Today, 1.6 billion people live without electricity and 2.5 billion people routinely face energy shortfalls. Most of these people live in the developing world. This "energy poverty" affects more than 20% of the world's most underserved people, who spent up to 30% of their income on inefficient (and often dangerous) energy solutions.
A variety of energy forms is necessary for a productive life: electricity for lighting and power, cooking fuel, and kerosene or candles (where electricity is not available) represent a few of the most basic types. Activities that many people take for granted in the developed world—like being able to read or study at night—is a luxury for many more. The amount of productive time that is lost as a result of lack of electricity has a significant negative economic effect, which further hinders a family or country's path towards a brighter future.
It is typically expensive to expand grid electricity to communities, especially in rural and less densely populated areas, which makes it uneconomical to provide basic services to those who often need it most. In addition, in areas where power outages are frequent, power vandals can easily steal power lines for the copper (to re-use or re-sell). Off-grid and localized solutions provide some alternatives to such scenarios, but these too require financing to develop and implement.
In addition to energy access, there is an urgent need to develop clean and renewable energy sources (e.g. wind, air, geothermal, biomass) in order to meet anticipated future demand across the globe. The need for, and benefits of, such resources apply to developed and developing countries alike. In addition to larger renewable energy infrastructure projects, there is a growing consensus that grassroots, low-cost energy solutions will play a critical role in ensuring that more people have access to energy they need to thrive.
Orrick is actively involved in numerous projects that bridge the funding gaps that exist to provide financing for the delivery of energy to underserved populations in a clean and sustainable way. These include both "top-down" energy infrastructure and "bottom-up" grassroots energy solutions and involve a mixture of private sector, multilateral and local government investors.
In addition, Orrick's mainstream energy team works on clients' innovative projects to reduce carbon emissions that are affecting the planet and threaten our very existence.
Orrick advised the Calvert Foundation on its investment in the Global Environment Fund's Africa Sustainable Forestry Fund, which seeks to invest equity in existing plantations, greenfield plantations, natural forest concessions, bio-energy and value-added wood processing in Sub-Saharan Africa. The fund addresses active forestation, reforestation and prevention of deforestation, and promotes green job creation.
World Land Trust
Orrick represented the World Land Trust (WLT) relating to a contract to design a carbon reduction program. WLT is an international conservation organisation that takes direct action to preserve and protect rainforest and other wildlife habitats by providing funds to local partner organizations, so that they can purchase land and establish permanent wildlife reserves.
A multi-disciplinary Orrick team supported Biogreen Energies (BE), an innovative project to bring renewable biomass energy to the rural poor in Haiti through microfinance. The team incorporated BE as a U.S. entity and filed for tax-exempt status, and worked with local counsel in Haiti to establish an appropriate corporate entity so that BE organization can sign agreements with its local Haitian suppliers, employ local engineers, and sell the product (a biodigester) to customers.