Things are looking bright for East Africa this season. At least that’s the case for the solar as a service startup Off Grid Electric and its customers.
Tanzanian-based solar company Off Grid Electric has raised a massive US$16-million (about R184-million) lead by the US alternative energy giant and NASDAQ-listed, SolarCity, the UK’s Zouk Capital as well as Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital.
The investment comes after it raised US$7-million (roughly R80-million) in March this year.
Similar to the mobile airtime model, the startup introduces a pre-paid solar power system that asks the home-owner to top-up whenever the user runs out of electricity.
CEO and co-founder Xavier Helgesen tells TechCrunch that Off Grid is a pioneer of micro-solar leasing. “Pre-paid mobile is what really unlocked the mobile phone market in Africa. Now it’s the beginning of the era of pre-paid solar,“ he says.
However true the above statement may be, it’s not operating as a monopoly at all. In the East African space there are MobiSol, SolarNow as well as M-KOPA from Kenya which raised US$20-million in February.
Off Grid plans to expand its installation workforce while improving its hardware and software. Ultimately, it wants to increase its customer base from 25 000 to 100 000.
Grid Electric’s solution charges US$0.20 per day for what it claims to be 50 times lighter than traditional hazardous kerosene lamps.
As reported by AltAssets Vulcan’s Steve Hall explains that “Off Grid Electric has the team, the vision and the technology to deliver distributed power to thousands, and eventually, millions of homes and businesses in parts of the world where grid electricity is non-existent.”
The company says that it creates thousands of jobs in the countries where it operates, and supports tens of thousands of small businesses and local entrepreneurs with income from helping their communities go solar. It even provides local workshops to education citizens about its product.
Zouk CEO Samer Salty says that Grid Electric’s solution is gearing up to scale, perhaps globally:
Off Grid Electric has the first truly scalable solution for their customers. We see them as reaching a million customers quite soon. Furthermore, Off Grid Electric is leapfrogging the Western world and proving that distributed energy is highly scalable, financially viable, and immediately impactful to hundreds of millions.
This is a staggering vote of confidence for both solar startups in Africa as well as those seeking capital beyond their traditional borders.