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Member Highlights – November 2016 | Energy Access Practitioner Network


Member Highlights – November 2016

d.light secures $7.5 million from developing world markets, raising total of $30 million this year

Coming off of a recent $22.5 million Series D funding round, d.light‘s momentum continues as it secured $7.5 million in debt financing to expand its existing solar lantern and home system solutions and bring new products to the market. The funding, from impact investment manager Developing World Markets, supports d.light’s mission to transform the way off-grid households and small businesses around the world use and pay for energy.


Photo: d.Light

d.light’s Series D round of funding consisted of $15 million in equity, $2.5 million in debt and over $5 million in grants. With this latest round of debt financing, d.light expects to ramp up sales for its products, in particular of the solar home systems, and also bring new products to market, including solar-powered appliances, such as TVs.

With a commanding market share in emerging markets, d.light is the leading provider of solutions in the off-grid solar industry. The company sells hundreds of thousands of units per month, while maintaining excellent quality at scale. d.light operates five distribution hubs in East Africa, West Africa, India, India, Southeast Asia and the United States.

As of August 2016, d.light has impacted 65 million people with its solar lighting and home systems, putting it on track for achieving its goal of empowering 100 million lives by 2020. By bringing energy to the 2.3 billion people around the world without reliable access to grid-supplied electricity, d.light has helped base-of-the-pyramid families save $5.2 billion in energy expenses and create 34 billion additional hours of productivity for work and study. d.light products have offset 23 million tons of CO2 and generated 127 GWH from renewable energy sources.

Off Grid Electric and EDF team up in offering a new off-grid solar power solution for rural areas in West Africa

Photo: Off-Grid Electric

Photo: Off-Grid Electric

Off Grid Electric, a leading distributed solar company in Africa, and EDF, a global leader in low-carbon energies, have announced a partnership – the first large-scale operational partnership between a global energy company and a leading off-grid solar company – to supply competitive off-grid solar energy in Africa. This partnership will take the initial form of a joint venture – ZECI – in Ivory Coast, announced at the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22) held by the United Nations in Marrakech, Morocco. This joint venture aims to supply power to nearly 2 million people in Ivory Coast by 2020, with plans to rapidly extend the partnership’s initiatives to other countries in the region.

Within the scope of this joint venture, ZECI, EDF and Off Grid Electric will install and maintain solar kits for rural and peri-urban households. These individual kits include solar panels, which are easy to install, along with batteries for storing energy. Payment can be made through the simple use of a mobile phone. Customers will therefore have access to lighting and will be able to power a suite of energy-efficient household appliances including television sets, radios, fans and mobile phone chargers.

Rolling out this initiative in West Africa will create thousands of new sustainable jobs (over 1000 jobs in Ivory Coast alone), from sales managers to call-center employees, who will benefit from Off Grid Electric and EDF in-house training. Giving customers the option to use a renewable energy source like solar energy also benefits the environment by replacing candles, paraffin, and kerosene.

Off Grid Electric received the UNFCCC’s Momentum for Change 2016 Award at COP22. The Momentum for Change initiative is spearheaded by the UN Climate Change secretariat to shine a light on some of the most innovative, scalable and replicable examples of what people are doing to address climate change.

Greenlight Planet unveils “The Sun King Charge” – affordable solar light and mobile charging solution

Greenlight Planet recently revealed a new rechargeable lamp and solar panel – the Sun King Charge – that provides both lighting and mobile charging to off-grid users, the company’s most affordable such offering to date at close to US $20.


Sun King Charge from Sun King on Vimeo.

The Sun King Charge allows users to use the solar lamp and the solar photovoltaic panel independently from one another, for up to hours or days at a time. That means that owners can light their homes or workplace and charge their USB devices simultaneously during the day, offering them more efficiency in their everyday tasks. A notable feature is that in addition to charging with the solar panel, the lamp can be charged using a wall charger wherever electricity is available.

