LED into the Heart of Darkness (2)

Thanks to BishopHill for tweeting a link to this article by Michael Le Page

People without electricity could end up living the energy dream

Solar power is giving millions of people access to electricity for the first time – could they bypass traditional fossil fuel grids altogether?

MORE than 100 million people around the world now have access to electricity for the first time thanks to simple solar power systems that typically provide LED lights and a phone charger. More powerful versions include radios and even televisions.

The LEDs provide a clean and cheap alternative to the kerosene lamps normally used by those with no electricity. “People spend 50 cents a day on kerosene,” says Nick Hughes, co-founder of M-KOPA Solar of Kenya, which has sold 550,000 home solar power systems in East Africa. Some families spend a tenth of their income on fuel for lighting. “It’s a crazy price for a poor fuel,” says Hughes.

His firm has just raised the money it needs to finance a million more systems, and Hughes thinks they could eventually sell up to 11 million in East Africa alone. And M-KOPA is just one…

That’s all I can read without forking out £36 to the New Scientist, but it’s enough. There’s a link to M-KOPA which says:

10 October 2017, Nairobi, Kenya – M-KOPA Solar, the world’s leading pay-as-you-go energy provider to off-grid homes, is announcing that it has secured US$80 million of committed financing. It will be utilised over the next three years to provide finance for pay-as-you-go solar installations in one million homes – on top of the 500,000 already connected…

To date M-KOPA has connected well over 500,000 homes in East Africa to affordable, safe and clean energy. Its predominantly low-income customer base is accessing lighting, phone charging, radio and TV on daily mobile money payment plans that are less than the typical cost of kerosene.

M-KOPA customers now enjoy over 62.5 million hours of kerosene-free lighting per month and they will save over 600,000 tonnes of CO2 over four years. Customers who complete their payment plans are upgrading with M-KOPA for more lights, TVs, energy-efficient cooking stoves, smart phones and water tanks. The company has sold well over 160,000 upgrade units to date – including 90,000 Solar TVs.

M-KOPA has been named to MIT Technology Review’s list of the 50 Smartest Companies of 2017. It has been recognised as the pioneer of pay-as-you-go off-grid solar, as a winner of the 2015 Zayed Future Energy Prize and being selected by Fortune Magazine as one of the Top 50 Companies Changing the World.

Nick O’Donohoe, Chief Executive Officer, CDC, says:

M-KOPA is a remarkable company that is transforming lives in East Africa by providing affordable energy, financial inclusion and essential products for low-income households. It empowers its customers economically, improves people’s health and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Our equity and debt investments are aimed at helping the company build on its success and reach many more of the 600 million people across Africa who currently live without electricity.”

Both the New Scientist article and the linked article at M-KOPA are illustrated with pictures of dark skinned people in the dark, their faces dimly lit by solar powered LEDs, just powerful enough for them to be able to sign their M-KOPA contracts.

The solar panels will provide just enough power for them to charge their phones, which act as on-line banks for poor Africans, and will therefore enable them to pay for the solar panels, the phones, the LEDs, and even the solar powered TVs which M-KOPA is offering. Of course, if the 600 million potential customers mentioned above fall behind with their payments, they’ll lose their phone, radio, TV and banking services, but they’ll still have the panel and the LED, which will enable them to read the small print in their contracts.

In a previous article  I pointed out that this is the modern equivalent of the company store, but with 600 million potential customers.

I”d love to have the time to explore the subject further, but in this season of goodwill to all men I have a turkey to stuff, and cheer to spread, so I’ll simply note that, of the board of M-KOPA:

MUGO KIBATI (CHAIRMAN) is the Group Chief Executive Officer of Pan Africa Insurance Holdings, an insurance and investments company based in Kenya, the current Chairman of the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project, ansd that prior to joining the Government, Mugo was Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of East African Cables.

NICK HUGHES was, until 2009, Head of Global Payments at Vodafone Group, and previously headed BP’s climate change program.

ARUN GORE is President and CEO of Gray Ghost Ventures, based in Atlanta, USA. He is Indian, and unless there’s much we don’t know, is no relation.

SUSAN GITHUKU is the Founder of Human Performance Dynamics Africa, an HR consulting firm based in Kenya. Before establishing HPDA, Susan worked at Coca-Cola as the Eurasia & Africa Group director for Coca-Cola Talent University. Prior to this, she was the Coca-Cola Africa Group HR director and until 2015 served on the Boards of East African Breweries.

