Renewable energy: Husk signs UN energy compact, begins solar mini-grid expansion in Nigeria and other parts of Africa

Renewable energy firm, Husk Power Systems, is planning to launch 500 solar mini-grids in Nigeria over the next five years and is looking to expand into other countries in Africa.

This was revealed today when the startup announced the signing of a voluntary commitment with the United Nations to grow its energy market in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

The commitment is contained under the 24/7 Carbon-free Energy Compact — a global effort to accelerate the uptake of carbon-free electricity as a way of averting the perilous effects of climate change — by leading energy buyers, suppliers, equipment manufacturers, and governments.

Husk has been at the forefront of fueling rural electrification since 2008 and currently has operations in Nigeria, Tanzania, and India. It seeks to install at least 5,000 mini-grids by 2030 while making 1 million connections — half of which will be micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises.

It launched its first six mini-grids in Nigeria in November last year with the hope of having 100 mini-grids operational in the country within two years.

The renewable energy firm is now exploring growth opportunities in the western, southern, and eastern regions of Africa while giving huge focus on countries with a “supportive regulatory environment” like its current markets.

Speaking on the firm’s mission, Manoj Sinha, CEO and Co-founder, Husk Power Systems, said,  “Husk is committed to powering households, but our focus is first and foremost on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and public institutions like health clinics and schools. MSMEs are the engine of economies in Africa, and powering existing small businesses and encouraging the formation of new MSMEs helps create the type of economic growth and social benefit that carries over to households by creating more opportunity and more jobs.”

Husk is one of the companies participating in the Nigeria Electrification Project, which provides performance-based grants, a sort of capital subsidy, to mini-grid developers — part of the national effort to solve the country’s chronic power supply issues.

“In terms of policy frameworks and regulation, the states where Husk works in India (Uttar Pradesh and Bihar) have supportive policies. And the Nigerian mini-grid policy is actually based on those policies, with additional improvements. As a result, Nigeria is seen to have the most conducive policy in sub-Saharan Africa at the moment, which also includes their Nigeria Electrification Project (NEP), a program administered by the Rural Electrification Agency and funded by the World Bank to provide a capital subsidy to mini-grid developers and accelerate market development,” said Sinha.

Husk plans to have additional technological and business model innovations, and use AI and IoT to remotely manage its fleet.

Currently, Nigeria and India are its biggest markets while potential markets include Kenya, which recognized mini-grid power systems at the start of this month, granting them 50% tax allowance and other tax incentives enjoyed by large-scale generators.

“We welcome the Energy Compact commitments made by Husk Power and appreciate their leadership. It showcases the business opportunity presented by the global energy transition, and how private enterprises can drive accelerated action on ending energy poverty, expand renewable energy solutions for consumptive and productive load, and improve the adoption of energy efficiency solutions by end consumers,” said Kanika Chawla, UN Energy program manager.

To date, Husk has raised $40 million from investors, including the Shell energy company and the Dutch Development bank FMO. It was recognized last year by the 2021 Renewables Global Status Report as the only mini-grid developer with over 100 community sites in operation.

Solar power: South Korea offers Nigeria $12.4m worth of solar mini-grids

South Korea has offered to help Nigeria develop nuclear energy options to address power generation supply and shortage in the country.

This was disclosed by the Ambassador of South Korea to Nigeria, Kim Young Choe, at an interactive session with the Senate Committee on Power, chaired by Senator Gabriel Suswam, on Thursday.

The committee had called for the meeting to clarify certain issues regarding the stand-alone solar mini-grids project which the South Korean government is gifting Nigeria and is valued at $12.4m.

According to Choe, the nuclear energy options currently being used in the United Arab Emirates are based on South Korea’s model and powered by South Korean companies. The ambassador further added that the project is a grant to Nigeria, not a loan.

Choe stated that all the four solar mini-grids would be sited in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, adding that the assembling, installation, and maintenance of the project will be handled by South Korean contractors.