The Sun King Charge’s bright 50 lumen white LED lamp yields up to 72 hours of light from a single sunny day, with a long lasting Lithium Ferro-Phosphate battery. It comes complete with Greenlight Planet’s industry-leading two-year warranty. The product has already launched in India, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda in September; and in Ghana, Mali, and Nigeria in October.

Boond and Mera Gao Power, winners of ‘Solar for All’ contest, to build micro-grids in India

Solar for All, an initiative founded by the Canopus Foundation, and The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) recently held the second Solar for All Contest, a competition rewarding innovative community solar electrification solutions.

Two Practitioner Network members, Boond Engineering and Mera Gao Power, claimed first prize: a €200,000 low-interest loan to build micro-grids in India. Each company features a unique approach to delivering basic electricity for families unconnected to the national electricity grid.

Boond Engineering designs micro-grids to help 40 to 200 families per grid gain new electricity access for lighting, fans, radio and TV. Mera Gao Power (MGP) builds micro-grids providing one or two dozen customers with two lights and the ability to charge a cell phone. MGP has already constructed an impressive 1,500 micro-grids that serve over 130,000 people in Uttar Pradesh.

Bettervest GmbH, a crowdfunding company based in Frankfurt, Germany, that plays an important funding role for the impact investing community, will help raise the €200,000 for the prize winners, who will then repay the award at 6 percent interest for eight years.

Two additional Practitioner Network members were Solar for All finalists: Tanzania-based Devergy and Vanuatu-based Village Infrastructure Angels. Devergy won third prize, receiving a €10,000 grant from the Siemens Foundation. This award also includes access to the Siemens network, which will help with mentoring and fundraising. As a finalist, Village Infrastructure Angels will receive consulting from Betterveste to launch their own crowdfunding campaign.

Mobisol joins the Business Call to Action with a commitment to connect 800,000 Kenyans with clean, affordable solar energy

Mobisol has joined the Business Call to Action (BCtA) with a commitment to provide 800,000 people and 50,000 small businesses in Kenya with reliable access to solar energy by 2020. In the process, the Berlin-based company plans to create 150 jobs along its value chain and provide training on solar energy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 100,000 tons each year.

Launched in 2008, the Business Call to Action aims to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by challenging companies to develop inclusive business models that engage people with less than US$8 per day in purchasing power as consumers, producers, suppliers and distributors. It is supported by several international organizations and hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Mobisol’s Solar Solutions for Kenya initiative provides Kenyans without access to electricity a comprehensive package of solar equipment, including solar panels, solar batteries, in-home remote monitoring systems, highly efficient LED light bulbs and optional DC appliances. Through this inclusive initiative, the company aims to install 200,000 solar systems in Kenya by 2020, integrating trusted local partners into its supply chain. Its solar equipment is provided to customers through a three-year loan, with flexible payment plans utilizing mobile phone networks. The products are accompanied by a three-year warranty, free installation and maintenance, and a toll-free service hotline.

Total connects with microgrid start-up PowerHive to improve energy access in East Africa

Powerhive, a California-based start-up that designs and deploys microgrids in East Africa, has teamed up with Total Energy Ventures to expand energy access in the region. Powerhive has been specializing in microgrid technology for five years, drawing on advances made in solar panels, batteries, electrical equipment and techniques linked to smart meters and mobile payments. Currently, their energy solutions have made Powerhive the #1 private company and #2 provider of electricity in Kenya.

Total Energy Ventures invested in Powerhive at the end of 2015, and the partnership could take multiple forms going forward, including envisioning the use of gas stations as anchoring points for a microgrid platform, or using the presence of an established provider to accelerate projects and ambitions.

SunCulture plans Africa expansion with solar watering kits

SunCulture, a U.S. startup that sells solar-powered irrigation kits to small-scale farmers in Kenya, plans to expand into East Africa, where regular droughts often result in food shortages. After selling almost 1,000 units of the equipment to growers in Kenya, SunCulture is looking to expand operations into Somalia, Uganda, Ethiopia and Burundi in coming years.

