Design Expo 2014: Online Discussion - Access to Energy

This online panel discussion at 3.30 UK time on Monday 9 June will explore the following questions:

  1. What are the emerging technologies that have the potenital to transform access to energy in the future?
  2. What pricing and distribution approaches seem to be working in expanding the poor's access to energy?
  3. What should governments do to help drive access to energy, including for women and children?

Panelists include: Liz Grubin, Impact Carbon; Vincenzo Capogna, Sunny Money (Solar Aid); Sheila Oparaocha, Energia; Davinia Cogan, GVEP International; Gaurav Mehta, Dharma Life.

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This event is part of the Business Fights Poverty Design Expo 2014. Running from 9 to 13 June,  the Design Expo is an online celebration of products, services and business models transforming the lives of poor people.  The Design Expo is a collaboration with iDE UK and is being supported by the UK's Department for International Development.

The Expo will include a vibrant mix of blogs, Google Hangouts, online panel discussions, a Twitter Jam and a virtual exhibition zone. Each day we will focus on a different sector: Energy (9 June), Health (10 June), Communications (11 June), Livelihoods (including enterprise, finance and agriculture) (12 June) and Water & Sanitation (13 June).

From Monday 9 June, you will be able to access all the activities via the Design Expo landing page,  Participation in the Design Expo is free.  You will simply need to sign in (or sign up for free) to Business Fights Poverty.


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There are a number of companies we see in East Africa such as M-KOPA in Kenya and Off.Grid-Electric in Tanzania that are building scalable and commercially viable businesses that address these issues. M-KOPA recently raised US$20m from a consortium of investors and Off.Grid recently raised US$7m. 

As responsible of the innovation department at SunnyMoney, I'm both testing (with promising results) customer finance with SACCOs and MFIs and working on developing and piloting entry-level PAYG lights.The results from the trials are really encouraging both in terms of uptake and repayment rate.


I would be interested to learn about the experience of businesses offering finance 'in-house' for customers, or partnering with micro-finance organisations or other banks to provide financing?  Do any of the panelists have good of bad experience of either approach?  

Pay-as-you-go technologies in the context of solar energy for lighting and entertainment are relatively well formed and developed, certainly in East Africa. The next PAYG tech revolution may be in regard to cookstoves. There is also great potential for PAYG appliances such as refrigerators, which is largely untapped.

in SunnyMoney, we used a model called School Campaign to promote solar lights through the capillary network of the schools and to generate trusted thanks to the help of trusted community leaders: the head-teachers.

Have tried both, there a lot of benefits in tying up with MFIs, and this is much easier to scale up in my experience. However, it only addresses about 10% of the population in a typical village in India

Ok - let's move onto our second question!

Q2: What pricing and distribution approaches seem to be working in expanding the poor's access to energy?

We have tried direct financing models but they are much harder to scale up in terms of risk management

for 'in housing' financing we work with partners on entry-level PAYG solar lights but we have to consider a certain default on the payments. For example: M-Kopa (PAYG solar home system) is a successful company with a repayment rate of 95%.

Regarding working with Banks and MFIs: I found easier to work with SACCOs and MFIs because they can offer loans also on small amount (10-20USD) while for Bank such loans are not attractive.

We seem to have answered the second question in response to the first! On the emerging tech side, I'm curious to understand from practitioners what are the next big tech issues that the sector faces... leaving aside business models for a moment.

We have found that a free product trial plus payment plan drive adoption significantly 

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