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Member Highlights – January 2017 | Energy Access Practitioner Network


Member Highlights – January 2017

Off Grid Electric raises USD 7.5m to expand in Rwanda

Off Grid Electric has obtained USD 7.5 million in debt financing from impact investment manager Developing World Markets (DWM). The distributed solar firm plans to use the funds to expand the footprint of its consumer brand Zola and to scale operations in Rwanda, where it started doing business in January 2016. Off Grid Electric intends to install solar systems for a total of 100,000 Rwandan homes by 2019.

Off Grid Electric has also partnered with Rwanda’s national utility company, Energy Development Corporation Limited (EDCL). The cooperation is part of the nation’s Rural Electrification Strategy, the goal of which is to provide access to solar power to 70% of local homes by June 2018.

 $10.5 Million More for d.light Brings Its Total Off-Grid Solar Funding to Over $40 Million in Four Months

d.light’s work to empower lives through clean, safe and affordable off-grid solar solutions has garnered another $10.5 million in funding. Coming off recent $22.5 million Series D and $7.5 million debt funding rounds, the new investment will help expand its operations and bring clean off-grid power to low-income families in Africa and Asia, using Pay-as-you-Go (PayGo) financing solutions. The company raised $5 million in equity from new investor Norfund, as well as $5.5 million in grant funding from Beyond the Grid and Shell Foundation. The $5 million equity investment in d.light is done by the co-investment vehicle, KLP Norfund Investments. KLP is Norway’s largest pension fund manager and participates with funding in this vehicle.

Photo Credit: d.light

Photo Credit: d.light

d.light is one of the leading providers of off-grid solar solutions and has commanding market share in emerging markets, with a focus on Africa and Asia. The company has impacted over 65 million people through its sales of more than 15 million solar light and power products in 62 countries. d.light continues to sell hundreds of thousands of units per month, while maintaining excellent quality at scale.

Since 2007, d.light has focused on raising the 2.3 billion people around the world without reliable access to electricity up the energy access ladder by giving them access to high-quality off-grid solar solutions. d.light is on track to empower 100 million lives by 2020 and is actively seeking partners to help the company achieve this goal.

 Solar Sister enters new phase of partnership with the US State Department’s wPOWER program

As part of the Partnership on Women’s Entrepreneurship in Renewables (wPOWER), Solar Sister will work to double its network of clean energy entrepreneurs from 2,500 to 5,000 by the year 2020.

The wPOWER initiative, launched by the US Department of State in 2013, aims to unlock women’s potential to address climate change by empowering women entrepreneurs to deliver clean energy access in hard to reach communities around the world. wPOWER, modeled after many of Solar Sister’s core principles, has trained more than 4,700 entrepreneurs and brought solar and clean cooking solutions to 2.2 million people. To date, wPOWER has committed $9 million in funding to organizations like Solar Sister to help reach its goal of empowering 8,000 women clean energy entrepreneurs and providing energy access to 3.5 million people.

In 2013, Solar Sister received a $1 million grant from wPOWER to scale its operations across Nigeria and Tanzania. With that initial investment, Solar Sister recruited 1,561 entrepreneurs and brought clean energy access to 600,000 people living in rural, last mile communities. Solar Sister also partnered with the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) to strengthen its impact tracking tools. In 2015, ICRW conducted an extensive qualitative assessment of Solar Sister’s model in Tanzania which demonstrated the range of positive impacts being a Solar Sister entrepreneur has on a woman’s life, her household, and her community. The report can be found here.

Building off of the success of the first wPOWER project, Solar Sister recently received an additional $750,000 wPOWER grant to grow its women-centered last mile distribution chain for portable solar and clean cooking solutions and improve climate change mitigation in rural communities. Over the next two years, Solar Sister aims to recruit an additional 1,000 grassroots entrepreneurs across Uganda, Nigeria and Tanzania and deliver clean energy access to over 500,000 beneficiaries.

To meet this strategic goal, Solar Sister is working with industry experts and bringing in new wPOWER institutional partners to:

  • Address financial barriers women face in assessing clean energy driven economic opportunities by partnering with Project Concern International in Tanzania and Women for Women International in Nigeria.
  • Build Public Awareness in collaboration with leading behavior change and marketing communication partner TBWA/Khanga Rue in Tanzania.
  • Grow the evidence base for the impact of women’s energy entrepreneurship through a research project led by MIT’s Comprehensive Initiative on Technology Evaluation (CITE).

SOLARKIOSK announces inauguration of the Connected Solar Clinic to enhance healthcare in refugee populated Al-Mafraq, Jordan

SOLARKIOSK and Siemens Stiftung’s Connected Solar Clinic is the first structure of its kind, enabling a

superior level of medical services in off-grid settings. The clinic designed and implemented by SOLARKIOSK is equipped with high quality medical diagnostics and treatment equipment, such as an ultrasound and a hematology lab, and is able to treat up to 75 patients per day.

Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis a vast number of Syrian refugees have fled to bordering countries. Today, almost 700,000 refugees live in Jordan alone according to UNHCR. The Al-Mafraq region in Jordan hosts a substantial part of the migrating population due to the proximity of the Syrian borderline, with refugees living in the Zaatari refugee camp as well as in off-camp conditions. This increase in Mafraq’s inhabitants has put considerable strain on the governorate’s medical facilities, necessitating the establishment of additional facilities, outfitted with the required modern medical equipment, to cope with increased demand from residents and refugees alike.

The Connected Solar Clinic will therefore provide much needed capacity to ensure healthcare for Syrian refugees as well as the local community in the Al-Mafraq region. Its unique setup makes it a reference project as a unique solution based on an award-winning design that is meant to enhance healthcare in the region and contribute to easing tensions in a highly vulnerable host community.

The Connected Solar Clinic is entirely autonomous from the electrical grid and powers a range of medical devices by additional project partners DOAA Trading Establishment and First National Medical Services (FNMS). In addition, the solar energy that powers the clinic also supports broadband connectivity that links it to the digital health platform of the Jordanian Ministry of Health.

The design thus enables multiple functionalities which are crucial in any humanitarian crisis: energy, health, connectivity.

PEG to reward solar customers with free insurance cover

PEG Africa, West Africa’s leading pay-as-you-go financing company, announced a new nationwide partnership with BIMA, the global microinsurance and health pioneer, and Prudential Life. Eligible PEG customers will receive free insurance cover as a reward for loyalty and timely loan repayment.

PEG provides financing for solar products to low-income households on a 12 month rent-to-own plan.  PEG’s typical customer lives in a rural area and earns $5-$10 per day, spending up to 30% of that income on poor quality fuels such as kerosene, candles and batteries. While these customers have little ability to purchase a solar home system for cash, the payment plan offered by PEG allows them to purchase it over time, building ownership in the asset over 12 months with daily payments of 50 cents.

One of the primary reasons that PEG’s customers cease repaying their solar loan on-time is a health emergency that requires hospitalization.  Poor consumers often have little or no savings, and an unexpected emergency or health issue can mean they spend the following months living hand-to-mouth.  Realizing this challenge, PEG worked with BIMA to create a unique insurance product that is specifically tailored to the kinds of emergency situations faced by a poor rural household.

PEG and BIMA have already conducted a successful pilot project providing insurance to over 2000 families. They will now scale the program nationwide, providing a vital financial safety net that creates an even more affordable way for Ghanaians to fund their energy needs. This exclusive hospitalization insurance product pays out for every night spent in hospital as a result of illness or injury, underwritten by Prudential Life.

Orb Energy celebrates 10-year anniversary

Orb Energy recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary, with progress made on:

  • Orb’s in-house finance facility for small to medium scale enterprises, having so far financed one megawatt of rooftop solar projects,
  • Announcement of the completion of some of its largest rooftop solar projects to date, and having a hand at the growing water pumping segment in India,
  • Receipt of the latest ISO 9001:2015 certification, and
  • Launch of a new version of its Plug and Play product for Africa featuring remote control capability, which is already being sold in Kenya.

In addition, Orb Energy has also partnered with climate and development experts ClimateCare to widen access to solar energy in rural and semi-urban areas in India, where awareness and uptake remains low.

The program issues Gold Standard carbon credits using climate finance to support sales, installation and critical after-sales service for solar energy systems across India. Access to affordable finance also helps overcome initial up-front investment costs, and local sales teams work with households and commercial businesses to find the best system to meet their energy needs; whether that’s heating water, or powering lights, fans, refrigeration, or even full factories. High quality product installation and regular preventative maintenance visits are provided by Orb’s country-wide network of technicians to ensure householders know how to use their solar energy systems and where to reach in case of any problems.

The program has already helped to create 400 skilled jobs, particularly in rural areas, and led to the sale of more than 100,000 solar energy systems. Interested companies should contact the ClimateCare team on +44(0)1865 591000 or email business@climatecare.org.

IEC to host LVDC event in Kenya in May

On 22 and 23 May 2017, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) will organize in partnership with the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) the very first LVDC (low voltage direct current) Conference on Sustainable Electricity Access, in the Hotel InterContinental in Nairobi, Kenya.

The event is geared to government representatives, funding agencies, investors, insurance companies, power utilities, equipment manufacturers, project implementers and technical experts active in the area of energy access.

The aim is to promote the fast expansion of LVDC as an important tool to accelerate sustainable universal energy access. The conference will collect real needs and requirements that will influence standardization work and key performance and risk assessment indicators. This will allow regulators and systems administrators to benchmark different LVDC solutions. The conference will especially focus on using the World Bank ESMAP Multi-Tier Framework and how LVDC could be the tool for enabling it.

The conference will also outline why LVDC is a disruptive technology that will fundamentally change and accelerate energy access and point out opportunities for growth of local economic activities.

