Member Highlights – April 2017

SunFunder starts local currency lending for off-grid and grid-deficit solar

Over the last five years, SunFunder has completed $25 million of loans to more than 30 solar companies in the beyond the grid sector. Until now all of that debt finance has been issued in US dollars. Early April, SunFunder announced that it now has the capability to offer local currency loans, thanks to a new partnership with hedging facility MFX Solutions.

Debt capital in local currencies is important because it solves the mismatch between the currency that solar companies receive from their customers, and the currency that solar companies need to repay international lenders like SunFunder.

In many developing countries, exchange rate volatility and local currency depreciation increases the risk both for solar companies and their investors. This can increase the costs passed through to end users and ultimately lower the sector’s overall energy access impact.

SunFunder will now be able to offer its solar customers the option to access working capital, receivables financing and other structured finance solutions in either US dollars or relevant local currencies. The rates on offer for local currency will vary depending on MFX’s own market-based hedging costs.

d.light’s D30 Pay-Go Solar Home System Touted to Be Fastest Pay-Go Off-Grid Solar Product to Reach Scale

With 120,000 units sold, almost all within the first six months of its October 2016 global launch, d.light’s D30 PayGo solar home system is proving to be one of the fastest pay-as-you-go off-grid solar products to reach scale. The company announced that sales continue to grow exponentially, and they are currently registering 800 new households a day. The product is available today in 1,500 outlets, which only represents about 10 percent of d.light’s total distribution network, so there is significant room for additional growth and expansion. The quick adoption of the D30 by consumers is a result of d.light’s ramp up of its Pay-Go financing options fueled by the $40 million in investment and debt funding the company received in September-December 2016.

d.light’s D30 system operates like personal power grids for homes or small businesses. It includes a solar panel, mobile phone charger, solar lights, light switches, a torch and an FM radio. The lights can last up to 17 hours on the low setting and are 12 times brighter than kerosene. Payment plans vary depending on the country. In Kenya, for example, customers pay USD $25 down, and then 40 cents per day for a year, without incurring any interest. Customers can make payments using a wide variety of mobile money platforms. Each device is unlocked to produce power when payment is received and remains unlocked as long as payments are made on time. Once paid in full, the Pay-Go solar home system is unlocked forever and customers then own their systems.

As an early pioneer in solar lighting and home systems, d.light paved the way for the development of the off-grid solar industry, including Pay-Go solar, and is now the industry’s largest solar brand for off-grid solar. The company has sold a total of 350,000 solar home systems over the last four years, inclusive of all previous models, some of which are not enabled with the Pay-Go system. d.light is the leading provider of off-grid solar solutions and has commanding market share in emerging regions, particularly in Africa and Asia. To date, the company has impacted over 65 million lives and aims to empower 100 million people with affordable and reliable solar by 2020.

Mobisol to light up Kenya’s rural homes by opening more solar stores; partners with MTN & Tecno to increase connectivity in rural Rwanda

Kenya’s rural homes are set to benefit with off-grid solar systems as Mobisol plans to open 20 more stores targeting rural markets. Through the new stores, the firm will have a personal touch with its customers.

Mobisol solar home systems provide enough electricity to power bright efficient LED lights, radios, mobile phones, TVs, DC fridges and a variety of further household and consumer appliances. The systems are powerful enough to run small businesses enabling entrepreneurial customers to create incremental income. Customers get a three-year flexible payment plan via mobile money as well as extended warranties, free installation and free maintenance for three years.

In Rwanda, Mobisol and MTN, South Africa-based multinational mobile telecommunications company, have joined hands to offer customers a high performance Tecno smart phone to be purchased on an attractive and affordable instalment payment scheme.

The smart phone model Tecno W2 is offered along with the Mobisol solar home system and affordable payment plan. The high-performance smart phone is equipped with an Android operating system, a convenient dual SIM for usage of a second SIM card, large touch screen display, 8GB built-in storage space, a high-resolution camera with flash, Wifi and bluetooth connectivity and long battery life.

MTN is offering a special data bundle for customers with this offer, including special free data bundles whilst customers are paying off the phone. The promotion is made affordable by a convenient payment plan through MTN Mobile Money for as little as RWF 66 per day. The offer can initially be found in MTN Musanze Service Center and in all Mobisol Shops throughout Rwanda.

Azuri raises funds to connect 6,000 homes to solar in Kenya, launches PayGo Solar Home Systems in Nigeria

Azuri Technologies, a UK-based solar kits firm, has raised Sh17 million through crowd funding to power its expansion in Kenya as it eyes a bigger share of the market. Azuri, which installs pay-as-you-go solar kits in off-grid homes, is targeting 6,000 new customers to grow its reach across the country in addition to Nyanza, Bomet and Eldoret where it has presence.

The firm said its new debt finance will enable its partner Raj Ushanga House to deploy 1,200 Azuri Solar Home Systems, providing clean electricity to about 6,000 people while enabling local businesses to flourish. Each kit, which comes with lamps and slots for phone and radio charging, costs between Sh12,500 and Sh24,500.

