#1 cleantech news, reviews, & analysis site in the world. Subscribe today. The future is now.

Clean Power 819 Pay As You Go Solar

Published on February 24th, 2012 | by Charis Michelsen


Pay-As-You-Go Solar Power for Customers Off the Grid in World’s Youngest Country

February 24th, 2012 by  

819 Pay As You Go Solar

UK start-up Eight19 is trying to make a name for itself installing pay-as-you-go solar systems across Africa. Their first venture was in Kenya, and their latest is in the world’s youngest nation of South Sudan.

Eight Minutes, Nineteen Seconds

Eight19 is so named because light from the sun takes 8 minutes, 19 seconds to reach the Earth. The Cambridge-based solar power company has stated its goal as bringing electricity to the 1.7 billion people on the planet living off the grid (as in, no access, not the ones who leave the grid on purpose), and that electricity will be from 100% renewable sources. An investment fund launched last month is expected to expand the roll-out of their primary product, IndiGo.

Chief Executive Simon Bransfield Garth celebrated the company’s successes so far, as reported by Business Green:

“The positive response and widespread interest in IndiGo since we launched it in Kenya six months ago has been fantastic and is fuelling our expansion. We are working hard to deploy our units fast enough to keep up with the demand to further stimulate economic development in the world’s youngest country.”

Six Months

Eight19 hopes to install 1,000 of their IndiGo systems in the super-new nation of South Sudan (which declared itself a country and made it stick only last July). The IndiGo system includes a battery, a solar panel, lights, and a phone charging device. Users pay for the equipment each week using scratchcards, which they validate through text messages.

The IndiGo system replaces kerosene lamps, at what Eight19 claims is half the cost (not to mention much cleaner). The solar panel can be used to power lights (those in the kit or others), internet connections, and consumer electronics. Thomas Bell, South Sudan director of projects at WorldVenture, embraced the introduction of small localized solar arrays:

“Pay-as-you-go solar is a grass root solution, which is particularly important in South Sudan, where there is a complete lack of infrastructure. IndiGo has the potential to transform the energy market by enabling local energy production meaning that many people can access power without having to wait for the grid.”

Comments or questions? Feel free to let us know below.

Source: Business Green | Image: Eight19

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author

spent 7 years living in Germany and Japan, studying both languages extensively, doing translation and education with companies like Bosch, Nissan, Fuji Heavy, and others. Charis has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She also believes that Janeway was the best Star Trek Captain.

  • Pingback: SolarKiosk in Ethiopia: Let There Be Light()

  • Mogga

    How much does each unit cost for an individual who wants to buy and own as private large unit paid once off?

  • Mogga

    hiw much does it cost to buy and install a personal unit

    • see Bob’s comments here, which largely come from the company. if that isn’t satisfactory for you, shoot the company a question 😀

  • Bob_Wallace

    I’ve just exchanged some emails with Simon who runs Eight19. With his permission I’m copying a couple of his posts…

    In reply to whether the systems are leased or sold, he writes ‘sold’…

    “The cost and payoff time varies a little by country as you would expect (for example there are variations in transport costs, distribution costs and local taxes between locations). In Kenya the weekly fee is 100KSH (approx $1.10) for our “duo” product with 2 lights and phone charging.

    After a period of time, the product is deemed to be paid up and the customer has the option to buy the product out for a small fee or upgrade to a larger system. Again, this period varies a little between country but is normally between 18 and 24 months.

    Our initial estimates suggest that typical users save in excess of $2/week with the kerosene and phone charging costs they save, with some users saving much more than this.”

    In reply to a question about how upgrades work…

    “People return the old system and get a new one (with the exception of the lights/wiring unless it needs replacement, as it is pointless to take down old one only to put the same thing back). We then refurbish and reintroduce the old systems. The weekly fee for the new larger systems takes into account the fact that we have recovered some value from the old system so they pay less than if we had to cover the full cost of the new system.”

    Rough math says that Eight19 is able to get people in ownership of a basic lighting/phone charging system for somewhere just above $100US.

    ($1.10 x 52 weeks x 2 years = $114.40)

    After two years they should have free power for a few years. The battery will need to be replaced after a few years and the LEDs after several. The panel should last a lifetime or more.

  • Subtledawn

    I was wondering what the ‘pay-as-you-go’ is all about. Solar power is supposed to be free. Is the payment just going toward equipment until it is paid off? how long do they pay for the service before it starts paying for itself?

    • Bob_Wallace

      I can’t tell from Eight19’s website if this is a time purchase or a lease program. It could well be a lease in which Eight19 continues to own the equipment and people pay a monthly fee for its use.

      Here’s what Eight19 says about the cost – ” in Kenya, IndiGo deployments are so cost-effective that users spend half as much on their IndiGo solutions that they previously did on kerosene.”

      If it’s a lease, it’s a good deal for the users. They get cleaner, safer, more convenient power for half what they were paying for kerosene. (And kerosene won’t charge cell phones, radios or computers.)

      If it’s a purchase system, it’s an even better deal.

      And this is the beginning of bringing solar to people who might never receive grid power. Other companies will appear, competition will make for even better deals.

      Just like cell phones quickly spread in parts of the world where land lines were non-existent or limited small solar systems are likely to let people leap over ‘old tech’ and rapidly improve their lives.

      • Bob_Wallace

        And then I see this…

        “But this is only half the story. Today a user may purchase an entry-level IndiGo system capable of lighting 2 rooms and charging one mobile phone. But over time, that person’s requirements will grow. They may want more lights, to power a radio or TV or even power a sewing machine to enable them to make more money. IndiGo grows with these needs allowing customers to ride the “energy escalator” by which products are progressively upgraded over time to grow from simple systems to full home electrification.”

        They say “purchase”.

  • Bob_Wallace

    I think you mean kerosene power lamps, not generators. Millions of people use kerosene lamps in their ‘far from the grid’ houses.

    Kerosene is an ongoing cost and the fumes are nothing but nasty. (I lived with kerosene light for a few months and I remember my relatives talking about how great it was to get grid power and no longer have to use liquid fuel lamps.)

    This is an absolutely great idea. I really hope this company has its stuff together and makes a go of it. The idea that someone could purchase a small solar system that gave them cleaner, safer, and more convenient light for less than they had be paying for lamp fuel is excellent.

    That purchasers can pay ‘on time’, paying less than what they had been spending for kerosene is excellent plus.

    Lots of these people, if they had cell phones, were having to walk miles to get them charged or sending them via bus to where the grid stopped.

    Next, $35 table computers and enough solar to charge them. Access to information and communication will make major changes in quality of life for many. There might not be a doctor close by, but if one can get good medical advice on line….

    • Correcting.

      • Dawit_h

        Is this product available in Ethiopia and what is the cost there?

         If one purchases the unit, is there a way you can deliver it and what is the delivery cost or do you have a distribution center in Ethiopia? DA

Back to Top ↑