Back in 2004, the electrical utility in Brazil’s biggest city had a major problem. AES Eletropaulo was losing a large proportion of its revenue due to almost half-a-million illegal connections, most of them in São Paolo’s slums. Not only that, but they were causing often multiple-house fires on a monthly basis, along with frequent electrocutions. But the utility’s efforts to fix the problem were stymied by its poor relations with slum-dwellers, which made it almost impossible to work in these communities.
AES Electropaulo decided to shift course and made a concerted effort to open a dialogue with São Paolo’s urban poor. New credit instruments were extended to poor families, and campaigns conducted on smart energy consumption and the benefits of safe connections. The breakthrough came with AES Eletropaulo’s decision to train large numbers of local agents who conducted door-to-door outreach to households in slum areas to listen to their comments and concerns. In the process, new safe, efficient connections were extended to 1.4 million households across the vast metropolis.
AES Electropaulo’s effort is just one example of the approaches being taken by countries around the world to meet one of the world’s greatest development challenges: delivery of modern energy services to the urban poor.