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Member Highlights – June 2017
M-KOPA Solar has announced it has powered up 200,000 homes in East Africa, doubling the number of homes connected to its solar home systems in the past eight months.
In February M-KOPA Solar, which launched in Kenya in October 2012, had closed its fourth round of investment through a US$12.45 million equity and debt deal led by LGT Venture Philanthropy. In March the startup announced it had connected over 20,000 homes in Uganda to affordable solar power since launching in the country in mid-2013. The company says, as the average M-KOPA household has over five inhabitants, it is now providing power to over one million people across East Africa.
M-KOPA is now selling 500 new systems each day across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania through its network of over 1,000 direct sales agents and 85 customer service centers. The startup allows users to pay for their solar power through an annual payment plan, which includes a deposit of US$35 followed by 365 daily payments of US$0.43. These fees are paid using mobile money, with customers owning their system outright once they complete the payments.
Simpa Networks, a leader in providing affordable solar power to households and businesses in rural India, today announced the launch of Magic TV, the country’s first solar-powered Pay-as-you-Go (PAYG) satellite TV solution.
Simpa Magic TV includes 100+ free-to-air satellite TV channels, providing hours of entertainment, news, educational content and more. The system includes a 20” energy-efficient LED television, a powerful battery, advanced solar charge controller and three bright LED lights for multi-room lighting. The entire system is powered with an 80W panel, properly installed and mounted on the customer’s roof by a Simpa trained rural solar technician.
Purchased new, the home lighting and satellite TV system retails for INR 25,000 (USD 390). Ordinarily, such technology and benefits would be unaffordable for the energy-poor rural households that Simpa aims to serve. Simpa therefore offers point-of-sale financing options to the customer, allowing them to purchase the system over time on either 12, 24 or 36 month financing.
Simpa is pioneering the use of SmartPanel technology, which enables remote monitoring and control of the solar panel itself. Customers prepay for energy service, typically 30 days in advance. The SmartPanel delivers power every day until the prepaid credits expire. Then the customer must recharge or prepay for the next month’s service.
Mobisol is recognized as Technology Pioneer by World Economic Forum
Mobisol was selected among hundreds of candidates as one of the World Economic Forum’s “technology pioneers”, a selection of the world’s most innovative early-stage companies that are involved in the design, development and deployment of new technologies and innovations, and are poised to have a significant impact on business and society.
Mobisol focuses on plug-and-play solar solutions, e.g. high-quality solar home systems in sizes from 80 to 200Wp that can be combined with efficient direct-current appliances such as TVs, stereos, radios and the like. The products are being designed or tested for the market by Mobisol and then distributed through the company‘s over 50 shops in Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania where lower income customers can get access to electricity for the first time in their lives by paying off their solar products in instalments over 36 months via mobile money.
Practitioner Network members recognized as winners of Ashden Awards 2017
A number of Practitioner Network members have been recognized as finalists and winners by the 2017 Ashden Awards for their work in scaling energy access globally. The Ashden Awards are given to pioneers in sustainable energy and are a globally recognized measure of excellence. International Ashden Award winners receive £20,000 in prize money along with a tailored package of support to help scale up their work.
Among this year’s winners are Practitioner Network members Empower Generation, winner of the International Ashden Award for Clean Energy for Women and Girls; Mobisol, winner of the Judge’s Special Award; and PEG Africa, winner of the International Ashden Award for Innovative Finance.
The Edison Awards has named Azuri’s HomeSmart home solar power solution its Gold Winner in Energy & Sustainability/Solar Solutions. Celebrating 30 years of honoring the best in innovation and excellence in the development of new products and services, the Edison Awards recognizes achievement and celebrates success by organizations from across the globe.
Azuri’s innovative HomeSmart brings artificial intelligence for the first time to small domestic solar home systems. While conventional systems work well in sunny conditions, they often shut off early on cloudy days because they run out of power. HomeSmart uses learning technology to monitor both climatic conditions and historical customer usage patterns to ensure a full night of light, even following cloudy days. This use of machine-learning marks a next step in addressing the needs of the 1.2 billion people that have no access to mains power.
For grid-connected customers, solar power is a way of saving money. For off-grid customers in developing countries, it is often the only access households have to electrical power for lighting, phone-charging, radio, TV and other essential devices. Without the grid as backup, customers rely solely on the stored power to provide services at night and if that power is insufficient, households are often forced back to solutions such as candles and kerosene lamps.
HomeSmart solves this problem in two ways: firstly, the system actively monitors customer usage to determine a typical expected performance. Then, by accurately monitoring the climatic conditions, the system automatically adjusts the light brightness to meet the user’s expected lighting duration. This active optimisation of light brightness, battery charging and load conditions ensures the system delivers the best possible match to the customer’s typical daily requirement with the available power.
Are PAYGo Solar Companies a New Type of Microfinance Institution?
Pay-as-you-go (PAYGo) solar companies have been lauded for their ability to provide low-income rural households with clean, affordable energy. Yet there are many unanswered questions about their business models that may limit the speed and scope of their growth. Are they energy service companies, durable goods retailers or microfinance institutions? Read this CGAP blog post, featuring Practitioner Network members Off-Grid Electric & M-KOPA to learn more.