More information about the conference and LVDC can be found here.

TRINE raises $3.7million to connect investors to profitable solar energy projects in Africa

TRINE, a crowdfunding investment platform which helps investors locate and fund profitable solar energy projects in developing countries is raising US$3.7 million to scale its operations in East Africa, in a move expected to enable the spread of solar energy in the region and beyond. TRINE works with solar partners who use the site to raise working capital from crowd-investors to be able to offer affordable and reliable solar energy to local communities. This helps to relieve the pressure of up-front costs, whilst encouraging people to abandon the traditional use of expensive and harmful fuels.

Launched in February 2016, TRINE has funded eight projects and catalyzed €442,000 of crowd-investment in total. By 2021, the company’s goal is to have funded 1,000 projects and provided 66 million people with clean energy.

To reduce risks associated with solar access projects, TRINE performs extensive due diligence processes on all solar partners before deciding to sign a loan agreement with them, using an in-house risk tool and assessment framework focusing on the areas of technology, market, organization and financials.  Solar partners pay a 5% arranger fee for successful funding of their project, and currently pays between 10-16% interest rate on a declining balance of the loan. TRINE and the crowd-investors evenly split the expected returns.

TRINE currently has solar energy projects in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Senegal. To learn more, visit their website.

SunFarmer reviews 2016, looks to replicate success in 2017 and beyond

SunFarmer recently published its 2016 Annual Report showcasing the growth of SunFarmer Nepal, which has installed solar panels on over 20 health facilities and began work on two of the largest solar energy projects in Nepal – a 100 kW installation at Bayalpata Hospital and a 50 kW installation at Kirtipur Hospital, in the last year.

In addition, SunFarmer is exploring the opportunity to provide solar energy to farmers that need electricity for pumping water with a new business model, whereby farmers pay for solar-powered water pumps in affordable installments over a 2-3 year period. SunFarmer has already completed 26 installations at farms in the southern region of Nepal, and based on this successful pilot, have signed agreements with major banks and cooperatives to expand the work to eight districts in Nepal.

With SunFarmer Nepal’s success, SunFarmer is now looking outward to replicate its work to launch five high-impact, locally-run solar energy companies in the next 3 years. Its second country will be announced soon with the launch of a fund-raising campaign in 2017.

Partner with SunnyMoney to impact 30,000 lives with clean energy by June 2017

SunnyMoney’s new Solar Kwa Wote’ Initiative aims to raise KES 6 million towards lighting up Kenya via its Solar Home Systems kits. SunnyMoney is looking for partners and donations to distribute 6,000 such kits by the end of June 2017 and impact  30,000 lives, translating to 6,000 families and 18,000 children.

Energy 4 Impact in collaboration with the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID) are going to match every donation shilling for shilling (up to USD 30,000). Sunny Money has been able to raise over KES 3.7 million so far. To learn more and support this cause visit here.

SunCulture leadership recognized by Forbes

The recent Forbes announcement of the 30 Under 30: Energy list includes CEO of SunCulture, Samir Ibrahim, recognizing the company he and co-founder Charles Nichols envisioned and founded, which sells solar-powered drip irrigation systems to farmers in Kenya. For further details on Samir’s work, please see the Forbes 30 Under 30 entry.

Practitioner Network members win the Solar Lantern Competition 2016

After a four week voting period with participation from 30 countries, the Solar Lantern Competition 2016 product awards were given to Practitioner Network members MPOWERD (Luci Original,
top voted by users in developed countries) and d.light (A1 solar lamp,
 top voted by users in developing countries). To learn more about the competition and its results, see here.

Smart Hydro Power’s floating turbines provide electricity to world’s most remote locations

Smart Hydro Power designs and manufactures hydrokinetic turbines to provide a renewable source of electricity to inaccessible rural locations. In this movie, Smart Hydro Power’s Karl Kolmsee explains how the small hydrokinetic turbines developed by his company Smart Hydro Power can provide a reliable source of electricity to remote rural communities.



Smart Hydro Power’s turbines feature a float on the top and are fixed in position using an anchor and tethers so that the rotor sits just below the surface of the river. The power output depends on the current of the river, but a turbine can provide 8,500 kilowatt hours of electricity a year on average – good enough for 30 households and a small workshop.

Smart Hydro Power packages its turbines together with solar panels and diesel generators – a backup in case the flow of the river slows. Its main customers are currently NGOs working in Latin America, Africa and India. To date, it has set up and installed 50 turbines in these countries, which feed into micro-grids that provide a steady supply of electricity year-round.

To learn more about Smart Hydro Power’s work, see their feature in our recent Practitioner Network best practices webinar.

 Little Sun’s year in pictures

Did you know Little Sun worked with refugees in Greece, starred in a documentary in Zimbabwe and was featured at COP22 in Marrakech? See Little Sun’s year in pictures here.