With startup funding from organizations including the Shell Foundation, SunCulture sold its first kit in Kenya in 2013 in a trial period that runs until 2018. Farmers receive the solar-powered pump and irrigation equipment after depositing about 15 percent of the purchase price and the balance in installments of between 5 percent and 10 percent each month until harvest time. The equipment can irrigate an acre of land in about an hour.

SunCulture has arranged for farmers to purchase the gear outright through loans from Equity Group Holdings Ltd., Kenya’s biggest lender by market value. It also gives growers access to inputs from different providers, such as Syngenta Seeds Inc., which has helped boost yields by as much as fourfold. After the harvest, growers can sell their best produce to Nairobi-based grocery chain Zucchini under an off-take agreement.

DOOR addressing energy poverty in Southeast Europe with new project

DOOR (Society for Sustainable Development Design) has developed a new project to address energy poverty in developed countries; between 50 and 125 million of EU citizens are estimated to be energy poor. The situation is even more severe in the Southeast Europe, where 30% or more households are struggling with energy poverty.

Project REACH (see video) aims at empowering energy-poor households in Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia to save energy and water, while at the same time establishing energy poverty as an issue that demands tailor-made structural measures. To do this, REACH targets energy-poor households, local actors that can help address energy poverty (such as social support services, local authorities or schools), and local, national and EU level decision makers.

So far over 40 teachers and 200 students and volunteers from vocational schools were trained to perform energy audits in energy-poor households (see video). They helped partners implement more than 1,000 households visits, whereby basic energy efficiency measures were put in place. The initial results show that a visited household can save on average over 50 EUR and over 170 kg of CO2 emissions annually. Apart from practical savings, the partners have so far also motivated over 50 local actors to engage and address the challenge of energy poverty.

Partners have composed a set of policy recommendations that are specific to the region and debated them with decision makers in the European Parliament in June 2016. Advocacy work in Slovenia led to the establishment of a national program for households (see video). Since late 2015 REACH practices have been transferred to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro.

Practitioners interested to learn how to analyze energy poverty at the national or local level; train vocational school professors and students or volunteers and unemployed people to perform energy audits; or engage decision makers and local actors in designing structural solutions to energy poverty should visit the REACH project website and make use of the project materials provided.

Schneider Electric brings Access to Energy for 45,000 primary school pupils all across Kenya

Schneider Electric is working to combat poor grid connectivity in East Africa by placing simple-to-install, yet high featured, solar solutions into schools in Kenya. Schneider Electric electrified 127 schools in 2015, bringing access to energy to 45,000 primary school students. The solar solutions are used in-classroom for lighting, and charging computers and phones, enhancing the capabilities of teachers and the education of students.


SunPower and GRID Alternatives announce three-year partnership to provide solar training for high school students and solar access for families with limited or fixed incomes

SunPower Corp., a global solar technology and energy services provider, has announced a new multi-year commitment to Practitioner Network member GRID Alternatives, the largest non-profit solar installer in the US.

Under the partnership, SunPower will donate more than two megawatts of high efficiency solar panels over a three-year period. The commitment will provide enough solar to help power approximately 550 homes and will also provide job training in underserved communities.

SunPower’s investment will also support GRID Alternatives’ Solar Futures program, which provides both classroom and hands-on solar training to K-14 students, with a focus on high school juniors and seniors. GRID Alternatives has been providing solar training for high school students in California since 2010, and SunPower’s support is helping to expand that work nationally.

SunPower has been a GRID Alternatives supporter since 2006, and a major equipment partner since 2012. Nearly 950 households have gone solar through the partnership to date. SunPower employees have also volunteered more than 3,600 hours of their time to install solar for low-income families.

Pay As You Go in Asia: the experience of Kamworks in Cambodia

As a growing number of solar companies offer the pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) financing model for customers, the solar sector is going digital. Not only are customers paying digitally, but solar companies are building digital back offices.

With support from several partners, including UNCDF CleanStartKamworks – a solar company that provides solar power to more than 150,000 rural customers in Cambodia – has developed a proprietary PAYGO and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform.