ELIZABETH L. LITTLEFIELD was the President and CEO of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. Government’s development finance agency. She was nominated by President Barack Obama and sworn into office by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

I’ve left out some. Of the nine members of the board, only Mugo and Susan seem to be African.

Of the Lead Equity Investors mentioned here




Ive only had the time to look at the latter, Generation Investment Management

They have $17 billion under management, with offices in London and San Francisco. Their Chairman is Al Gore (no relation to Arun) and they also have Colin le Duc on their Board, who is also CIO of Global Equity Strategy and a director of M-KOPA.

Colin is a founding partner of Generation Investment Management and the Co-CIO of Generation’s growth equity Climate Solutions Funds. Prior to co-founding Generation in 2004, Colin was a Director at Zurich-based Sustainable Asset Management. He has also worked for the Energy Practice at Arthur D. Little in London, and Total as a natural gas analyst based in Paris. Colin is on various Generation portfolio company boards. He also serves on the Board of San Francisco-based not-for-profit Business for Social Responsibility.

M-KOPA has a list of Other Investors, Partners and Lenders which includes the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Shell Foundation, The Department for International Development, The SwissRe Foundation and Sir Richard Branson.

I don’t have time to take this further, but it seems that, should the Chinese decide to provide 600 million Africans with cheap fossil fuel plants, the kind that power factories and hospitals, and not just telephones and LED lights, then Al Gore, Sir Richard Branson, the UK’s Department for International Development, and a number of other important people and institutions might find themselves seriously embarrassed.

It is therefore in everybody’s interest that 600 million Africans should not have access to the kind of energy systems which could power factories and hospitals.

And a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all, especially to our African readers.


  1. “Of course, if the 600 million potential customers mentioned above fall behind with their payments, they’ll lose their phone, radio, TV and banking services, but they’ll still have the panel and the LED, which will enable them to read the small print in their contracts.”

    Odd, it would be more sensible to take away their panel/LED. Oh, silly me, this is Geoff and cliscep: propaganda is the aim, truth is not important.

    “It is therefore in everybody’s interest that 600 million Africans should not have access to the kind of energy systems which could power factories and hospitals.”

    I’d love to see “skeptics” put their money where their mouths are and fund something, anything, to actually help Africans gain electrical power.


  2. Or they could follow the lead of USAID, DFID and the World Bank and just refuse to provide secured lending for the construction of fossil fuel powered generation of electricity.


  3. LEN MARTINEZ (22 Dec 17 at 3:36 am)

    Odd, it would be more sensible to take away their panel/LED. Oh, silly me…

    Silly Len indeed. Gone are the days when Kurz had to traipse into the Heart of Darkness with a bailiff and a screwdriver. I’m not the most tech savvy person in the world, but I believe Mr Gore in Atlanta, Georgia has a switch on his computer which allows him to deprive the bad payer of his phone, his bank, and his tv without all the bother of setting up the British Empire first.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Back in the sixties Doris Lessing wrote a novel set in the 1990s which described the collapse of capitalism. She had a character who could provoke a riot simply by describing in detail how, say, the insurance business worked. Of course, it was science fiction, and such a person doesn’t exist.

    He’d have his work cut out today, because he’d have to explain what the New Scientist is doing praising the efforts of a Swiss insurance company to help an ex-Vice President of the USA deprive an entire continent of cheap reliable energy.


  5. I’d love to see “skeptics” put their money where their mouths are and fund something, anything, to actually help Africans gain electrical power.

    Yet more lies from Len. Will he ever stop? Your raison d’être is to make stupid, carping, snide insults about people who don’t worship the great gods Mann and Gore. Have you ever done a useful thing in your life? Continually putting your foot in the shit doesn’t count as useful


  6. China is going to light up Zimbabwe and repower the economy, by burning coal. The Chinese have gained a lot of experience over the last 20 years, and other countries are seeking their expertise.

    As most (?) solar panels are made in China, it will be interesting to see how many solar farms sprout in Zimbabwe.

    Mugabe achieved for Zimbabwe what the Green Blob intends for the World. The “experiment” did not have a good outcome for anyone.


  7. Getting rich off of delivering mediocre services to the poor: a successful well used business model.
    And of course it is for their own good.


  8. Len thinks the climatocracy is putting their own funds atcrisk in this, demonstrating that critical reading, like critical thinking, is not skill he brings to the discussion.
    The reality is that the climate creeps are systematically imposing their cruel ideological imprrialism on the workd, preventing the proven tools to be used, while climate profiteers siphon off the money that could be used to actually help people.
    And Len cheerleads this like he did the academic rape of Crockford.