Orb Energy inaugurates new head office and 60 megawatt PV moduling plant
In March, Orb Energy inaugurated its new head office in Yeshwanthapur, Bangalore, that holds more than 75 staff.
Integrated on the same site, Orb’s state-of-the-art 60 megawatt PV moduling line is now servicing its growing commercial rooftop business. At this facility Orb manufacturers 250 – 260 Wp and 305 – 325 Wp PV modules.
In the financial year that ended in March, Orb financed (in-house) 2MW out of 8MW of total rooftop PV projects. Of these, 8 projects were schools, with 15,380 students now benefiting from reliable solar power. Orb also financed hospitals, agribusiness plants and various commercial and industrial customers.
Orb has also sold and installed more than 110 solar water pumps (equivalent to more than 600kWp) in the last financial year. That is the equivalent of approximately 800 acres of land now being irrigated with solar by Orb Energy. This was primarily in north Karnataka, where water is scarce for local farmers.
Orb’s team in Kenya (which has grown to 80 employees) sold and installed more than 5,000 numbers of plug and play solar lighting systems with the support of leading banks and MFI’s in Kenya last financial year. Orb’s business in Kenya particularly helps families with no electricity – providing safe, reliable light, mobile phone charging and color TV to thousands of unelectrified rural households and enterprises.
Indian off-grid solar energy enterprise Mera Gao Power has raised $2.5 million in equity funding from the Insitor Impact Fund, the ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies Initiative and the Electrification Financing Initiative. The investment was made with the support of Singapore-based Impact Investment Exchange (IIX), an impact enterprise and fellow Practitioner Network member that bridges the gap between finance and development, carving out third space for global social and environmental solutions by unlocking investment capital.
Mera Gao Power plans to use this latest funding to expand to over 5,000 additional rural off-grid villages across the state, providing over 50,000 households with access to reliable energy for the first time. Mera Gao Power focuses on providing low-cost energy services to remote villages in India that have under 50 households. It offers a solar-powered micro-grid which costs less than $1,000 to install and provides access to energy for the most remote villages at under $2 per month.
We Care Solar’s work enables mothers to have access to safe childbirth in health centers lacking reliable electricity. We Care Solar celebrated the formal launch of our Light Every Birth initiative in March – a global campaign to support healthy childbirth with affordable, accessible, clean solar lighting and power.
Liberia became the first country to formally pledge to Light Every Birth by ensuring that every delivery room has reliable lighting and electricity. In partnership with the Ministry of Health, UN agencies, and several NGOs (Public Health Initiative Liberia, Africare and Energising Development), We Care Solar will be reaching more than 250 health centers through the program.
SOLARKIOSK has partnered with fellow Practitioner Network member Energy4Impact to bring energy access to entrepreneurs in rural off-grid communities in Kenya, where SOLARKIOSK will soon implement its first Connected Solar Market Centers. At these market centers, local entrepreneurs will access the clean energy produced by the E-HUBB to develop their business activities side by side with those of the E-HUBB, thereby strengthening economic development in these villages.
At these centers, SOLARKIOSK hopes to make it possible for barbers and hairdressers, small restaurants, motorbike repair shops, tailors, cyber cafes or viewing halls to grow and thrive alongside the E-HUBB, benefitting not only from reliable renewable energy but also from the foot traffic around the E-HUBB. Sun shading, tables and seating in the market center will also make it possible to host social and educational events, creating an environment which strengthens community cohesion.
Energy4Impact will join SOLARKIOSK in this endeavor by providing business advisory support to deploy the first Connected Solar Market Centers in Kenya, providing tools for development of entrepreneurs and customized businesses for the rural market.
Practitioner Network members Mobisol and Lumeter partnered in the off-grid PayGo energy industry, creating synergies between Mobisol’s solar hardware distribution for off-grid clients and Lumeter’s infrastructure for PayGo payment platform. The two companies together create an unrivaled player with strong pricing power and expertise in the metering sector.
Combining two known industry brands, their plan focuses on short-term cost savings, and long-term strategic opportunities for growth, which are abundant in this emerging market. There is a complementary fit across products, distribution, and geography.
For Mobisol, ramping up in the metering sector, Lumeter’s scale and focus on growth offers greater control over this important market, something that ought to improve operational effectiveness. The deal also creates new revenue opportunities in business services. Over the past years, Lumeter has professionalized its software to support products and services that build on micro-finance schemes in order to be affordable to the millions of households that are still without reliable access to energy. Through this partnership, two leading companies in the sector will be sharing expertise.
EBL will set up a solar system at an isolated outpost deep in the jungle for rangers, working to prevent poaching. The solar power installed at the outpost will help rangers stay in touch with park authorities and power spotlights that help protect them at night. At the same time, to help rural communities thrive without draining the park’s natural resources, EG will train 10 local women, whose economic opportunities have traditionally been limited, to sell a range of clean energy technologies such as solar home systems and improved cookstoves.
