For the last ten years, Acumen has been investing in off-grid energy companies in the developing world. In its new Energy Impact Report, the impact investing nonprofit talked directly to thousands of customers about their experiences - good and bad - with these companies’ energy products. Acumen's Kat Harrison discusses the survey's revealing results.
Services that allow customers to pay for solar equipment and service in small installments have picked up momentum in the past couple of years, particularly in East Africa. Two firms that supply solar power products with pay-as-you-go products have raised a total of $75 million in financing this month to back up that long-held vision.
- Sub-Saharan Africa
When it comes to off-grid solar energy, we tend to think of market extremes such as rural poor people in developing countries without any electricity or well-off people in developed countries looking to charge up their Teslas. But Lori Chatman of Enterprise Community Loan Fund and Ismael Guerrero of the Denver Housing Authority detail a project to bring green power to public housing residents in the Mile High City. The project could serve as a model for impact investors looking to improve health, expand green jobs and earn a return.
After entering Myanmar as the country's first pay-as-you go solar power provider in 2015, Brighterlite recently ceased operations there, losing the nearly US $2 million invested in the startup. Jørund Buen, co-founder of the firm that owns Brighterlite, explains what went wrong – and the role that government and donors played in the failure.
“Fast away the old year passes.” That lyric from “Deck the Halls” always hits home this time of year – and in 2017, it resonates particularly strongly. Across the social sectors, the year often felt like a race against time (or against competing societal forces) and many of our most popular posts reflect that sense of urgency. Here are the most influential posts from the last twelve months, one from each month, in our sixth annual holiday contest. Vote early, vote often.
- Agriculture, Education, Energy, Entrepreneurship, Environment, Health Care, Impact Assessment, Inclusive Fintech, Investing, NextBillion Originals, Technology
- agriculture, business development, development impact bonds, digital finance, digital payments, financial inclusion, fintech, impact investing, microcredit, microfinance, mobile banking, mobile finance, mobile money, NextBillion.net, research, smallholder farmers, social business, social enterprise, social impact, solar, solar energy
Most Influential Post Nominee: There is Such a Thing as Too Much, Too Fast: Avoiding ‘Mismatched Expectations’ in Off-Grid Energy Investing
A recent post by impact investing firm Ceniarth on the "Energy Access Hype Cycle" has generated considerable discussion, prompting critical responses from fellow impact investors Persistent Energy Capital and the off-grid lighting trade organization GOGLA. With this post, writers at the IFC join the discussion, analyzing the effect of rapid growth rates, high levels of consumer financing and operational efficiency on the liquidity of solar home system providers.
NextBillion’s Most Influential Post of 2017: An Impact Investor Urges Caution on the ‘Energy Access Hype Cycle’
Ceniarth, an impact investor, has been actively engaged in the energy access sector since 2014. But now it's reducing its exposure to the venture-backed, solar home system segment of this market while shifting its strategy toward enterprises – for-profit, nonprofit and hybrid – that are finding the most capital-efficient ways to reach rural customers. Here, three principals in the firm candidly explain why they are reassessing their approach.
An ongoing debate on NextBillion in 2017 has been the extent to which impact investors should steer clear of the "hype cycle" surrounding off-grid solar providers, particularly in Africa. But after a recent trip to Tanzania where he met with several solar entrepreneurs, WRI's Sanjoy Sanyal argues that now is precisely the time to push forward. He explores why genuine, impact-seeking investors need to look ahead of the current incumbents and support local entrepreneurs.