Freeman, and Elizabeth Vazquez discuss the opportunities and challenges to integrating women-owned businesses...