Lighting Rwanda & Tanzania With Solar & LEDs — SolarCity-Backed Off Grid Solar

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Originally published on Sustainnovate.

Off Grid Electric is a leading small business advancing clean energy in the developing world. It has created a distributed solar power model and currently provides services in Tanzania and Rwanda. Many people in these countries don’t have enough money to buy solar power systems, so Off Grid makes them affordable. Otherwise, kerosene and candles are used, which generate harmful indoor air pollution and can be expensive — especially over the long term. They can also cause very damaging or even lethal fires.

Off Grid Electric

The Off Grid payment system allows customers with mobile phones to make installment payments, using M-Pesa or other such services. This system gives more flexibility to customers in terms of the amounts they are able to pay, and when. Over 10,000 systems are being installed each month, and 800 Tanzanians are employed by Off Grid.

It isn’t just solar power though that Off Grid provides — it is also energy efficient LED lights, which deliver far more light than kerosene lamps or candles could. This relative abundance of light running on clean, renewable energy helps adults and children have time at night to read, work and do homework. Radios and TVs are also sold through the same distribution system, so customers have access to appliances that help them stay informed about what is happening locally, regionally, nationally, and globally.

A partnership with the President in Tanzania is helping to spread solar power to one million homes in Tanzania and creating thousands of jobs.

Off Grid Electric, which is a 2016 Zayed Future Energy Prize finalist, has also been very successful in fundraising. In fact, the organization raised $25 million in 2015 with backing from SolarCity, amongst other funders, and raised $16 million from SolarCity in 2014. In the previous year, the organization raised $23 million. Having this considerable support is obviously very important from an operational standpoint, but it also is meaningful as an affirmation. The funders believe not only in the organization’s mission, but in its ability to follow through on it.

Image Credit: Off Grid Electric

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Jake Richardson

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One thought on “Lighting Rwanda & Tanzania With Solar & LEDs — SolarCity-Backed Off Grid Solar

  • Flogging hobby horse: micropayments are a true breakthrough in enabling services like offgrid solar to reach the rural poor in Africa and Asia. But there is a real risk of monopolistic overcharging, and SolarCity’s track record in the US is not reassuring. One essential step in keeping offgrid solar fairly priced is to require the mobile payments systems to interoperate, like the banks they are standing in for. Lock-in of the payment service is lock-in of monopoly profits.

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