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Member Highlights – December 2016 | Energy Access Practitioner Network

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Member Highlights – December 2016

Practitioner Network members participate in #GivingTuesday

Earlier this month, a number of Practitioner Network members participated in #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. Immediately following Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.

Practitioner Network members Solar Sister, Waka Waka, EarthSpark, EnVenture, LivelyHoods, IDEAS For Us, among others, all participated in this year’s #GivingTuesday to raise funds for various energy access projects. The UN Foundation also participated in #GivingTuesday by inspiring people on social media to share a GIF that highlights inequalities around the world. The #GiveaGIF campaign was a significant success, raising over $124,000 in online donations that will help provide measles vaccines to children around the world, educate refugee girls in Uganda, provide bed nets to protect families from malaria, support clean cookstoves, and educate refugee children.


Tesla merges with SolarCity, becomes large shareholder in Off-Grid Electric

Last month, investors in Tesla Motors and the solar panel producer SolarCity agreed to a merger of the two companies. Combining these two organizations will yield a green-energy company whose products include electric cars and solar panels for homes, and the combination of focus areas of energy storage and solar energy is expected to benefit developing nations, helping them to leapfrog the fossil fuel era and transition directly to renewable energy.

By acquiring SolarCity, Tesla has become a large shareholder in Practitioner Network member Off-Grid Electric, since SolarCity led two early rounds of financing of $16 million and $25 million last year alongside another Tesla investor, DBL Partners. While it remains to be seen what level of involvement Tesla will have with Off-Grid Electric, the merger is a significant step forward for the organization, and for further catalyzing pay-as-you-go solar in Africa.


IFC, FMO invest in Mobisol to deliver decentralized solar to East Africa

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) and FMO, the Dutch development bank, have invested a collective US$15.52 million (€14.62 million) in Mobisol, a German pay-as-you-go (PAYG) solar service company, in order to deliver renewable energy solutions to off-grid communities in East Africa.

The equity investment is split between €5.42 million from the IFC and €9.2 million from Dutch government funds managed by the FMO and is filtered into Investec Asset Management’s African Private Equity Fund and DEG, which has already invested in Mobisol. The new IFC/FMO funds will enable the company to focus on scaling and accelerate its growth in existing markets in Rwanda and Tanzania – where it has already installed more than 67,000 systems – and will aid its expansion into Kenya.

This latest investment is just one of many ventures into climate change in Sub-Saharan Africa that the IFC has made, following its work with Scaling Solar in Senegal and Zambia. The investment builds on its work to support the development of off-grid solar through its Lighting Global program, of which Mobisol is an associate, receiving advice on how to put out quality products, market effectively and expand its reach.


SunFunder adds ‘Beyond the Grid’ Fund for solar projects in places without electricity  

SunFunder recently announced the first close of the “Beyond the Grid” solar fund, a new fund totaling $21 million, with a goal of raising $50 million, backed by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), MCE Social Capital and The Rockefeller Foundation.

The new fund has dramatically increased the size and range of SunFunder’s debt finance offerings for solar in Africa, Asia, and other emerging markets. It takes SunFunder into a new trajectory, as the company positions itself at the forefront of the opportunity to mobilize significant amounts of funding for high-impact solar projects in the coming years.

The “Beyond the Grid” fund will finance an existing pipeline of solar projects and businesses needing debt finance to scale. Additionally, SunFunder will use the funds to expand some financial services for the sector, such as SAFI (structured receivables finance solution for pay-as-you-go solar companies), and move into commercial-scale project financings.


Energy4Impact: new initiative to bolster women’s involvement in the energy sector

Energy4Impact has launched a new program that seeks to boost women’s involvement in the renewable energy value chain in East Africa. Funding for the two-year Women Integration into Renewable Energy (WIRE) Value Chains program was secured in early September 2016. The program seeks to integrate women in rural Kenya and Tanzania into the renewable energy supply chain by providing them with business and technology training and mentorship, and supporting them to access financing and market opportunities.

