Share this article
The story of around a billion people not being connected to the power grid across the world has been widely told and documented. In recent times, there have been many organizations trying to bridge that connectivity gap by providing innovative off grid solar solutions. As businesses and innovators continue to refer to the last billion people as ‘underserved’ or sometimes ‘unserved,’ this demographic provides yet the biggest energy opportunity. This population, majority in Africa, is surely on its way to having reliable access to energy in the cleanest way possible. Connecting this one billion people is going to benchmark and lead the way in making climate change reductions a reality for the world by showing how structurally the energy they consume is different from the rest of the six billion.
In Africa, the home of two thirds of the unelectrified population, organizations like Greenlight Planet are making the energy access and transition possible. As of 2020, Greenlight planet became the largest direct-to-consumer Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) solar distribution and service network in the world, delivering more than 1.3 million PAYG solar products mainly in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Nigeria while expanding at a rate of over 65,000 new rooftop solar installations per month at the time. Locally recognised in many communities as Sun King, Greenlight Planet is reaching new heights in the African market with solar products including home lighting, mobile phone chargers, radios, televisions, and fans, as well as the solar panels and batteries to power these appliances. In many ways, these products are now the lifeblood of everything that goes on in many local communities that use them. Families depend on these energy access appliances for light, communication, entertainment, and access to news and information.
The solutions provide a profound social impact for off-grid families around the world. According to company reports, Greenlight Planet alone has served more than sixty million individuals across 65 countries. The new access to clean, renewable energy has not only enhanced the social life of families but also increased the productivity of small community businesses and reduced spending on old-fashioned energy products. In essence, this saves billions on fossil-fuel-based energy costs and eventually reducing global greenhouse gas emissions considerably. As the solar technology continues to evolve, much more will be achieved by such off-grid solutions.
Much of the success achieved by off-grid solar solutions in Africa has majorly been driven by strategic partnerships with partners. In Africa, telecommunication companies have seen drastic demand for services as more people continue to own mobile phones. Telecom companies have therefore become the go-to strategic partners for off-grid solar solution providers. Today, many renewable energy solution providers partner with these telecom companies to make the solar solutions more affordable and accessible for rural individuals, increasing long-term value for a common consumer base. These telecom companies also enter into distribution partnerships with the solar solution providers to enable sales of solar-powered energy solutions through the telecom operator’s subscriber base and mobile money channels.
In many instances, the solar energy solution providers like Greenlight Planet have integrated innovative PAYG technology platforms with leading mobile money providers such as Safaricom across sub-Saharan Africa, enabling consumers to make continuous instalment payments in a secure and simple way. According to company reports, majority of Greenlight Planet’s PAYG customers make daily and weekly mobile money payments of values between $0.15 and $2 each over a period of three to eighteen months to fully complete their instalment payment plans for a PAYG solar solution packages.
With the World Bank and African Development Bank estimating that there are over 650 million mobile phone users in Africa and more than 660 million people still lacking reliable access to electricity in the continent, opportunities for the telecom and distributed energy sectors to join forces are still underexploited. More strategic partnerships between these two stakeholders and funders have the potential to gradually light up the rest of the continent purely on renewable sources and in return show the way to connecting the rest 6 billion people to stable renewable sources.