The Rockefeller Foundation has committed $1bn to a three-year plan to drive infrastructure investment into a global grid-scale renewable energy build-out that would accelerate access to electricity in developing nations as the world emerged from the coronavirus pandemic.

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The philanthropic foundation, set up by the descendants of US oil baron John D Rockefeller over a century ago, said its “green and inclusive recovery” plan would focus on “catalysing billions of dollars in private and concessional investments” to scale distributed renewable energy in less economically developed countries, and “ensuring more equitable access” to Covid treatments and R&D, and data to fight the pandemic.

Rajiv Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, said the financing marked a “new chapter” in the organisation’s development as it “rededicated and reoriented” its mission toward “improving the lives of the world’s poorest people and addressing inequities made worse by this virus”.

“There’s no going back to the past, to before-Covid. We need to reimagine the future we want,” said Shah. “To meet this moment, we must leverage all our resources and relationships to build an equitable, sustainable future, where everyone has the opportunity to realize their full potential and climate disaster is avoided.

“The time to act is right now to make sure vulnerable children and families are included in the pandemic response and recovery.”

Among the “key” elements of the fund would be collaborating with national governments and development partners to provide “smart, results-based subsidies” for renewables-powered electrification; mobilising finance to scale up “access to affordable capital for private developers, with the goal of accelerating the bankable pipeline of clean-energy projects”; and bring in funding to boost sustainable renewables-powered agricultural.

“In leading this global movement, Rockefeller seeks to disrupt one of the greatest inequalities of our time, to bring sustainable sources of electricity to more than 800 million people who live without it, plus two billion people with unreliable or unaffordable energy access – effectively locked out of economic growth potential,” the foundation said in a statement.

“Inadequate energy access has consequence for every aspect of life and livelihoods – electricity powers businesses, job creation and social connection; it’s the light to live, learn and work by; and can be the difference between life and death … in unconnected and underserved concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.”

“As a result of pioneering breakthroughs in distributed renewable energy technologies, it is now possible to end energy poverty in ten years without accelerating carbon emissions,” said the foundation, noting that compared to conventional grid-based electrification, scaling these technologies to provide green energy to 500 million people would save 1.5 billion tons of CO2 emissions over the next decade .

Part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s initiative aims is to install up to 10,000 mini grids that will provide clean energy to five million households, create 10,000 new green jobs, support 100,000 rural enterprises, and deliver irrigation to 400,000 farmers, opening up access to reliable power for more than 25 million people .

“For too long, a person’s health has been determined by who they are and where they live,” said Naveen Rao, senior vice president of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Health Initiative.

“We have an unprecedented opportunity to close the health inequity gap by driving innovation and investment to the most vulnerable communities around the world. This focus is our way of doubling down on our commitment to modernise public health and provide equitable health outcomes.”