United Nations has called on
businesses, governments, and
civil society to achieve Sustainable
Energy for All by 2030
Member Spotlight – February 2016
Energy Access Practitioner Network Members Azuri Technologies Win United Nation Momentum for Change Award in ‘Financing for Climate Friendly Investment’ at COP21 – Real Solutions & Real Momentum Underway Around the World.
Azuri Technologies are a commercial provider of Pay-As-You-Go solar systems to rural off-grid communities, who have been deploying systems since 2012. Claiming to have the widest reach of any provider in sub-Saharan Africa, the company is addressing the problem of energy access affecting the 1.1 billion people around the world who lack connection to the grid. Azuri’s headquarter is located in Cambridge, United Kingdom, with staff based in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana and Ethiopia. The Azuri light and mobile phone charging ‘PayGo’ solar home system is offered in 11 countries across sub-Saharan Africa.
(Azuri QUAD control box)
Azuri has combined mobile and solar technology to design and manufacture award-winning solar home systems, which allow users to pay for solar power on a pay-as-you-go basis, just like they do for their phones and kerosene. This provides clean, safe renewable power to families at about half the cost of the kerosene and phone charging fees it replaces.
(Azuri QUAD solar home system)
One of the unique features of PayGo is that it enables end users to pay for as much or as little system credit as they can afford, at any given time. Prior to deployment, Azuri will liaise with local partners and conduct market research, so a unique payment plan for the specific region can be calculated. An example of this are households with seasonal income trends. This allows the family to pay more when their income is greater due to, for instance, harvest season, and less when crops are being grown. This flexibility means sustainable financing of the system on a customer level is far more achievable, as payments can be made in sympathy to other financial outgoings the family may have at the time. The credit or ‘top-ups’ are paid for via a mobile money service from a regional provider.
(Father tops-up Azuri system using his mobile phone)
Azuri have witnessed a significant positive impact from the use of Azuri Solar Home Systems. Planete d’Entrepreneurs recently conducted an independent survey analysing the deployment and impact of Azuri systems in Kenya: they observed a large drop in the use of kerosene, with only 17% of Azuri customers still using kerosene at all, leading to significant health and environmental benefits, for both children and adults. In addition to this, the Azuri system gave flexibility to households, allowing tasks which require light to be carried out at the households’ convenience, not just in daylight hours. On average, users save 10.8 hours a week traveling time and 1,908 RWF (US $2.7) per month, which was previously spent charging mobile phones. This saved time and money can be re-invested into better education, healthcare, or other tasks which directly benefit the family. Other examples of impact benefits were being able to stay at market for evening trade times (which are often the most profitable), with 100% of users stating they make more money, and keeping their shops open for longer. 97% of users with children reported that their children study more, and can do so more independently due to not having to use kerosene for lighting. Even a positive impact on the children’s eyesight has been reported.
(Children studying after dark with Azuri lighting)
Azuri’s business model can serve as a template for others to drive global energy access. The replicable nature of the model was recognised in mid-2013 with a US $1 million award from USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) to support the establishment of Azuri’s PayGo solar power in Rwanda. The two-year program is funding the creation of a distribution channel as well as the supply of 10,000 Azuri PayGo solar systems. Besides developing Rwanda itself, the project intends to provide a template that can be replicated in similar low-income regions.
On a more regional scale the West African Power Industry Convention (WAPIC) has named the pay-as-you-go solar service implemented by Azuri Technologies and partner Oasis Africa Resources as the winner of its Best Off-Grid Electrification Project. The program, which initially targeted the Assin district located in Ghana, is set to deliver power to over 100,000 households, with particular focus on cocoa growing regions before being rolled out on a wider scale. The project aligns with the Government’s current efforts to bring reliable, renewable power to Ghana as a whole, and is supported by Ghana’s Minister of Power, the Hon. Dr. Kwabena Donkor.
Azuri wins the UNFCCC Momentum For Change award
Momentum for Change is an initiative spearheaded by the United Nations Climate Change secretariat to highlight solutions across the globe that are moving the world toward a sustainable low-carbon future. Momentum for Change recognizes innovative and transformative solutions that address both climate change and wider economic, social and environmental challenges. These solutions are called Lighthouse Activities, and they represent some of the most accessible, scalable and replicable examples of what people, businesses, governments and industries are implementing to tackle climate change.
At COP 21 last December, sixteen game-changing initiatives from around the world were honored as winners of a prestigious United Nations climate change ‘Light House Activity’ award during a special ceremony. Azuri Technologies were among the honorees, winning the category ‘Financing for Climate Friendly Investment’ for their work on innovating pay-as-you-go solar energy solutions for rural off-grid communities. By providing accessible distributed/decentralised power, Azuri systems are an enabling technology which allows users to increase their overall quality of life for themselves, their family, and their community, opening a gateway for socio-economic development which had been previously restrained by the lack of grid electricity access and inherent high upfront costs.
“A global economy that is powered by renewable energy, implements energy efficiency and minimises waste will not only tackle climate change, but will also generate health, job creation and profit in the communities where they take place.” – Professor Bertrand Piccard 2015 Momentum for Change Awards Ceremony
The provision of even basic power is transformative for both consumers and the local economy – with customers receiving immediate benefits in terms of device charging and accessible clean lighting, but also long term socio-economic benefits in the form of building local capacity, provision of local employment and training opportunities, and in most cases drastically reducing or even eliminating the use of kerosene as a lighting source in households. Planète d’Entrepreneurs observed that Azuri’s solar power solutions save customers approximately $50 per year in fuel bills, enables additional revenue generation from keeping retail stalls open or processing crops for up to an extra three hours per day, and extends children’s study by up to two hours on average every evening.