A funding round of $25 million was recently closed by Off-Grid Electric to grow its African micro-solar leasing efforts. The majority of the funds came from DBL Partners, though other investors included SolarCity, Western Technology Investment, Omidyar Network, Serious Change LP, and Vulcan Capital.
Off-Grid’s new funding will be used in Rwanda and Tanzania to bring clean light sources to areas where there are currently none. (The Tanzania government wants to provide solar electricity to 1 million homes by 2017.)
“Our real intention is to light considerable parts of countries here,” explained Xavier Helgesen, the CEO of Off-Grid Electric. “We want to provide an electrification solution that’s different and much more cost-effective [than the grid].”
Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world and only about 10% of its citizens have access to electricity on a consistent basis, as the cost of getting connected to the grid is too high for most Tanzanians.
Off-Grid says they are providing lighting to 50,000 people a month. Also, with compact, efficient LED lights, children have more study time at night than if they were using kerosene lamps — lamps which are obviously dangerous, and cause many fires each year in African countries, resulting in fatalities and injuries. It has been reported that an African family may spend as much as 15% of its income on kerosene. Prices of this fuel are also volatile, which means that when they spike poor people are hit even harder. Sunlight fluctuates too but the cost of the system doesn’t and the fuel, so to speak, is free.
Micro-solar leasing solves that problem by getting consumers off of kerosene because it allows people without means to pay a little at a time, so eventually they acquire their own system. Once a family has a small solar power system, with LED lights, a USB charger and a battery they will be set for a number of years.
The Off-Grid service also costs less than kerosene, so it also saves money.