Banking penetration rates remain low in Cambodia compared to other countries in the region, yet there is a high degree of mobile phone penetration and internet usage, with around 94 percent of Cambodians owning a mobile phone and almost one in three that use the internet. The low banking penetration suggests that there might be a substantial unmet demand for access to formal financial services. Mobile platforms/mobile payment services/mobile banking services might be able to deliver financial services to the poor at a lower cost than traditional branch-based banking models.

With a GSM chip inside the battery box, energy usage data is sent to Kamworks’ back-end platform every 20 minutes. The ERP allows for remote agent and inventory management. There are several advantages of these features. By analyzing customer usage data, Kamworks can design products better tailored to meet customer-specific needs and usage patterns.  Maintenance visits are reduced as Kamworks can troubleshoot problems remotely by looking at the Solar Home System data. Furthermore, as the PAYGO technology can identify early issues with battery performance, it can help identify usage patterns to clients that may shorten battery life.

Solar Sister launches Women + Energy: WESHINE campaign

Solar Sister has launched its Women + Energy: WESHINE Campaign, a global campaign aimed at amplifying the voices of women in the energy sector and bringing to light the benefits of providing women with economic opportunities. As part of this campaign, Solar Sister has released 6 video portraits of 6 women entrepreneurs who are bringing clean energy to their communities in Tanzania. These videos prove that women are an integral part of solving energy poverty and are capable of transforming their lives and communities through entrepreneurship.

ALER and RECP join forces on promoting renewable energy investments in Africa

The Africa-EU Renewable Energy Cooperation Program (RECP), a European platform to promote renewable energy market development and investment in Africa, has teamed up with Practitioner Network member ALER.

With funding from the European Commission, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Finland, RECP supports project developers and investors in engaging African markets. Its services to the private sector include the provision of market information, matchmaking events for European and African entrepreneurs, and advisory support in accessing the various funding instruments for renewables in Africa. ALER, with its specific focus on the Portuguese-speaking countries, is an instrumental partner for mobilizing additional investments in Africa’s Lusophone markets.
With support from RECP, ALER will organize matchmaking events focused on the Portuguese-speaking African markets, and produce reports as well as publications available in Portuguese. Through this collaboration, RECP will mobilize additional joint business development between European and African stakeholders and stimulate additional renewable energy deployment in Africa.
Established projects can then apply for additional support in accessing relevant sources of finance through RECP’s “Finance Catalyst” service. The Finance Catalyst offers projects advisory support for enhancing bankability as well as for identifying relevant sources of funding specifically for the project in question.

ACCESS – The Alliance of Civil Society Organisations for Clean Energy Access now operational

The ACCESS coalition brings together a range of civil society organisations (CSOs), both international and national. It aims to strengthen the visibility and presence of CSOs working to deliver universal energy access and advocates at national and regional levels for transparent and inclusive multi-stakeholder participation at all stages of energy processes. ACCESS will work with donors and investors to build their understanding of the energy needs of poor groups and support capacity building of civil society actors and share best practice across its networks. CSOs’ energy access and development expertise can be leveraged in a more effective way to deliver this. In summary, CSOs can:

  • Improve other stakeholders’ understanding of poor groups’ energy needs, including governments, businesses and donors;
  • Raise awareness of, and stimulate demand for, energy services and products among poor groups;
  • Build public understanding and political support for inclusive energy markets and the enabling environment reforms needed to support them;
  • Design and deliver energy solutions with long-term development impact, working with other stakeholders such as government, private sector, donors and other development partners.

Energy services have been shown to have greatest poverty reduction impact when integrated with wider initiatives on food security, health, education and livelihoods. This approach will also maximize delivery across the SDGs.

If you are interested in finding out more about the work of the ACCESS coalition, sign up for the newsletter and follow @ACCESSCSOs on Twitter. To inquire about joining ACCESS or collaborating with members, contact Hannah Mottram.