Selling Pay-As-You-Go Solar Panels In Africa

Selling Pay-As-You-Go Solar Panels In Africa

From Bloomberg Business Week.

In Africa, where more people have mobile phones than electricity, Azuri Technologies is making money selling pay-as-you-go solar panels using a model similar to the one pioneered by cellular operators, according to a report in Bloomberg Business Week.

Spun off from solar manufacturer Eight19 in 2012, the 15-person Cambridge, U.K.-based  business has more than 20,000 systems installed or in the pipeline in Kenya, Zambia, Malawi, South Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Ethiopia, and Sierra Leone, the report says.

Azuri’s customers pay one-time installation fees of about $10 for a solar panel that attaches to a roof and powers two LED lights. The kit includes a cell phone charger. Users pay about $1.50 a week, less than half of what kerosene would cost, the report says, to light their homes for eight hours a day, according to Azuri CEO Simon Bransfield-Garth. It takes about 18 months to pay for the unit, the report says.

“I think where Azuri is a terrific proposition is the way it enables an affordable (service) for their client base in terms of really a minimal upfront cost,” says Oliver Bailey, a relationship director at Barclays Bank in London who was interviewed by Bloomberg Business Week.

Countries with underdeveloped power networks also reap the rewards, the report says.

“You can’t wait for the grid to be extended,”  said Gregory Keoleian, director for the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan. “There’s an immediate need now that really should be addressed. These off-grid systems can really contribute to economic development for these rural populations.”

Solar pioneer Danny Kennedy, co-founder of Sungevity, whose leasing plans have put solar power within reach of thousands of middle-class households in the U.S., has nurtured solar startups including Mosaic and Powerhive at an accelerator at his Oakland, Calif. headquarters, according to the report in Bloomberg Business Week.

“Once you create the model for easy, affordable monthly payments, which in most cases pencil out at less than what these poor people are paying for kerosene, the adoption rates are terrific,” Kennedy says. “Pay-as-you-go, whatever the finance structure behind it, will result in the rapid electrification of much of the world that doesn’t currently benefit from it.”