  9. Give me an example of where skeptics or skeptical organisations develop practical programs to get energy to Africans. In the US at least, the right, from where most skepticism emerges, are more likely to be energised by removing funding for contraception, which directly worsens the situation of Africans, than they are to want to help anyone. Maybe you in the UK too.

    Things like the solar/LED program arise from small numbers of people having the balls to try to do some good. Where’s the equivalent skeptics taking a bunch of diesel generators some cables and lamps and whatever and a supply of diesel and setting up just one village with power?


  10. Len,
    You still don’t get it. Gore and the other climate parasites are investing none of their own miney, just like you aren’t either.
    The real power growth in the world, coal, gas and nuke, are the answers to loser scams thst you climate creeps impose.
    And if climate schemers hadn’t been busy corrupting the World Bank and others into supporting imperialism, even more could get done to actually help people.


  11. Len. I suspect that most here have no beef with initiatives to bring small scale solar power, their problems are with those who, concurrently, work to prevent the introduction of heavy duty electricity production – needed to power the advancement of underdeveloped societies. This of course means using fossil fuels. The rest of the world is allowed to do this, but not the underdeveloped. To some of us here this restriction seems downright unfair and the spotlight being thrown by philanthropists and others on solar powered telephones downright cynical and self serving. Considering the stands you have taken in the past,, I am surprised you don’t seem to get it.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Len, I am a progressive liberal Democrat who criticizes Bernie Sanders for not being progressive enough. In fact, much as I appreciated Barack Obama, he was way too conservative for my tastes.

    Faith based charities, almost all of them very conservative, have been the leaders in bringing funds, expertise and hardware to Africa and other parts of the developing world for quite some time. Not just for power, but to help address many needs of those regions.

    But I guess you want an example. Okay. I worked for a solar power company and we shared technology, manpower and even funds to help people in the developing world get access to electricity.

    I will tell you that many skeptics have done far more than I. Funnily enough, when I look for evidence of what alarmists have done, apparently blowing the bugle for climate panic is pretty much it.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Tom, faith based charities oppose support for contraception progras and in their success have cancelled any good they might have otherwise achieved. You can’t do good while at the same time encouraging HIV transmission and unwanted pregnancy.

    Alan, hunter, nobody is stopping countries from building coal power stations. What you want is for coal to be subsidized, as it was and is for decades in the developed world.


  14. Yes, Len, anyone who opposes any of your policy prescriptions is pure evil.We already know that.

    I am insufficiently pure. I actually applaud the work of faith-based charities in the fields they address and support the work of secular charities that work on areas that FBCs do not.

    I am reluctant to apologize, given the fact that the world is getting better in part because so many people seem to share my attitude.


  15. Len is like a 2d cartoon parody of a “progressive”: shallow, derivative, reactionary, and not a lotta fun.
    Please do keep it up Len.
    According to your “thinking”, the 3+ months of disaster relief I have done full time since mid September is meaningless because I am a vile dyslexic denialist; my thought crimes outweigh my actions.


  16. Len,
    Yes, you climate obsessed cretins are drying up finance for new power plants.


  17. Strange that Len wants to encourage Africa to use more diesel, a technology that already powers Africa. I thought he wanted to halt global warming. His new-found enthusiasm for fossil fuels is quite disconcerting


  18. bethtgeserf,
    Thank you so much for posting tvat article.
    It is pleasing to see that not all economists are as deluded by the climate obsession as Stern.
    I wonder if Mann and Lewandowsky will find a gang to attack this economist?


  19. Do keep up with just how much damage your obsession is inflicting. You should be as tgrilled with this as viscerally as you are about the assault on Crockford.
    You climate thugs are hurting millions with your assault on power plants. Mann, Lewandowsky and gang only assaulted one lonely researcher over climate
    The World Bank is hurting millions of poor dark people to honor you and yours.


  20. A better headline would be,
    “Thanks to Climate Imperialism, Third World to be Left With Nothing but Dreams of Electricity”.
    The poor brown and black folks, thanks to the greedy racist hatred of climate imperialists like Len, won’t get the industries fueled by electricity, the health benefits of air conditioning, access to dependable full time internet, or have enough electricity to consider luxuries like electric cars.


  21. The well-meaning
    (including Len)
    shaft the aspirations
    of those of colour,
    Preserving them from
    the evil dioxide poison
    afflicting their lives
    (but not that of their plants).

    Be content with cast-off phones,
    powered by the Sun god,
    goes the cry
    from those
    with everything
    (Including Len).