The committee welcomed the gift, thanking the South Korean Government for its generosity. However, the lawmakers had a few reservations about the siting of the solar mini-grids in Abuja as revealed by the ambassador.

Suswam urged the South Korean Government to consider distributing, at least, two solar mini-grids each to the six geopolitical zones in the country, while leaving one for Abuja.

He further said that the $12.4m that was being proposed for four solar mini-grids in Abuja would be sufficient to build 12 grids, albeit with smaller capacity but with a far much greater impact across the country.

In his presentation at the session, Salihijo Ahmad, who is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Rural Electrification Agency, stressed the need for the grids to be distributed across the country.

Ahmad also expressed concerns about the sustainability of the project since it is South-Korean Contractors that will be handling it, inquiring about the possibility of having Nigerian companies work on the project.

Responding to the committee’s recommendations, Choe, said their demands were difficult but he would forward the request to his government in Seoul.

Refugees get solar digital classrooms to facilitate learning

In a bid to enhance refugee literacy in a COVID-19-safe way in Uganda and India while harnessing the unlimited power that solar energy provides, Salesforce, a software company, has partnered with Simbi Foundation in its Read-A-Thon.

The Read-A-Thon by Simbi Foundation aims at encouraging individuals of all ages to pick up interest in reading and prompting community learning across the globe. The Foundation’s global library comprises storybooks narrated by learners which can be easily accessed by 180,000+ students from over 80 countries, including remote and refugee learners.

Similarly, Salesforce also donated two BrightBox Micros, which are solar digital classrooms designed to enhance learning capacity, in the crowded refugee schools in the United Nations Bidibidi Camp stationed in northwestern Uganda.

The Bidibidi Camp is home to 239,000+ people, making it the second-largest settlement of its kind in the world. Out of the refugees in the camp, 143,000 of them are school-aged children.

However, the teacher-to-student ratio is poor because there are only 850 teachers available to teach over 70,000 students that are enrolled in schools across the settlement. Available textbooks for learning too are limited.

BrightBox Micros are powered by solar energy and are the damage-proof movable versions of the full Salesforce BrightBox classrooms, with a capacity to simultaneously support about 1,500 learners via an offline intranet.

During the Read-A-Thon, BrightBox offers refugees of the Bidibidi Camp access to books and other important digital educational resources like the Simbi Learn Cloud curriculum as well as resources to train teachers.

Simbi Foundation’s reading technology was developed on the “bi-modal” reading principle which enables learners to read and listen to books simultaneously. This approach has proven to increase literacy scores by up to 100% compared to traditional learning methods.

Speaking on the impact of the project, Jesse Friedland, Salesforce Regional Manager, said, “636 books narrated and thousands of learners impacted around the world—proud of the Salesforce team! If you’re looking for a meaningful, COVID-19-friendly way to give back, consider a Read-A-Thon with Simbi Foundation.”

Female-owned startup, Salpha Energy, secures $1m to scale its solar home systems distribution

Going by the World Bank assessment, around 85 million Nigerians do not have access to grid electricity. With this figure representing 43% percent of the country’s population, Nigeria ranks among countries with the largest energy access deficit in the world.

The lack of reliable power is a significant constraint for citizens and businesses, resulting in annual economic losses. In response to this, innovative startups are upping their games to provide solutions to Nigeria’s energy poverty. One of such companies is Salpha Energy.

The Nigerian-based renewable energy startup, Salpha Energy, has raised $1 million dollars investment from All On, a Shell-funded impact investment company.

This new investment will be deployed to scale the company’s solar home systems distribution business, with a focus on bottom-of-the-pyramid customers in rural and peri-urban areas across Nigeria, including the Niger Delta.

Salpha Energy is a provider of clean, affordable solar home energy systems with a commitment to reaching end-users in underserved communities.

