Okra Solar looking to raise $1.2m to launch solar energy banks to power lives of off-grid communities

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Okra Solar, an Australian high tech start-up based out of Cambodia, is currently looking to raise $1.2M of funding for their seed round to power lives of over 1.2 billion people living in off-grid regions.

“If you want to jump on board and help unlock the potential of 1.2 billion people, then get in touch! We’re looking to make impact, and make money while we’re at it!’ CEO Afnan Hannan said as the firm pitched to over 100 investors last week, at the Forum for Climate and Clean Energy Finance in Singapore.

Okra Solar aims to install infrastructure to transition entire off-grid villages into ‘decentralised microgrids’ where the infrastructure can be seen as an ‘energy bank’. Instead of hiding savings away as cash, people can choose to buy solar panels to supply more power to the microgrid and increase their income generation capacity, effectively becoming local entrepreneurs.

According to Hannan, “Sustained economic growth is just not possible without access to electricity, and historically the grid doesn’t really move that fast into rural areas, it’s the other way around. People from the rural areas move towards the grid. Fortunately, decentralised technologies such as solar are now cheaper than the national grid, making the electrification of villages a practical reality, rather than forcing communities to relocate or pay for access to the big plants, 100s of kilometres away.”

Named as the “most investment ready business” at the forum, ahead of a variety of large scale solar, wind and biomass projects from over 7 countries, Okra’s software & hardware bring power to the 1.2 billion people in the world who aren’t connected to electricity.

More than 30% of generated power from off-grid solar home systems is never used. Using Okra’s innovative ‘grid-in-a-box’, households can be connected together in a  ‘smart-grid’. Once connected, smart software activates to redistribute wasted solar power to where it is needed. Power from an Okra network costs about half as much as it does from standalone solar home systems, shaping it to be the most affordable electrification solution for off-grid villages around the world.

Okra’s smart-grids are at the cutting edge of technology, drawing interest from a range of impact and high-tech investors. There are people paying through the roof for dirty and expensive diesel and kerosene, meanwhile their neighbour has perfectly good solar power that’s being wasted because there’s nowhere to store it. The firm’s software simply measures where there’s excess power and pushes it to someone can get some use from it.

Almost all of the 1.2 billion people who live off-grid don’t have bank accounts. Leveraging recent developments in mobile money technology the solar sharing model enables households to pay using mobile credit. Solar generating households profit from their excess generation, while those who purchase power get affordable access, sometimes for the first time ever.  In both scenarios, Okra starts building a credit history for these households which leads to additional services such as low fee based lending and remittances in the future.

Now doing its pilot in Cambodia, Okra has raised money through Australian crowdfunding platform Pozible and was grant funded by SNV (Netherlands Development Agency).