U.S. Funds Netherlands Firm To Provide Solar Electricity In Nigerian Homes

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Written by Dana Sanchez

The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) has signed a $15 million commitment with Nova-Lumos, providers of off-grid electricity, to finance solar electricity in Nigerian homes and small businesses.

The deal was announced by U.S. Secretary John Kerry at the Climate and Clean Energy Investment Forum, held Oct. 20-21 in Washington, D.C., according to a press release from the U.S. State Department.

The State Department described the Nova-Lumos project as “highly innovative.”

Nova-Lumos created what it calls a “home power station in a box,” according to a 2013 report in Haaretz. The technology includes a solar panel activated by text messaging that can supply enough electricity to charge a cell phone, operate a radio and illuminate a home.

The company was founded in Israel in 2012 by Nir Marom and Davidi Vortman, and is now based in the Netherlands. The $15 million deal is with Txtlight, the Nigerian Subsidiary of Lumos Netherlands BV, said Daniel Ben Yehuda, director of business development, in an email to AFKinsider.

“We want to be the largest alternative electricity company in the world and supply home systems producing clean electricity,” Vortman told Haaretz in 2013. “Our model allows consumers to pay for the electricity used without purchasing the whole system in advance. This is a huge revolution.”

The Nova-Lumos project provides clean, off-grid power access designed to serve the nearly 90 million Nigerians who live without connection to the electric grid, according to the U.S. government. OPIC financing will support expansion of Nova-Lumos’s solar power service to homes and small businesses throughout Nigeria.

OPIC is the U.S. government’s development finance institution. It mobilizes private capital to help solve critical development challenges and, in doing so, tries to advance U.S. foreign policy, according to an earlier AFKInsider report.

“This marks the largest OPIC investment to the off-grid power sector in Africa, a key component of increasing energy access in a region where people are not grid-connected and the need for reliable power is especially acute,” the U.S. government said.

The Lumos offering “includes a home solar panel linked to an indoor storage-and-connection unit that allows customers to access significant amounts of power on demand, day or night,” ESIAfrica reports. “The affordable Lumos service allows customers to utilize a pay-as-you-go model in small amounts by text message.”

Lumos’ business model is highly scalable in large part due to the company’s partnerships with mobile operators, according to ESIAfrica. In Nigeria, Lumos partnered with South Africa-based MTN, the largest telecommunications company in Nigeria with more than 60 million subscribers.

“We are very excited about this major financing milestone in partnership with OPIC, which will enable us to accelerate our growth in Nigeria and improve the lives of millions,” said David Vortman, CEO and co-founder at Lumos.

“Lumos brings vision, innovation, and sound business sense to address the power access challenge in Africa,” said Elizabeth Littlefield, OPIC president and CEO.

OPIC announced in September that it had cleared new financing of up to $400 million for U.S.-based SolarReserve’s 100-megawatt Redstone concentrating solar power project in South Africa.

California-based SolarReserve and Saudi co-sponsor and lead developer ACWA Power will use an OPIC investment guarantee to help build and operate a solar thermal power plant in South Africa’s Northern Cape province, an OPIC press release said.

At the beginning of 2014, the South African Department of Energy selected the Redstone project as part of the country’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme’s third round. You can read more about that here.

Up to $400 million in funds for the concentrating solar power project is part of $1 billion-plus in financing and support for U.S.-led developments in Africa and Asia, OPIC announced in September, SeeNews.Renewables reported.

Funds include $250 million for power generation and infrastructure projects in OPIC-eligible countries in sub-Saharan Africa and a further $250 million for a power grid upgrade in Pakistan.