    Singer beneath Bridges

    Liked by 1 person

  22. If people have some solar panels, that provide some electric light, so they don’t have to use so much kerosene, is that a Bad Thing?


  23. I see a lot of contradictory stuff about renewables. Some climate activists say cost is decreasing very rapidly and that we are on the verge of a revolution. It that is true, then fossil fuels are doomed and policy action is unnecessary. I see other (usually more careful) analyses that show that the picture is more complex and that such things as intermittency still make renewables not overwhelmingly attractive. However, where there is no electricity grid, they do probably make sense.


  24. Paul
    Kerosene is used for heating and cooking too. The site talks about upgrading to a TV, but not to a cooker. It’s the economics of the company store, inevitable in a frontier situation, but this is being applied to 600 million people. Once they’ve got a means of charging their telephone, which acts as an on-line bank, there’s much less urgency about providing them with mains electricity to power a factory or hospital. At least they can phone their chldren, who have emigrated to the capital (Nairobi, population 7.5 million) where the factories and hospitals are.

    Everyone agrees that central planning is not perfect, but this is economic development by Facebook. And I don’t think Branson is in there just because he’s taken a short position on kerosene futures.


  25. “If people have some solar panels, that provide some electric light, so they don’t have to use so much kerosene, is that a Bad Thing?”

    That depends on how much it costs and whether it is used as an excuse for not supplying real dispatchable electric power.


  26. Can’t cook much at all with solar panels.
    Kerosene is imperfect, but with an offset for low grade lighting from led solar, the price will fall and mire will burned for other stuff.
    If we would encourage real electrification, with enough power to drive small and medium industry as the locals see fit, and not as Bwana Branson or Gore choose, somecreal progress would occur: cleaner water, less internal immigration to the big cities, less vulnerability to weather, more local wealth and resulting health etc.
    But the climatocracy is systematically


  27. I don’t know what it is with supposed skeptics and coal. Africa is overflowing with natural gas, so much that because it lacks a use for it, gas has to be liquified and exported to Asia or Europe. Yet given the range of options for infrastructure to last the next 30 years such as using that gas or solar, or building HVDC to transport electricity from coast to interior, you can only think of coal. And while the population is waiting for grid supply, which is going to take years whatever technology is used, you’d rather they stick to kerosene or darkness than solar/LED.


  28. Len, you finally gave a non-2d response to something. Congratulations.
    Parts of Africa do indeed have lots of natural gas. And those resources would be well used helping Africans in the countries that have the gas. But all of Africa doesn’t have lots of gas. And wind/solar will never provide high energy dependable and low cost power.
    And the climate faithful hate gas as well, dontcha know.
    From a lobbying group with a sciencey sounding name:
    So enjoy supporting the climate imperialism.
    Revel in the plans to keep hundreds of millions in poverty while enriching their deserving betters.
    After all, like Susan Crockford, they deserve what they get from the climate consensus.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. “I don’t know what it is with supposed skeptics and coal”

    That’s because you’re pig thick and pig ignorant.

    Of all the fossil fuels, with respect to its energy content it is by an order of magnitude the cheapest and easiest to mine using basic low cost equipment, easiest and safest to store store and transport requiring no technological solutions and very easy to convert into energy using extremely basic technology, all of which are highly advantageous properties in undeveloped countries and will give a solid backing for an industrial base to develop far and fast.

    But, as I’m sure you have never in your worthless existence stirred outside your mummy’s basement and thus have no knowledge of what goes on in the real world, all of that will be entirely beyond your putrid little brain to grasp.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Catweazel,
    Minor correction: coal is the cheapest fuel period. So why dont you let Len know how you really feel?


  31. Coal has been pushed out by natural gas in the US. Clearly it is not cheaper.


  32. I doubt the weasel is ever straightforwardly correct about anything much.


  33. Len; the relevant comment is “all of which are highly advantageous properties in undeveloped countries and will give a solid backing for an industrial base to develop far and fast.”

    Natural gas extraction requires relatively advanced drilling equipment and usually hydraulic fracturing. Easy coal has been mined in the USA; so the balance of economy is shifting to natural gas, but that’s in the USA. In “undeveloped countries” hydraulic fracturing may be a non-starter but peasants with wicker baskets can mine coal provided it is near the surface.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Len, try reading the articles you post.
    Lol, you really could fall and miss the floor.


  35. Yeah, it doesn’t even mention coal. Doubtless you’ll take that as proof that more coal is needed.


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