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.