United Nations has called on
businesses, governments, and
civil society to achieve Sustainable
Energy for All by 2030
Member Spotlight – January 2017
Did you know there are more than 400K families in Mexico who don’t have access to electricity?
By: Valentina Ronzon, Financial Manager, ILUMEXICO
In Mexico, 3% of the population spread across forty-thousand rural communities rely on diesel and candles as their lighting sources, spending almost 8 to 15 USD per month for fuel as a result of this lack of access to modern energy.
These communities have small populations and are located in remote and highly marginalized areas, making it very expensive and difficult to access the national electricity grid. Fortunately, many of these communities do have access to affordable, reliable and clean solar energy – ILUMEXICO has, to date, established more than 7,700 solar installations across Mexico, helping more than 34,000 family members.
ILUMEXICO is a six-year-old social enterprise with a mission to fight poverty with energy access, and providing electricity through solar home systems (SHS) to off-grid rural communities in Mexico with one goal in mind: to improve its customers’ quality of life by creating an inclusive and successful business model for decentralized energy solutions.
ILUMEXICO’s success is based on four strategic pillars that make it possible to reach these off-grid marginalized communities:
Pillar #1: Technology Development. Every ILUMEXICO solar home system includes a solar panel, a battery, light bulbs and a solar system charge controller. ILUMEXICO has developed this charge controller to prevent any electric discharges and power malfunctions of the system battery as well as to provide different lighting settings (low, normal and high light intensity) to best fit the users’ needs. Also, the solar charge controller has a USB port from which the user can charge a cell phone or any other appliance that charges via USB. Moreover, it integrates and manufactures SHS prioritizing quality and durability, that is still affordable and adapted to rural needs. Furthermore, ILUMEXICO offers options for different levels of energy access from households to community facilities, along with equipment for rural schools, health clinics and public spaces improving the quality of life of the whole community.
Pillar #2: Innovative Distribution Channels. ILUMEXICO is going where no one has gone before, reaching the most remote areas in Mexico through a network of rural branches called ILUCentros, which are staffed and managed by employees who were born and raised within or near the communities they serve, by empowering local youth and promoting the generation of formal jobs within these communities. These employees are called Community Engineers or Community Ambassadors – depending on their responsibilities – and their work consists of ensuring the correct implementation, monitoring and maintenance of the products and services provided to the communities.
Pillar #3: Micro-finance Schemes. ILUMEXICO provides flexible and adaptable monthly payment plans designed for clients with access to the formal banking system, helping them create their first financial experience and thus enhancing financial inclusion in the communities served. ILUMEXICO has developed methodologies for analyzing risk and implementing credit scoring for each costumer, thus allowing them to choose the adequate financing tool and format for each family that leads to the best monthly payment in order to ensure optimal use of the family budget.
Pillar #4: Community Development and Gender Equality. One of ILUMEXICO’s goals is to promote solar energy adoption in rural areas and to maximize social impact in these communities. This goal is advanced with the help of workshops – including a gender perspective workshop – which ILUMEXICO holds to ensure the adoption of solar technology and that energy can be used as a starting point for economic development. ILUMEXICO also encourages and supports positive economic activities through the promotion of electrical appliances such as refrigerators.
In addition to its six years of experience, ILUMEXICO has achieved significant operational changes that have created a direct impact on the quality of life for its clients. It has developed an offline data capturing system where staff can input socio-demographic data of ILUMEXICO clients in order to measure the organization’s impact in the communities. By using the electricity provided by ILUMEXICO, rural communities also are estimated to have 2.3 additional light hours to spend in productive activities increasing their monthly average income. Children have 2.5 extra study hours and are more protected from poisonous animals at night, and families have seen direct savings of $5 – $12 USD per month by replacing their inefficient and hazardous light sources.
ILUMEXICO wants to expand its rural branch network over the next 5 years through continuous financial investments, innovation and partnerships with other enterprises, NGOs and public institutions. At the moment, ILUMEXICO is looking for investment in order to benefit more than 300,000 people in rural areas in Mexico and accomplish its ambitious vision of universal energy access in Mexico by 2025, helping families in need to light a bulb for the first time in their lives.
Rural School installation in Las Perlas, Chiapas, Mexico
Photo by Luisa Martinez, Project Management ILUMEXICO
ILUMEXICO is a fellow of Ashoka Global Foundation, is part of the largest entrepreneur community Endeavor, and a B Corporation member since 2015, and has contributed to the improvement of the quality of life for more than 34,0000 people, helping 74 rural schools and health clinics. In addition, it has also helped substitute the use of +4,500 tons of CO2 with about 270 kW of clean energy capacity generated. ILUMEXICO has eleven ILUCentros in seven states of Mexico but brings service to 14 states of the country.
 2015 Census by INEGY (National Institute of Statistics and Geography