These companies are not only looking to help solve the energy crisis, but also create environmentally sustainable solutions through renewable energy
word by sanelisiwe maliza
Thirty countries in Africa experience regular power shortages and blackouts. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, there are over 600 million people who lack access to reliable electricity. The World Bank says countries in this region have annual outages from 50 hours to 4,600 hours.
From Nigeria to South Africa, shortages are affecting the biggest economies on the continent and slowing down development. A 2017 report showed that the energy shortages are costing economies on average 2% of their GDP, up to even 5%. With these devastating numbers, it is clear that intervention is needed to close the energy gap. DESTINY CAREERS scoured the continent to find five impressive start-ups that are creating innovative energy solutions to ensure more homes and business have access to power:
In just nine years M-Kopa has created one of the most impactful renewable energy companies on the continent, lighting up over 750,000 homes and businesses in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The company that was launched in 2011 has created an affordable renewable energy solution for over 3 million individuals. The company has put together an affordable model for customers to access and pay for renewable energy products.
To get started, customers pay a deposit of approximately $35 (R498). Once paid, they can take the system home. Over a period of a year, they pay about $0.50 per day towards the M-Kopa solar product to completely own it. Once the product is paid off, customers own it and are able to have unrestricted access to electricity.
Thanks to Strauss Energy, now homeowners can also help solve the energy shortage crisis by becoming suppliers. The Kenya based company has created energy generating roofing tiles. The product offers homeowners the chance to make an additional income by selling their extra power to the grid.
While the roofing tiles may be more expensive than solar panels, costing from R60,000 to R75,000, homeowners can make back the money from saved electricity costs and by selling the excess energy.
Nuru Energy was born out of necessity. When Sameer Hajee visited Rwanda for the first time, he gained perspective on the electricity shortages in the country, especially in rural areas. He saw the link between poverty and the lack of access to electricity.
“We realised that grid electricity is not going to reach villages anytime soon. Off-grid solutions (solar-power, wind-power) are an answer,” says Nuru Energy co-founder Sameer Hajee. Nuru created four products, including the Nuru Light and the Nuru Solar Panel, to help bring light to villages.
Due to the unreliable nature of solar energy, as it is only able to generate energy through the sun, they created a power cycle, an ingenious and efficient way to convert human energy into usable energy. A person can pedal and up to five Nuru Lights can be recharged simultaneously in around 20 minutes.
Founded in 2011, Freedom Won is a South African company that was established with the completion of their first electric vehicle (EV) conversion prototype — turning their Jeep Grand Cherokee (dubbed Freedom1) into an electric car.
Since then, the company has built several more electric products. The lithium battery technology used in Freedom Won’s EV conversions was the starting point. They have used the same concept to create static energy storage. The Lite battery offers lithium iron phosphate energy storage solutions in a compact wall unit for residential and business use, to protect against load shedding and outages, as well as integration with solar panels to reduce or eliminate utility power usage.
While many renewable energy companies have started small and looked at impacting one off-the-grid community at a time, Rensource has bigger plans. The Nigerian based business recently raised $20 million to expand the company.
“We’ve pivoted away from a residential focus… and we’re building much larger systems to become, essentially, the utility for these large urban markets we have a lot of in Nigeria,” Rensource co-founder Ademola Adesina speaking to TechCrunch.
Rensource has a small to medium enterprise focus and is looking to reach and support informal traders, freeing them from the costs of running a fuel guzzling generator. At the moment, the company is the off-grid electricity supplier in six states in Nigeria, and has lit up one of the largest markets, Sabon Gari.
The Nigerian company has a partnership with German manufacturer BOS AG, designed solar panels.
The partnership with foreign companies is a prevalent trend across the continent. While many renewable energy startups are popping up, the industry remains largely untransformed. A clear trend seen throughout the continent is that a majority of the companies that have benefited from the opportunity of the energy shortage are foreign nationals who have seen the commercial opportunity of solving this problem.