United Nations has called on
businesses, governments, and
civil society to achieve Sustainable
Energy for All by 2030
Member Spotlight – April 2016
Energy Access Practitioner Network member Mobisol has just been announced as one of the 2016 “New Energy Pioneers” by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The Germany-based solar service provider was selected as one of 10 game-changing innovators that are revolutionizing the energy sector for the New Energy Pioneer Award 2016 at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit in New York City.
Mobisol has recently celebrated empowering their 200,000th beneficiary while simultaneously announcing their market entry into Kenya. The solar service provider has grown substantially since commencing operations in Tanzania 2013. By early 2014, Mobisol had sold 2,000 systems, and one year later had already electrified 10,000 homes and businesses in Tanzania and Rwanda. Presently, Mobisol’s solar solutions are servicing over 40,000 households in East Africa – equating to about 200,000 beneficiaries served.
The company’s work and impact has already been honored by a number of prestigious recognitions, such as the “Momentum for Change” Award by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the PV Magazine Award for “Top Business Model 2015” and the “Off-Grid Expert” Award. In 2015, Mobisol was elected by SUSTAINIA as one of the TOP10 sustainable solutions in the world, and the company’s CEO has been named as “Social Innovator of the Year 2015” by Technology Review.
Mobisol’s plug-and-play products are affordable and instantly available to rural customers
Mobisol has developed an innovative product design and service offering that is fully adjusted to East African customers’ needs. Mobisol’s offer combines high-quality solar products, innovative IT solutions, microfinance via mobile banking, and comprehensive customer service to provide sustainable energy directly to rural customers. All of Mobisol’s energy-efficient products are thoroughly tested and certified by an in-house quality assurance team based in Germany. Additionally, all Mobisol suppliers are certified in accordance to ISO9001.
The solar products are made affordable by a rent-to-own financing plan comprising micro loans to be paid off via Mobile Money over a period of 36 months in small, flexible installments. The “plug’n‘play” Mobisol system is quickly installed by locally trained and certified technicians. It includes a solar panel, battery, solar controller, lights, as well as cell phone chargers.
Mobisol operates with the philosophy that “big is beautiful“: As opposed to most companies in the sector, Mobisol has, from the onset, decided to focus on large solar home systems that are able to deliver 100% of the electricity needs of customers. Being convinced that “real electrification is more than just three lights”, Mobisol offers four different system sizes ranging between 80 and 200 watts. The systems can illuminate entire households, and power laptops, radios, TVs and fridges and are powerful enough to run energy-based businesses.
Comprehensive customer service ensures sustainable household electrification
Mobisol solar systems come complete with an extended warranty and comprehensive customer service: The standard service package includes free installation by certified technicians, free maintenance for three years including a free-of-charge service hotline, 48 hours repair service, and remote monitoring of each system. Through the GSM modem included in the solar controller, technical data regarding the panel, battery and energy consumption is tracked and monitored in a web-based interface. This way, potential technical issues can be addressed swiftly and efficiently, and usage problems can be anticipated and solved before they become a more serious complication for customers. Additionally, systems can be locked remotely in case of overdue repayment or theft.
Mobisol’s solar solutions positively impact the quality of life, health, education and economic opportunities of rural communities
Mobisol has so far installed more than 4MW solar capacity for over 40,000 households in East Africa. The larger size of Mobisol systems allows Mobisol to make the claim that solar home systems, despite being off-grid and stand-alone solutions, can be perfectly valid electrical grid substitutes and real infrastructure.
Owning their personal electricity source has a significant positive socio-economic impact on lower-income households. Efficient, bright LED bulbs and longer light hours increase productivity in the evening. With Mobisol systems in use, over 120,000 children can now do their homework and play at night without having to rely on unhealthy kerosene. Mobisol clients no longer have to travel long distances to shops with generators to charge their cell phones and other appliances. The quality of life in rural communities is improved by the readily available energy to power electrical appliances such as fridges to cool farm produce, laptops, and internet routers for access to information, as well as fans, radios, TVs and stereos for family comfort and entertainment.
Green jobs and capacity building directly contribute to the local economy in rural off-grid regions
Solar power can be an important accelerator for rural economies, and many customers make use of Mobisol’s solar systems for commercial purposes. Approximately one third of Mobisol customers earn incremental income by running businesses such as by charging people’s mobile phones and solar lanterns, running barber salons or operating village cinemas. This way, approximately 13,000 businesses in East Africa generate additional household income of over US $5 million per year combined.
Mobisol has also created over 700 permanent jobs across three continents, with over 90% of the team working in Tanzania and Rwanda. Mobisol further boosts local labor markets through in-house training opportunities: The Mobisol Akademie ensures a comprehensive education of employees and certifies all customer-facing staff.
Mobisol currently offsets approximately 20,000 tonnes of CO2 per year by replacing fossil fuels and has publicly devoted itself to social and environmental commitments. It has, for example, developed a carbon-offset project in cooperation with myclimate, whose climate protection projects are characterized by their compliance with very strict environmental and social criteria. Additionally, Mobisol is a certified B Corporation – a designation that requires companies to meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability.
Mobisol has developed a scalable, replicable business model and is expanding into further markets
The success and replicability of Mobisol’s business model had first been proven in Tanzania, where over 30,000 solar home systems have been installed since 2013. Mobisol has furthermore developed a “blueprint” of all processes and structures within one country that can easily be deployed for further project countries. In 2014, Mobisol expanded into Rwanda where it engaged in a cooperation partnership with the Rwandan Government, MTN – the largest mobile network operator in Rwanda – and the European Union to jointly facilitate access to clean and reliable energy for a total of 49,000 Rwandese households and 1,000 schools.
Mobisol is now moving the business to a larger scale. After the successful implementation of its product-service offer in Tanzania and Rwanda, the company has set new targets: Recently Mobisol has announced its market entry into Kenya, and expansion to further countries is being planned. Additionally, the company is constantly broadening its product-service portfolio of direct-current appliances and business solutions.
In addition to supplying affordable and sustainable energy access and a set of appliances (Mobisol 1.0), Mobisol is currently commencing to provide further products and services to its customers. For “Mobisol 2.0“, Mobisol is piloting loan, insurance and agricultural product and service offerings to expand their portfolio of solutions. In the near future, Mobisol aspires to provide a wide range of additional essential services to customers in Base of the Pyramid (BoP) markets in emerging nations.