With renewables becoming cheaper than ever before, there is now an unprecedented opportunity to distribute renewable energy. The question is how do we unlock financing for the world’s poorest and most remote?

Lisa Jordan, Shine

Harish Hande – SELCO

  • There are three groups of people in need of energy: poor, very poor, and those in poverty. It is necessary to realise that these three groups have different technological needs.
  • Are we able to institutionalise processes and clean energy in education, health and livelihood sectors, such that sustainable energy becomes the norm and organisations like us, the middlemen, don’t have to exist anymore? 
  • The question is how do we invest in poor communities so that they are empowered to take charge of their own future and energy needs?
  • We set up SELCO Fund to invest in these communities and create an ecosystem for energy access technologies to succeed. From there, we can create opportunities to duplicate successful processes.

There is a lack of operating capital to keep the ship afloat. $481 billion is the gap in financing that we need between now and 2030 to achieve SDG7. Having energy at your disposal is the difference between surviving on $1 a day to moving out of energy poverty. Energy access enables businesses and communities to function and thrive.

Liz McKeon, IKEA Foundation

Ajaita Shah – Frontier Markets

  • In India, the problem is not just that 270 million people don’t have access to electricity, it’s that 450 million people only have access to unreliable electricity, which is a more frustrating problem.
  • Frontier Markets provides a sustainable energy distribution model with women at the centre of the value chain.
  • We work with local rural households to understand their connection to electricity: what they need, when they need it, how they need it, and what’s the best way to serve it.
  • Women are key to all this information. 70% of energy users are women, and can give the most incredible feedback. They can tell you their needs around simple energy access.
  • Frontier Markets has over 1,000 women entrepreneurs, or Solar Sahelis, serving over 460,000 households. The products are designed by the women themselves.
  • We are currently scaling up operations into five new states in India and are aiming to employ 10,000 women entrepreneurs.
  • With more investment, Frontier Markets can invest in more technology, and in more training for these women entrepreneurs.
  • Working on financial inclusion: giving women the opportunity to access capital directly.

Sustainable energy brings with it social, environmental, and economic benefits, like access to healthcare and education. It empowers people to take control of their own livelihoods. Energy is a crucial tool in lifting people out of poverty and into the 21st century.

Sarah Butler-Sloss, Ashden

Leslie Marincola – Angaza

  • The greatest barrier we face in the sector is the barrier of affordability. The technology to bring clean energy to all already exists.
  • At Angaza, we help spread out the cost of solar home systems, to make them more affordable for a household.
  • We are a B2B tech company – we sell our technology to the distributors of products. We make these products connected and smart, so that they de-activate if the payments are not up to date.
  • We also provide a software platform for distributors and have developed an app for sales agents.
  • We connect software to digital currencies in over 20 countries. We have connected over half a million products so far, and the market is expanding, allowing us to scale up.
  • With all the data coming in through our software and our app on customers and sales, we help distributors understand their customer base better, and have started to build credit history for customers.
  • Consumer demand for solar lights and clean cookstoves is high. Yet billions of people who live in poverty cannot access them, because they are too expensive. If we can make them affordable, we can change billions of lives.

In Kenya, 80% of people have mobiles, only half of them have access to electricity.

Emily Moder, SteamaCo

Emily Moder – SteamaCo

  • SteamaCo has an energy automation platform, which allows utility companies to sell energy to off-grid consumers. We are an IoT technology company which works in remote and challenging regions. Utility companies are embracing distributed renewable energy to combat energy poverty. We work with these companies to help them run their business better.
  • Our smart meter platform processes payments, relays data, and allows electricity to switch on and off in very remote locations.
  • Peter is one of SteamaCo’s smart meter platform end users. He used to run a phone-charging business, charging all the phones in his community. He would charge phones using his diesel generator, which cost 10 times what it would cost in the UK.
  • Example of poverty tax: People with the least money are paying the most for their energy. People in the developing world are disproportionately affected by access to and cost of sustainable energy.
  • Peter’s community then got a solar mini grid. The benefits were immediately felt. Not only is the new form of energy less polluting, cheaper and the almost unbearable noise from the generator is non-existent, but having access to a reliable service made an incredible difference to community life.
  • This goes to show how access to unreliable and polluting energy is an entire ecosystem problem. Communities and businesses need clean, reliable access to energy to thrive. It is a transformative solution that has carry-over effects.
  • Credit scoring has huge potential to transform mini grid sector.
  • We conducted a pilot study using payment history and energy usage history of customers to extend appliance-leasing terms for these customers. Customers’ energy demand grew by 40%.

Thanks to the networks and the support of Ashden, we have closed a series A fundraising round in the summer from Shell Technology Ventures.

Emily Moder, SteamaCo

Isabelle de Cointet – SunFunder

  • SunFunder raises and aggregates debt capital from institutional and private investors into debt funds. These debt funds deploy capital into diversified portfolio of loans to solar energy companies in emerging economies. We provide these companies with working capital loans and debt financing to scale up operations.
  • SunFunder provides working capital loans and debt financing to solar energy companies in emerging markets to scale up their operations.
  • Appropriate loans for local entrepreneurs are difficult to get from local banks, who generally only give out enormous loans. This means that local entrepreneurs can’t access much needed capital.
  • Most SunFunder staff are based out of Nairobi.
  • We have raised $60 million and have raised seven funds in total.
  • Currently raising our largest fund so far, Solar Energy Transformation Fund.
  • SunFunder is helping the sector build a track record to show that local entrepreneurs can make money with investments. Helping to lower the perceived risk of the sector.

We know the energy change is going to happen. It’s just a matter of time, how green it will be, and how inclusive it will be. The question is, what does the broader ecosystem need to make this change happen quicker and have greater impact?

​Jeffrey Prins, IKEA Foundation