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WFES: Fund launched to accelerate solar in East Africa

Eight19 Ltd., the developer of the IndiGo pay-as-you-go solar power system and SunnyMoney, a social enterprise distributing solar lamps in East Africa owned by SolarAid, have launched the KickStart Sustainable Energy Fund for off-grid solar lighting in East Africa.

By Kari Williamson

The fund, which was launched at the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) last week, is part of an ongoing partnership aimed at expanding affordable solar lighting to rural off-grid communities in East Africa. The initial investment will fund the deployment of 4000 IndiGo units.

KickStart will provide working capital to accelerate the roll-out of IndiGo pay-as-you-go solar lighting products in rural off-grid communities. Users receive solar lighting and in-home phone charging, which they pay for on a weekly basis using scratchcards, just like a pay-as-you-go mobile phone.

The revenues from the scratchcards recover the cost of the solar units and are returned to KickStart to allow the deployment of additional units to new users.

The programme has been primed with a pool from Eight19 and SolarAid of US$200,000 to cover the first 4000 lighting systems to be deployed in Kenya in early 2012.

Steve Andrews, CEO of SolarAid, says: “1.6 billion people - over one fifth of the world’s population - lack access to the electricity grid and pay high prices for kerosene to serve basic needs such as lighting. IndiGo technology provides an affordable means of delivering electricity using the sun’s power to generate clean, renewable energy at the point of use. The KickStart Fund, which is administered by SunnyMoney’s owner, the registered charity SolarAid, will provide working capital to enable IndiGo-enabled solar lights to be help many more families, bringing enormous economic benefits to local communities across the developing world.”

Simon Bransfield Garth, CEO of Eight19, adds: “The IndiGo system makes electricity affordable because it allows users to buy electricity as a service, avoiding the expensive upfront costs normally associated with solar products. Since we launched IndiGo in September 2011, the technology has been met with great enthusiasm and the KickStart fund will further accelerate the deployment of solar power and all the benefits it brings.”

IndiGo solar units

Eight19, launched its IndiGo pay-as-you-go personal solar electricity system for off-grid communities in Kenya in September 2011.

Users purchase scratchcards at approximately US$1 per week for a standard system, which represents less than half the typical cost of the kerosene lighting and phone charging spend it displaces.

Each IndiGo system consists of a low-cost solar panel, a battery unit with inbuilt mobile phone charger and a high efficiency light emitting diode (LED) lamp.

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