Having launched a wide range of affordable solar products, the female-led company is guided by its vision of a cleaner and more sustainable future for everyone powered by solar energy through innovative and quality-conscious products that are built to last.

Salpha Energy has an active distributor network of over 350 individuals, cooperatives, and traders nationwide with key partnerships with payment collection enablers such as Paga, InfiBranches, and Interswitch.

In 2020, Salpha Energy received a $50,000 prize as one of the winners of the USADF/All On Off-Grid Energy Challenge. This was used to pilot Pay-As-You-Go contracts for customers in the Niger Delta.

According to the energy company, the recent funding will be used to develop Salpha’s inventory and product range, expand sales channels and customer service infrastructure, and test more flexible pricing models to sustainably manage rural and low-income customers across Nigeria.

Expressing his delight over the fundraising, Sandra Chukwudozie, Founder and CEO of Salpha Energy, said, “We are very excited about this support from All On which is an indication of their growing confidence in our vision. This additional support will allow us to deliver on our strategy to provide products for customers across the range of their developing energy needs.”

“We are thrilled about this investment which is the continuation of a journey and would provide Salpha inventory needed to supply its expanding network of distributors and a platform to cement its competitive advantage and respond to growing market demand for Solar Home Systems,” said All On Senior Investment Associate, Goziem Okubor.

“It’s also an opportunity to support young indigenous female entrepreneurs in building an exciting and fast-growing solar business,” Goziem added.


Featured Image: Sandra Chukwudozie, Founder and CEO of Salpha Energy

6 solar-powered devices that you must have

As more people lean towards renewable energy as proof of an eco-friendly lifestyle, many have shown a preference for solar-powered devices.

What’s more, these devices have not only improved the quality of life, but they have proven to be a great way for people to reduce electricity consumption which is oftentimes more expensive.

Below are six (6) solar-powered devices we think you must have to make your life easier and wholesome.

Portable Solar Generator

solar generator

Generators are not left out of the solar revolution. Solar-powered generators are a must-have because they are eco-friendly compared to regular generator sets that pollute the environment.

They harness solar power around your home to power your laptop, fan, lamp, phone, and other small appliances. The great part is that they come with different ports that can be adapted to different equipment.

Solar Outdoor Security Camera

solar camera

Security is very crucial. That is why we recommend solar outdoor security cameras because they detect motion at any time, be it day or night. At night, their built-in LED lights help illuminate your home so you can see what’s happening outside.

You receive notifications on your smartphone through an app, and the video that is recorded is stored on a memory card and saved in the cloud.

Solar Flashlight

solar flashlightIf you’ve ever needed to look for something in the dark, you’d know how frustrating it could be. That’s why flashlights are another essential tool for you.

With solar flashlights, you don’t need to worry about flat batteries because they get power from the sun through a built-in solar panel. When fully charged, they can last for up to 2 days depending on the brand.

Solar Power Bank

solar powerbank

 

Our smartphones are literally our twin. We take them almost anywhere and we use them for virtually anything – calls, research, staying updated, transactions, etc. What then happens when you cannot perform all of those activities because your phone’s battery is flat?

This is why we recommend solar power banks. They allow you to charge your phones when they run down and you don’t have to worry about accessing electricity to charge the power bank because you can charge it with the sun.

It’s a win-win situation. Also, they can charge your laptops and the good part is that they’re portable so you can fit them anywhere.

Solar Bluetooth Speaker

solar bluetooth speaker

It’s time to get your groove on with solar bluetooth speakers. Solar bluetooth speakers are eco-friendly because they receive direct energy from the sun and you don’t have to worry about charging. So, even when there’s a power outage, the show isn’t interrupted.

Solar Fan

solar fan

Sunny days are good and all but they can be quite uncomfortable especially when you get all sweaty. Solar fans come in handy on such days when it’s extremely hot and there isn’t enough ventilation in your home.

