Member Highlights – February 2016

Off-Grid Electric Continues to Scale its Operations and Reach

Off Grid Electric, a social enterprise working to bring affordable solar power to one million Tanzanian homes by 2017, has received a $5 million award from the U.S. Agency for International Development. This makes Off-Grid the first company to receive all three rounds of funding from USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) program, which is considered to be catalytic in attracting investment in stages – from proof of concept to testing and scaling. Before reaching the third stage of DIV funding focused on scaling, Off Grid Electric had received $100,000 for proof of concept and $1 million for testing. USAID offered incentives for the Off Grid Electric team to focus on serving base of the pyramid customers, keeping in line with the priorities of the U.S. government’s Power Africa Initiative. The company has also raised an additional $65 million in 2015.

You can view the investment needs of other network members working in the off-grid sector like Off-Grid Electric, as well as in other regions, via the practitioner Network interactive investment portal.

Mobisol – Smart High Quality Solar Solutions for 30,000 households in Tanzania

Mobisol Tanzania, now East Africa’s largest rent-to-own solar service provider, has so far provided solar solutions to over 35,000 households in East Africa and has installed more than 3.5MW solar capacity, thereby saving over 15,500 tons of CO2 each year. Following a promising Energy and Environment Partnership (EEP) funded pilot project in Tanzania in 2011, Mobisol has developed a suite of solar products, microfinance via mobile banking, and remote monitoring. Approximately one third of Mobisol’s customers earn incremental income by running energy-based businesses. The company has trained over 700 people through ‘Mobisol Akademie’ established in 2014. So far, 350 full-time employees have been employed and over 300 small entrepreneurs have been assisted, with over 90% of the team working in Tanzania and Rwanda. A certified “B Corporation” that embeds social as well as financial returns into its approach, Mobisol is currently working on expanding their product portfolio. Mobisol’s work and impact has been honored with a “Momentum for Change” Award by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Powerhive’s mobile-controlled microgrids provide solar power to rural Africa

Powerhive works with energy providers and utility companies to install solar-powered, mobile-controlled electricity grids (micro-grids) in Kenya. They have also developed cloud-based software, “Honeycomb”, to autonomously manage small-scale grid operations. Customers link to Honeycomb via payments using mobile or SMS, while the software keeps them and the power supplier up to date on their account status. Powerhive also provides an electrical metering system named “Asali,” designed to monitor the micro-grids and collect energy data. To this end, Caterpillar Ventures has joined Powerhive to support its development in emerging markets, and has received the backing of renewable energy enthusiast and Oscar nominated actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who sits as an advisory board member. The company’s flagship project plans to bring reliable electricity to 90,000 people in western Kenya. Caterpillar is one of eight investors in a $20 million Series A round led by Prelude Ventures. The venture financing will contribute to Powerhive’s planned global expansion and continued growth in East Africa where the company has operated several rural micro-grids since 2012. The collaboration between Powerhive and Caterpillar intends to combine Caterpillar’s depth of experience in emerging markets, technical expertise and scale with Powerhive’s micro-grid solutions, allowing both to serve energy demand growth in emerging markets.

Acumen Acquires SolarAid’s Off-Grid Energy Research and Impact Division

Acumen, the global social impact organization, has announced its acquisition of the award-winning Research and Impact division of SolarAid, the international nonprofit impact practitioner in the solar energy sector. In acquiring SolarAid’s research arm, Acumen intends to build on its decade of investing in off-grid energy, further deepening its understanding of the energy needs of low-income populations, while measuring the social impact of newly electrified individuals and households.

ONergy plans to deliver clean, reliable energy to a million people in India’s poorest regions

Social enterprise ONergy has joined the Business Call to Action (BCtA), a global initiative supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other international organizations that encourages companies to fight poverty utilizing innovative business models. ONergy has pledged to scale up its successful product distribution network in order to bring reliable solar-powered products to India’s poorest and underserved regions. The planned expansion includes potential provision of solar energy solutions benefiting one million people by 2017, and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 100,000 tons. ONergy reports already having provided solutions benefiting some 350,000 people, covering over 3,000 villages and towns supported by a network of 15 renewable energy centers.

SunFarmer for Agriculture in Nepal

SunFarmer reports the recent completion of a 750W solar water pumping system for three women-led farms in Chitwan, Nepal. With irrigation for their vegetable crops and fish farms, and affordable monthly payment installments for the system, the families expect to increase their income by 100% in three years. Watch the video and learn more about the project here.

ACCIONA Microenergia’s ‘Luz en Casa’ moves to the Peruvian Amazonia

ACCIONA Microenergia Peru has a mission to support access to electricity to isolated rural communities which are not included in the national grid extension of Peru, running their ‘Luz en Casa’ (lighting in homes) program in the  Mountainous north of Peru as a regulated public utility, and with a fee-for-service model that applies the official photovoltaic tariff. The National Fund of Scientific & Technological Development and Technological Innovation of Peru (FONDECYT) has awarded ACCIONA Microenergia Peru a grant to develop an electricity delivery model adapted to the Peruvian Amazonian region, and to establish a pilot project to deploy small scale solar solutions in at least 50 homes.

Colorado Energy Office and GRID Alternatives announce five rural low-income community solar demonstration projects

The Colorado, U.S. Energy Office and Practitioner Network member GRID Alternatives recently announced five community solar projects designed to demonstrate the viability of community solar models that serve low-income households in the USA. Each project is designed to optimize the community solar model to reduce energy costs for the utilities’ highest need customers – those who spend more than 4 percent of income on utility bills – in Colorado’s rural communities. GRID Alternatives received a $1.2 million Colorado Energy Office grant in August 2015 to support this work, and has played an instrumental role securing agreements from each utility partner. Each utility is piloting a slight variation on the low-income community solar model to address the unique needs of rural utility service areas and their customers. The projects selected are both affordable and scalable for utility partners, and offer great potential to expand across the state. The Colorado Energy Office and GRID Alternatives expect to secure additional partnerships with utilities through 2017 to install 1 MW of combined solar energy for a minimum of 300 low income subscribers.