Fabio Rosa

Institute for the Development of Natural Energy and Sustainability (IDEAAS)
Year founded: 

An innovative energy system developed by IDEAAS is reducing electricity costs by as much as 90% in rural Brazil.

Focus: Energy, Environment, Rural Development, Technology
Geographic Area of Impact: Brazil
Model: Hybrid Non-Profit
Recognition: Schwab Fellow of the World Economic Forum

While working as agriculture secretary in Palmares do Sul, a rural municipality in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, Fabio Rosa found that 70% of the rural dwellers in the municipality lacked electricity. Because Brazil's electric distribution systems had been designed to serve large farms, factories, towns and cities, high transmission costs placed electric service out of the reach of 20 million rural Brazilians, exacerbating poverty and environmental destruction and intensifying rural-to-urban migration. Rosa sought to develop a more cost-effective electric distribution system. To do so, he fought for years for permission from state governments, electric companies, bankers, mayors, equipment manufacturers and villagers.

Innovation and Activities
In the 1990s, when the Brazilian government suddenly stopped supporting rural electrification projects, Fabio Rosa established the Institute for the Development of Natural Energy and Sustainability (IDEAAS). IDEAAS implements sustainable business models that provide rural, Brazilian communities with renewable energy, particularly for income-generating activities.

Rosa pioneered systems to provide electricity to impoverished rural Brazilians. His widely replicated Palmares Project established the standard for low-cost electricity transmission in rural Brazil, reducing costs to consumers by as much as 90%.

The Palmares Project was designed to provide electricity to rural properties for less than 10% of the government's cost. The system employs just one wire to distribute electricity to rural properties. Substituting materials and using local labour to build the system further cuts costs. The Palmares Project has also improved rice farming techniques (made possible by cheap electric irrigation pumps), boosting farm incomes by 200-400% and causing many villagers to return to their land from the city. Tens of thousands of properties have participated in the Palmares Project and other states have implemented similar systems.

Today, Rosa is attacking poverty and environmental degradation in delicate grasslands, such as the pampas, by packaging solar energy with electric fencing and managed grazing techniques. This offers poor rural dwellers sustainable, non-destructive means of income.

The Entrepreneur
Fabio Rosa was born in Porto Alegre, Brazil. His father was a manager in a state-owned bank and his mother a primary school teacher who started her career working with German immigrants in Rio Grande do Sul. Rosa studied agronomy at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre. In 1983, he became municipal secretary of agriculture in Palmares do Sul at the young age of 23. According to Rosa, a project only makes sense when it proves useful in making people happier and the environment more respected and when it represents hope for a better future.