Azuri has also recently announced a partnership with Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) to launch its PayGo Solar Home Systems in Nigeria. Azuri’s PayGo Solar Home systems can power four LED bulbs providing up to 8 hours of lighting, a radio and a USB port with charging cables for mobile phones.

To own the unit, customers are required to pay the monthly top-up rate via mobile money for 36 months. Also, they’re provided an option of upgrading to a larger system, described as “energy escalator pathway.” Azuri will deploy 20,000 solar home systems to 20,000 rural households living without electricity. The deployment is expected to create 500 direct jobs, including solar installer and agents for a minimum of 24 months, and 5,000 indirect jobs. The partnership highlights the Government’s efforts to support the roll out of off-grid solar systems and its commitment to renewable technologies as a sustainable way to generate electricity for rural communities.

Smiling Through Light & Practical Action share observations from CSW61
In late March, at the UN’s 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61), Practical Action hosted a parallel session exploring Women as Agents of Change in Sustainable Energy Access Value Chains. The session, which heard from Practical Action’s Sudan and East Africa teams, Smiling through Light, Energy Research Institute Sudan and Solar Sister, demonstrated how important investing in women’s potential as entrepreneurs, technicians, policy-makers and thought-leaders is to achieving gender-transformative outcomes and more effective energy access approaches for all. For more information on the event and women’s diverse roles in energy access markets, see this blog from Practical Action and Smiling Through Light.

Practitioner Network members recognized as 2017 Ashden Awards finalists

The 2017 Ashden Awards have been narrowed down to 22 impressive organizations, covering what they consider to be the best in sustainable energy around the world. The international finalists list includes a number of our Practitioner Network members, including Angaza Design, Empower Generation, Mobisol, PEG Africa, and SunCulture.

Winners will be announced at the Awards Ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society in London on June 15th. They will receive a financial award of up to £20,000, along with tailored support and other help to promote their work. To participate in the ceremony, see here.

SunFunder on encouraging investment and tackling currency risk in Africa

Read this PV Tech interview of Andrea Griffin, vice president of global business development at SunFunder, a solar finance business with a mission to unlock capital for solar energy in emerging markets, here.

IEC calls on disruptive technology for universal energy access

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is stepping up efforts to bring electrical energy to those who have no access to electricity, via a disruptive technology – low voltage direct current (LVDC). The IEC is hosting the inaugural LVDC Conference on Sustainable Electricity Access, in Nairobi, Kenya, on 22 and 23 May 2017, in partnership with the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS).

LVDC is a disruptive technology that fundamentally changes and accelerates energy access. Over the last twenty years several mega-trends have created a groundswell of demand for LVDC. The need to mitigate the effects of climate change has seen a renewed focus on Energy Efficiency and sustainability, taking power generation increasingly towards renewable sources and away from fossil fuels.  In addition, the cost of energy generation from solar photovoltaics (PV) has become more accessible, while LED lighting has made the conventional incandescent lamp a thing of the past.

These trends challenge the traditional model of electricity distribution via alternating current (AC). Also, many of the technical issues that blocked the development of DC are no longer an obstacle. A diverse group of global experts in the IEC is currently preparing the technical foundation needed for the broad roll-out of LVDC.

Combined with some form of energy storage, LVDC has the potential to bring millions of people out of the dark. The IEC is driving the development of LVDC, making this technology safe and broadly accessible. Holding this conference in Africa will provide a real understanding of electricity access needs to IEC experts and stakeholders.

Standardization work for LVDC is perhaps one of the biggest societal impact initiatives undertaken by the IEC.  It requires a concerted effort by all stakeholders. For further reading, please see the article in e-tech of June 2015 and also visit the SEG4 and Syc LVDC.

Schneider Electric to start work on micro-grid demonstrator in Singapore

Energy management and automation specialist Schneider Electric has signed a tripartite agreement with Engie Lab1 and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to develop a renewable micro-grid demonstrator in Singapore.

The new initiative is part of the existing Renewable Energy Integration Demonstrator in Singapore (REIDS) project located on Semakau Island. Led by NTU with a consortium of partners, the REIDS aims to develop a micro-grid demonstrator to address the energy access challenge in off-grid areas and islands by integrating various renewable sources and storage systems.

The partners will look for scalability and ability to start from both greenfield system and brownfield system through a plug and play approach, a power control module allowing up to 100% intermittent renewable integration, and a multi-fluid optimization module to enhance synergies between different decentralized energy resources.

ALER Request for Case Studies: Mini-grids in Portuguese-Speaking African Countries

Under the agreement signed with RECP, ALER is currently translating the Mini-Grid Policy Toolkit into Portuguese and is adding new mini-grid case studies in Portuguese-Speaking African Countries (PALOP) to the document.
Therefore, we hereby request to all those who have information on mini-grid projects in Portuguese-Speaking African Countries, to send us all information about the projects via email, so that we can include them on the website and on the Mini-Grid Policy Toolkit document and thus contribute to the dissemination of these type of projects in Lusophone countries.

As an example, you can check “Monte Trigo” Case Study from Cape Verde here. The new case studies will have to follow this same structure.