Funded by the US Department of State, the program is part of the Partnership on Women’s Entrepreneurship in Renewables (wPOWER) launched by the Department in January 2013 to empower women clean energy entrepreneurs across East Africa, Nigeria and India to deliver clean energy access. The new program will collaborate with wPOWER to mitigate climate change by reducing carbon emissions and the degradation of natural resources from the use of dirty cooking and lighting fuels, including firewood and kerosene. The initiative is expected to provide 396,000 people with access to clean cooking and solar lighting products in Kenya and Tanzania and create 400 jobs.

In addition, Energy4Impact will work with wPOWER partners to support the expansion of the wPOWER network of women clean energy entrepreneurs. In Kenya, it will work with the Green Belt Movement, which serves as the wPOWER Hub, to identify some of the women entrepreneurs that are capable of successfully participating in the clean cooking and off-grid lighting value chain. Similar collaborative efforts will be pursued in Tanzania with the other wPOWER Partners, including Practitioner Network members CARE International and Solar Sister.


Nova-Lumos to power 75,000 households, SMEs in northern Nigeria

In a bid to alleviate Nigeria’s significant electricity deficit, Nova-Lumos is set to roll out a 10 MW off-grid system for 75,000 households and SMEs in northern Nigeria. The firm has received $15 million in the past twelve months from the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and a $218,000 grant from the Department for International Development (DFID)’s Solar Nigeria Programme to fund the project.

Nova-Lumos, which is offering a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) financing system, is collaborating with the mobile provider MTN Nigeria to allow consumers to pay using mobile wallets. Nigeria’s government is looking to off-grid solar, specifically PAYG solar solutions, to increase energy capacity within the country in a manner that is affordable for potential clients.


Raising US$1 million in equity to take off-grid energy in Pakistan to next level

See here for an in-depth interview with Practitioner Network member Shazia Khan, Co-founder and Executive Director, Eco Energy, an off-grid company in Pakistan.


Lighting Africa announces new website and resources for quality standards

Lighting Africa has just launched its new website, with user-friendly navigation that details how Lighting Africa builds solar markets and helps people access high-quality off-grid solar energy across Africa. The new website features up-to-date information about Lighting Africa activities in each of its country programs, and houses an extensive library of market research publications.

Lighting Africa has already helped 15.8 million people meet their basic electricity needs (lighting and mobile phone charging) in Africa through quality-verified off-grid solar products. To learn more about the progress towards its goal to reach 250 million more by 2030, visit the website’s news section, or follow Lighting Africa on Twitter.


Flexenclosure launches eSite x10 – the world’s first hybrid power system purpose-built to outdoor telecom standards

Flexenclosure, a global leader in intelligent power management for the ICT industry, has unveiled its new hybrid power system for telecom sites – the eSite x10. eSite x10 is said to be the world’s first hybrid power system purpose-built for outdoor telecom sites and adhering to outdoor telecom standards. It is a patented, sealed tamper-proof unit with passive convection cooling, no filters and no moving parts, and as such requires no maintenance.

Flexenclosure is an industry leader in the hybrid power system market, having deployed several thousand eSite systems in Africa and Asia.  Three years in development, eSite x10 has been purpose-built from the ground up to withstand the operational challenges that have been the downfall of many hybrid power implementations around the world to date.


SolarWorks! becomes first Pay-As-You-Go off-grid solar provider in Mozambique

SolarWorks! had its launch event last week, with the first shop opening in Matola, a city just outside of the capital city Maputo. In Mozambique, SolarWorks! is the first company to launch pay-as-you-go solar systems, payable with mobile money. The SolarWorks! systems vary in size from the security roof light that works with a motion sensor, to the 400Wh system which comes with three lights, each with light switches, and an inverter and can power a 40-inch LED TV for 6.5 hours.  The small systems are payable over a three-month period, while the large systems are repayable over 24 months.

In its first month, SolarWorks! sold approximately 100 units, and trained a team of 10 agents and technicians.  Some 20 million people in Mozambique do not have access to electricity, yet the political instability and debt crisis has discouraged off-grid solar providers from entering the market thus far. SolarWorks! is hopeful that its success will attract others to invest in the country in the coming years.