Because they are portable, they can be placed anywhere in your home and they come with solar panels that can generate energy from the sun.

On a final note, you don’t need to worry about electricity anymore. All you really need are these solar-powered devices and let the sun do the rest.

Making a case for off-grid solar: The Nigeria scenario

Nigeria is home to Africa’s largest population and has the largest economy in the continent in terms of nominal GDP.

Along with its population strength and economic power comes its abundance in both traditional and renewable energy resources, especially solar.

To put this into context, Nigeria has an average of 2672 hours of sunlight yearly with an average of 7:18 hours of sunlight per day.

However, considering the country’s economic strength and favorable environmental conditions, one would think it would be a major player in renewable power sources such as solar but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Nigeria’s population comprises about 190 million people, with only about 45% of them having access to grid-connected electricity, and even those with access to centralized power are often affected by power cuts and outages from the national grid.

This has led the population to generate their own electricity with petrol and diesel generators – which are mostly uneconomical and environmentally unfriendly – to solve the problem.

Significant progress has been made in the past 5 years to address the energy deficiency that Nigeria faces, with distributed solar playing a leading role in allowing millions of households have access to clean and sustainable energy. This is largely due to Nigeria’s potential for off-grid solar systems.

However, according to statistics from the International Renewable Energy Agency, Nigeria had only installed 28 MW of solar as of 2019 end, despite its huge potential.

The issues

According to the World Bank, off-grid solar electrification is usually considered when providing electricity access to rural communities which are mostly far from the existing grid and often have dispersed settlement patterns.

With the privatization of electricity utility in Nigeria, providing electricity for these rural communities is seen as not being cost-beneficial to the private companies because they are mostly driven by profit maximization.

This makes a case for providing electricity access in some of these rural communities using off-grid solar photovoltaic systems (PV) because it is the most economically viable and provides similar benefits in terms of use.

While off-grid solar has the potential to address Nigeria’s energy access deficit, enhance its overall economic development, and help rural communities to improve electricity supply, market failures impede its growth.

For example, the rural poor, who are most in need of access, are deprived of being served in commercial terms because they can’t afford electricity offered at market prices.

Another issue is the barrier to finance in the off-grid solar market. Many local financial institutions (FIs) are reluctant to invest in the off-grid solar market and this has been a major impediment.

The future

Off-grid solar (OGS) companies have a lot to do when it comes to the scale and viability of solutions. The good part is that technological advancements in mobile payments and consumer financing models have changed the way off-grid energy products can be offered.

Nigeria will unlock an enormous market opportunity through off-grid solar as companies continue to lead innovative ways to reach underserved communities.

As more Nigerians see solar as desirable and reliable, the cost of sales will substantially reduce. The Nigerian solar market has great potentials. Creating awareness, delivering generator-replacement technology at low cost, financing, etc., may just be the nudge that people need to hop on the train.

Solar power joins in the fight against polio in Nigeria

The world is adopting clean energy at an unprecedented pace, and solar power is the energy source that has seen a significant uptake across the globe.

Recognizing the role of energy in delivering quality healthcare services, the World Health Organization (WHO) has delivered solar panels to a health facility in Borno State, Nigeria to ensure an uninterrupted power supply for essential health services providers.

The solar panels- 48 of them with 330 watts each, 21KVA inverters, and 24 tabular batteries- were commissioned at the Polio Laboratory by Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, the WHO country representative.

It is intended to give the facility an uninterrupted power supply for the quick testing of Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) samples that are collected from the field.

This intervention is a response to the insurgency attack on infrastructure in the state in January 2021 which is affecting operations at the accredited Polio Laboratory at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital.

The solar panels delivered to power the facility is in response to the increasing impact of climate change on people’s health and reinforce the commitment to develop climate-resilient and low-carbon health systems as emphasized at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26).

The installation of solar panels, according to Mulombo, is part of the best practices aimed at improving health services to avoid disruption in laboratory activities.