EBL and EG’s joint project will continue their previous efforts in Nepal, detailed in the short film Bufferzone, that explores the unique challenges of living in in a stunning place where the wild animals that make the region unique—from tigers to sloth bears to elephants—can attract tourists but can also attack neighboring villages and people. Watch the Bufferzone trailer here and the Bufferzone film here.
EG and EBL are seeking to raise USD $50,000 to help support the new project, which will assist hard-working people in Nepal in their efforts to:
- Protect Chitwan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Protect single-horned Asiatic rhinos and Bengal tigers from poachers
- Train Nepali women, who have a particularly difficult time securing formal employment, to sell clean energy products and even start their own businesses
- Reduce dependence on dirty and dangerous sources of energy, including diesel generators and kerosene burners that put the community’s health and safety at risk
- Kick-start eco-tourism in a place where economic development options are limited.
For more information and to contribute, please see here.
Solaris Offgrid completed an equity round of over €1 million investment from a group investors, including InnoEnergy, RenoVAfrica, and Zubi Labs. The funding will support both R&D (based in Europe) and the expansion of operations in developing countries.
By focusing on innovation and adaptiveness, Solaris Offgrid has been able to supply charging controls that have jumped from 20 to 200 watts of solar power and make the purchase of their products more financially accessible in Tanzania and beyond. Solaris Offgrid is also highly experienced in last-mile operations, offering a wide range of products and services that best suit the environment in which they are installed.
The Rockefeller Foundation plans to create a Smart Power Africa initiative on the continent starting with Uganda and Kenya. The initiative will be modeled along the lines of the ‘Smart Power for Rural Development’ initiative that the Foundation unveiled in India In April 2015 to extend electricity to 1,000 villages in three years to one million people in the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
In India, Rockefeller invested US$75 million and created a new organization—Smart Power India—to expand the Smart Power model which uses mini-grid technology for both lighting and productive use.
The Rockefeller initiative is based on data showing that round the world, 1.3 billion people lack access to electricity. In Uganda, only 20 % of the country’s households have access to electricity, according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, the lowest in East Africa outside of Burundi.
Rockefeller could also support Uganda’s agriculture sector, solar power, research centers, and infrastructure. The government is committed to promoting use of solar water pumps and rural lighting and that promotion of the private sector led-growth requires availability of low cost infrastructure.
The Rockefeller Foundation’s involvement in Uganda dates back to the 1930s with investments in health
Sigora International, a U.S. based technology development company, is set to electrify about 215 rural households in the Kaanja area of Sioma district in Western Province of Zambia using solar energy. Sigora Zambia will manage the pilot project which will be deployed in Sioma district. It will power 200 homes (electrifying a total of 1,200 people) and 15 businesses with 24/7 refrigeration and water pumping capable electricity. The project will include the electrification of the Kaanja Health Clinic, Veterinary Offices, and the Kaanja Primary School.
The solar array for the pilot site will be constructed on a raised platform that will provide a shaded public area for community activities, such as a market.
Little Sun and Santa Shoebox Project have teamed up to bring solar light to students in rural south Africa. With the help of people who shared light by symbolically purchasing Little Suns online, a total of 1395 solar lamps were raised and have now been distributed by Santa Shoebox Project to children living in some of south Africa’s most remote areas such as Hoedspruit, Calvinia, and Matatliele. The children live in communities where few homes are connected to the electrical grid, face social problems and the high risk of shack fires.
A team of employees from Trojan Battery Co. have traveled with the GRID Alternatives International Program to install solar panels with battery backup power systems for a school and health clinic in San Isidro, Jinotega, Nicaragua.
The solar systems will provide electricity for lighting and powering electronics for the school, cell phone charging for community members, and life-saving medical equipment in the clinic. Electricity in the buildings also means the entire village will be able to use them after hours for adult education, gatherings, events and celebrations.
GRID Alternatives is a nonprofit organization that brings together community partners, volunteers and job trainees to implement solar power and energy efficiency in underserved communities. GRID’s International Program has installed 120 systems in 31 off-grid communities in Nicaragua and Nepal. Trojan has been providing financial support and battery donations for the program since 2010.
Additionally, GRID Alternatives is the recipient of a US$950,000 award to implement the first year of Solar Works DC, a three-year solar installation and job training program for low-income bracket residents in Washington D.C. Solar Works DC will provide PV installation training for up to 225 D.C. residents and install PV systems on up to 300 low-income single family homes over the three-year program lifetime, saving each household roughly US$15,000 in energy costs.
Pollinate Energy launches #PollinatePower campaign
Pollinate Energy and Powershop have joined forces again for the #PollinatePower campaign. Supporters in Victoria, New South Wales and South East Queensland can switch their electricity to Powershop and join one of the best energy retailers in Australia. At the same time, Pollinate Energy will receive a payment for every switch to use towards work that brings life changing products to people who need them most. Through the #PollinatePower campaign, Pollinate Energy will help provide families in India’s urban slums with clean and affordable solar lighting.
Powershop is Australia’s first 100% certified carbon neutral electricity and has been ranked Australia’s greenest power company for two years running. Powershop supplies electricity to over 85,000 customers in New South Wales, South East Queensland, and Victoria.