- Many social enterprises are longer term solutions to what charities have been trying to do for a long time. Although they are often reliant on existing charity/NGO networks for distribution.
- Social enterprises are way ahead of other markets and industries in having women leaders and supporting women across the world through their business models — often using existing groups as sales agents, distribution networks and post purchase customer support.
- People in the developing world want to charge their mobile phone just as much as we do.
- The one billion people without electricity now could have their entire energy infrastructure built from the ground up using solar as the primary source. They wouldn’t have to retro-fit anything. Up for much debate and many in these markets don’t want to have what they see as a ‘2nd class’ solution compared to grid power.
Panel: How can people climb the energy ladder, faster?
Hosted expertly by journalist Dame Jenni Murray — a few thoughts and quotes from the panel:
Patrick Walsh, Founder & CEO of Greenlight Planet
Many people say: “Just copy the mobile phone distribution model!” — doesn’t work for solar as it’s an improvement on existing models (ie: kerosene lamps), rather than a complete step change like the mobile phone.
Pay as you go models are going to unlock significant adoption for solar across the world.
“It doesn’t make sense for people living in off grid markets to be buying the same phones and televisions as someone in London,”
Kat Harrison, Associate Director of Impact at Acumen
Solar lights save people money and allow them to spend it on better food, education and agriculture equipment.
Kerosene lamps are hugely polluting and dangerous. Combined, all the kerosene lamps in the world have the same carbon footprint as a European country and represent a significant danger to health and property.
Some are defining the energy ladder as a staircase — it’s more about building foundations and then levels that you can stack on top of one another. We should be looking at how to make some of those steps shallower.
Ajaita Shah, Founder & CEO of Frontier Markets
It’s not that customers aren’t ready for the next thing in solar — it’s easy to demonstrate the benefits of a lantern, and once they start to have confidence in that then they want to move onto the next step.
The big risk for adoption is about knowing where the maintenance costs are going to be.
A learning — Frontier Markets used to say that solar couldn’t power a TV. The customer would then plug their TV in anyway, the system would turn it on for three seconds and then break. The customer then thought that system was dodgy and the supplier was lying to them. Now they don’t say that their solar products can’t power your TV, they explain that it will power a TV for three seconds or a light for 20 hours. The choice is down to the user and customers don’t get suspicious about the technology or think that the supplier is a liar if they do plug it in anyway.
Lais Lona, Business Development Africa at SunFunder
Customers are now coming with better inquiries and knowledge of finance. Structured asset financing is the area of growth for SunFunder and this is demonstrative of the move of many people up the energy ladder.
Andrew Reicher, Business Angel Investor in Energy Access
Investment business is like fashion — there are many passing fads. That being said, the big four pay as you go energy supply companies have raised $200 million in the past year. Probably not a fad!
Micro grids are currently out of fashion — but will likely come back for small businesses especially.
Most important factors:
- Last mile distribution — especially difficult in some communities
- Availability of debt — crucial in allowing the pay as you go models of the new suppliers and others to grow
Leapfrogging will happen, ie: the majority of off grid communities will avoid the single grid model altogether. $30k/connection vs $8 electricity supplies that can be paid in installments.