He added, “WHO will provide additional support to ensure the capacity of the polio laboratory in strengthening the fight against poliovirus in Nigeria. Also, WHO will continue to support the state technically and ensure essential health services are adequately provided.”

Speaking on the intervention, Professor Ibrahim Kidda, Head of Immunology Department, University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, said, “WHO’s intervention in the state and the Polio laboratory specifically, cannot be overemphasized.

However, the predicament we found ourselves [in] during the ten months of power outage had a negative impact on effectively carrying out our mandate.

I believe this project would play an enormous role in ensuring continuity of the laboratory activities and save Nigeria and Africa the embarrassment it might cause to Global Polio Eradication Efforts.”

To maintain the win against wild poliovirus, Nigeria needs to continue the AFP surveillance and sample collection. There is also a need to continue testing to support the battle against the Vaccine Derived Polio Virus 2 (cVDPV2) that is circulating and is already reported in some states.

d.light raises $15m to expand Pay-Go operations across Africa

d.light, a global innovator of solar, lighting, and sustainable products, has secured a $15m investment to bolster its Pay-Go model; and enter new product categories and markets across Africa.

The round was led by Inspired Evolution via its Evolution II Fund with participation from Shell New Energies, FMO, Norfund, Swedfund, and KawiSafi Ventures.

Having raised a $10m round from Proparco earlier in May, these new funds bring the total amount raised by d.light solar to $25m this year.

In spite of the pandemic which has negatively impacted many businesses, this fundraising underscores the confidence investors have in the renewable energy industry and in d.light.

Wayne Keast, Co-Managing Partner of Inspired Evolution, said, “We are pleased to support the company with additional capital for growth and to secure the support from many of the existing shareholders during these difficult Covid-19 times.”  

Marching on to bigger goals

Co-founded in 2006 by Sam Goldman and Ned Tozun, d.light is renowned for providing the most reliable, affordable, and accessible solar lighting and power systems for people in the developing world.

In 2020, d.light solar crossed a milestone after reaching its goal of impacting 100 million lives by the end of that year. The company has now embarked on another ambitious journey to impact 1 billion lives by 2030 with transformative products.

To date, the clean energy leader provides customers with a broad portfolio of sustainable solutions, ranging from portable solar lanterns to financed solar home systems and related aspirational products, such as smartphones and televisions. The company claims that its award-winning products are sold through over 30,000 outlets.

Commenting on their latest fundraising, d.light co-founder and CEO Ned Tozun, said,  “We are grateful for the continued support of our investors during these uncertain times. Thanks to our focus on financial discipline and operational excellence, d.light minimized the pandemic’s impact on our business.” 

According to Tozun, d.light solar is well-positioned to expand its Pay-Go operations and enter new product categories and markets in the near future.

21-year old Founder of Sollys Energy emerges among winners of Anzisha Prize Fellowship

The Anzisha Prize has revealed its top 26 entrepreneurs selected for 2021. The entrepreneurs, who are between the ages of 18 and 22, will each receive more than US$5,000 in funding and more than US$15,000 worth of venture building support services over three years.

This arrangement is in line with the prestigious fellowship’s new structure of enabling young people to receive the financial and mentoring support they need to succeed.

Josh Adler, Executive Director of the Anzisha Prize, said, “We’ve seen clearly that a transition from secondary or tertiary education directly into sustainable entrepreneurship requires both financial and learning support,” comments 

“Through our long-term partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, we’re thrilled to not only announce an increase in the number of fellowships we can offer each year but also in the monetary support each venture will receive.”

The 2021 Anzisha Fellows were selected from hundreds of applications across Africa and passed multiple stages of vetting and evaluation. Applicants were from countries such as Malawi, Togo, South Africa, and Madagascar and running businesses in education, health, agriculture, manufacturing, energy, and beauty.

These young Africans are demonstrating how it’s possible to pursue entrepreneurship as a career in the face of the pandemic.

