Decarbonisation and greening public services, Urban and Local NeedsConnecting thousands of rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa to off-grid solar power
ABOUT IGNITE POWER
- Year founded: 2014
- Offices (HQs): Rwanda
- FTEs: 50
- Key partners: Government of Rwanda, Government of Mozambique
- Key executives:
- Yariv Cohen, co-founder and CEO, President of Camco Clean Energy and has background in impact investment in Africa
- Seth Merrin, co-Founder, background in investment;
- Angela Homsi, co-Founder, background in infrastructure investment in Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) accounts for 75% of the world’s population without access to electricity. Furthermore, population growth in the region is out-pacing the rate of electrification. Extending electricity grid networks to reach rural and remote regions of SSA is not feasible. A lack of safe electricity supply makes it challenging for families, farmers, and entrepreneurs to affordably utilise high-quality health clinics, innovative agriculture technologies, and newly possible internet connectivity. The vast number of people living in these rural and remote areas may instead be best served by decentralised (or ‘off-grid’) solutions.
Ignite Power is connecting rural communities across SSA to decentralised ‘solar home systems’, which consist of a commercial solar panel unit and wiring such that the system can power several lights or small devices. Ignite Power has collaborated with state and local governments and entities, and employed over 3500 local workers to deploy solar home systems reaching over 1 million people, predominantly in rural Rwanda. Ignite Power developed inclusive financing models that best serve the needs of consumers in rural communities. For example, the startup established a ‘pay-as-you-grow’ scheme that allows farmers to pay only during the harvest season when they are earning. The startup’s data-driven smart operations also mitigate risk and decrease prices. Ignite Power’s inclusive financing schemes and innovative smart operations allow them to offer solar home systems for under $1 a month, making clean electricity accessible to many households for the first time.
Increased attention from investors serious about reaching Sustainable Development Goals and the continued reduction in the cost of manufacturing solar power units provides the ideal conditions for continued growth at Ignite Power. The company is also continuing to innovate, expanding their range of product offerings to complement the electrical infrastructure they provide to consumers; this includes tools for connecting to the internet and powering medical technologies.
plans for 2022
- Expand to additional countries across Africa.
- Deploy 250,000 new systems to connect a further 1.2 million people to power for the first time.
who should connect with this company
- Governments in African countries
- Investors with an interest in energy and infrastructure in African countries.
At the end of 2021, researchers working with Ignite Power assessed the impact of a solar home system on a family living in Karambi village, North Rwanda. The family of three (a husband and wife and their 6 year old child) make a living from growing and selling sugar canes. Since purchasing a SHS from Ignite Power, the family report benefits including:
- The switch to powerful and reliable solar-powered lighting in their home has reduced the amount they spend on lighting each month by almost 90%.
- Coughing and frequent breathing problems have significantly decreased since they stopped using harmful, flame-based sources of lighting inside their house.
- The ability to safely cook after dark has extended the number of hours they can spend doing other productive work during the day. So far, this has translated into a 30-40% increase in revenue.
Supplying electricity to remote rural areas in African countries is achieved in the least-cost way using decentralised solutions, such as the small-scale solar home systems delivered by Ignite Power. A 2021 report by the International Renewable Energy Agency highlighted that startups and SMEs have been central to provision of these decentralised solutions, and that government policy support for, and collaboration with, such initiatives must grow if rural populations are to be adequately served. Despite tough conditions for off-grid solar power provider startups during the pandemic, there are now early signs of a recovery. Researchers from UCL caution that governments must actively support this through subsidy schemes. Rwanda has been a leader in this area of development, and Ignite Power will be well-placed in replicating their collaborative achievements elsewhere in SSA. Furthermore, the market for electrification of rural regions in African countries will remain large: the IEA forecasts that in 2030 there will still be over half a billion people without access to electricity in Africa, predominantly in rural regions of SSA.
Data source: IAE