IEEE Smart Village & GHE Help Locals Harness the Himalayan Sun

Two Practitioner Network members, IEEE Smart Village and Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE), recently teamed up to bring renewable energy systems to Lingshed Monastery, a remote monastery in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, India, which includes a school and serves nearby villages.

IEEE Smart Village is a signature program of the IEEE Foundation, aiming to bring electricity to 50 million people during the next decade, while providing jobs to the community. GHE, which works to provide solar power to remote regions in the area, helped IEEE Smart Village volunteers navigate through the mountains of the Himalayas and set up equipment at locations throughout the community, including at the monastery and elementary school. With the exception of a few battery-powered lanterns, the monastery and school went completely dark at sundown. During the three visit, volunteers installed 14 DC micro-grids and five 20-watt DC streetlights in the area.


PowerMundo Pushes to Scale Up Off-Grid Solar in Peru

PowerMundo, a social impact startup that distributes off-grid clean energy products from lanterns to micro home solar systems, has been serving the nascent off-grid market for eight years. For most of that time, it has distributed solar LED lanterns. With a recent $300,000 USAID grant through the agency’s Development Innovation Ventures program, PowerMundo will now scale up its pay-as-you-go offering.

Given the smaller market in South America, private money is not yet readily available for the off-grid market; also, unlike in East Africa or India, mobile payments are not nearly as common in Peru. Until last year, Peru’s mobile payment platforms were all closed systems provided by each mobile provider. Now, the country’s banks have come together to launch a single platform, Bim, that the three main mobile carriers will offer access to. Another significant difference to other off-grid markets is that kerosene is illegal in Peru; most people use candles or burn diesel fuel. In Peru, the average income in the rural agricultural communities tends to also be higher than other regions with high rates of energy poverty, so consumers are often able to buy the basic solar LED lanterns outright without financing. Peruvians without access to electricity spend $15 to $20 per month on fuel, which may be more than 10 percent of their income.

PowerMundo is a distributor and facilitator rather than a manufacturer. It chooses best-in-breed technology to deploy, and has worked with providers such as Practitioner Network members d.light and Greenlight Planet. As PowerMundo scales up beyond lights, it will also have to provide training for its local networks to be able to service solar home systems. PowerMundo is hoping that access to mobile payments will also start to open up the markets where people have intermittent grid connections, especially on the outskirts of Lima. The company is working primarily in Peru, and has replicated its model with another organization in Honduras. It has also distributed some products in Bolivia, which would be its next target market beyond Peru.


QINOUS introduces new compact energy storage system

QINOUS has developed the  ESS QCompact, a new compact energy storage system that will soon be used to provide energy to a village in Tanzania. Together with an existing solar facility, the company hopes it will ensure a clean energy supply for the village.

The new system’s power capacity ranges from 30 to 200 kW power and up to 335 kWh. Occupying up to 4.5 square meters of floor space, the system includes a complete AC storage system and energy management system, and is ideally suited for use in remote regions with no connection to a national grid, as well as for grid-connected use in commercial or community applications.

The energy management system manages the flow of energy between various generation units, such as solar plants and diesel generators, and controls frequency and voltage in the grid. There is also a function that makes off-grid operation possible, so area networks can be supplied with a stable source of electricity in the event of a power failure. QINOUS monitors the state of the components, and the system performance is accessible via a secure web-based monitoring system.


The Government of Jamaica joins Solar Head of State coalition

In keeping with its promise to transition to 30% renewable energy for electricity generation by 2030, the Government of Jamaica announced its participation in the Solar Head of State coalition and plans for installing solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on the national executive office, Jamaica House, symbolic of the renewable future the government seeks for Jamaica and the Caribbean more broadly.

Solar Head of State partners with solar technology companies, local installers, major climate NGOs and foundations to offer well designed, professionally installed solar systems for the residences of heads of state or government around the world in order to showcase and promote the use of the technology. With support from its partners, Solar Head of State will install a donated 15kW grid-connected solar photovoltaic system on the Office of the Prime Minister, Jamaica House. The project will be done in coordination with the Clinton Climate Initiative and Rocky Mountain InstituteCarbon War Room’s Islands Energy Program.