Meet Martin Masiya, Founder of Sollys Energy and winner of the 2021 Anzisha Prize

Born in Malawi, Martin is the founder of Sollys Energy which distributes solar lamps and solar lanterns using a Pay-As-You-Go model for customers in semi-urban and rural areas.

The 21-year old entrepreneur and youth leader is passionate about developing his country and creating jobs. His passion for the environment and sustainable development was sparked after his first volunteer experience, when he was 15, for a local waste management charity.

During this experience, he helped the charity establish local women-led waste recycling clubs and vegetable gardens. This would inspire him to start his own business in the future.

Transition into Entrepreneurship

When Martin started college in 2015, his interest in entrepreneurship grew and he started a media business. He started with photography but later offered videography and graphic design services. The various businesses that Martin ran in college grew his passion for entrepreneurship.

In August 2020, he launched Sollys Energy which distributes solar lamps and solar lanterns using a Pay-As-You-Go model for customers in semi-urban and rural areas.

What Sollys Energy does

Sollys Energy is solving the energy problem in Malawi by making quality solar products affordable and accessible to households and businesses in low-income areas. It provides solar lamps and solar home systems using flexible Pay-As-You-Go payment plans to customers residing in the semi-urban and rural areas of Malawi.

The startup distributes solar products through a network of local sales agents. Agents are responsible for giving in-person demonstrations to potential customers, making sales, and engaging in marketing campaigns.

Martin’s goal is to make solar products affordable and accessible while creating jobs and income for his fellow youth.


Featured Image: Martin Masiya, Founder of Sollys Energy

UNIDO supports Nec Xon’s alternative energy storage solution

The South African NEC XON alternative energy Hybrid Storage Solution (HSS) has been recognized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) as an innovative technology for supporting sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth.

NEC XON’s HSS combines advanced control and monitoring, as well as the newest Polarium lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery technology, to lower lifecycle costs and improve service quality, allowing telecoms operators to increase profit margins.

The UNIDO Sustainable Technology Promotion Platform evaluation committee validated NEC XON’s outdoor HSS, which is utilized in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It meets the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 8 and 9 in particular.

Magnus Coetzee, Executive: Infrastructure Solutions at NEC XON said “Our hybrid technology, which has been utilized in various African nations since 2018, can be used in tandem with electricity grids, even where the grid is unstable with frequent outages.”

According to him, it is an outdoor cabinet solution with anti-theft and remote monitoring and control that reduces diesel usage by up to 80% and diesel run-time by up to 90% in real-world applications. This provides a significant economic benefit, as well as a significant reduction in Carbon dioxide emission for both the generators and the trucks used to refuel standard generator sets.

When grid power is off, the system immediately shifts to storage batteries, and the generator only comes on when the storage batteries are low.

The majority of mobile carrier base stations are located off-grid, making reliability an issue. Diesel generators have traditionally been used by mobile carrier networks to supplement inconsistent grid power or when no power is available. Theft of the fuel and generators, as well as the cost of running and maintaining them, as well as the difficulties of getting to them, are all important and costly challenges.

“Cellphones are one of the key sources of social and economic transformation for individuals and entire communities in rural Africa,” said Coetzee.

He added, “Cellphones are used for money transfers and payments, medical services, education, work, entertainment, and a variety of other things. The network goes down without reliable power, making it extremely difficult for people to learn, work, stay safe, and stay healthy, all of which affects prosperity”.

According to the World Bank, Africa has 21 of the 25 least-connected countries, but it also boasts one of the fastest-growing Internet growth rates in the globe.

Coetzee also revealed that information and communication technologies (ICT) present a great chance to improve people’s lives. Access to stable energy and reliable communications is the first important step toward true transformation for more than 650 million rural Africans.

According to ITU data published by the World Bank, increasing mobile broadband coverage by 10% increases per capita GDP by 2.5 percent in Africa.

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