Many parts of Africa that were never linked to an electric grid are skipping that bit and racing ahead with the solar revolution, thanks to off-grid solar. Several companies, including Off Grid Electric, Bboxx, Azuri Technologies and M-Kopa, have built a massive customer base that is bringing sustainable progress to that part of the world.
The figures are impressive. According to the UK Economist, it is estimated that off-grid solar can now be found in 600,000 households in Africa. (M-Kopa alone has installed 400,000 systems). Industry pundits and insiders reckon the number will grow by 60 to 100 percent in the next year.
The Economist highlights several reasons for the advance in off-grid solar. For one, there has been a massive decrease in the cost of solar panels—up to 80 percent since 2010. The pay-as-you-go model has also promoted a paradigm shift of selling solar electricity as a service rather than hardware. The appearance of more energy-efficient devices has also helped, especially LED bulbs which use only 20 percent of the energy of incandescent bulbs. Innovative business models suited to customer needs are also a factor.
The expansion is also benefiting companies that design and sell products for solar off-grid customers. Sector leader d.light currently sells hundreds of thousands of units per month, operating in five distribution hubs in East Africa, West Africa, India, Southeast Asia, and the United States.
The company recently announced it secured $7.5 million in debt financing to expand its product portfolio, including solar lantern and home system solutions, as well as a solar-powered TV. The funding from impact investment manager Developing World Markets. In total, the company has raised $30 Million for Off-Grid Solar.
“We’re thankful to Developing World Markets for this support, which helps d.light accelerate development and distribution of our increasingly popular solar home systems and our portable solar products,” said Kamal Lath, d.light’s CFO. “By enabling us to build on our product offerings, this funding helps us empower people to improve their quality of life.”
d.light says it has impacted 65 million people with its solar solutions and plans to reach the 100-million-people mark by 2020. It claims it has helped base-of-the-pyramid families save $5.2 billion in energy expenses and created 34 billion additional hours of productivity for work and study. d.light’s products have offset 23 million tons of CO2 and generated 127 GWH from renewable energy sources, the company says.
Image credit: BBOXX