David Hees will address African Utility Week’s Innovation Hub on “Innovative thinking in rural electrification and iShack case study: off-grid solar electricity to incrementally upgrade informal settlements”.
Let’s start with some background on the Sustainability Institute Innovation Lab (SIIL) and your role there?
I am the Sustainable Enterprise Manager at SIIL and am currently running the flagship social enterprise called iShack.
How was the iShack project conceived?
Through a group of Masters students who decided to look at the practical implications of what can be one to upgrade services in informal settlements while they wait for utilities and infrastructure.
How has this changed the community’s quality of life?
By providing access to basic electricity this has improved security, education and reduced risk of fires and respiratory diseases.
What is the business model?
The iShack project is run as a fee-for-service model whereby clients pay a monthly fee for electricity use and rental of the solar home system and appliances. iShack agents are local community members that are trained to install and maintain the systems and are currently employed by the project.
Is the idea that it will be replicated elsewhere?
What were the main learnings from this project in your view?
That solar home systems can be a financially viable solution for alternative electricity provision in informal settlements in an urban context as well as rural communities.
What was the most inspiring about it?
To see he community take ownership and responsibility of the project as well as their support to see it succeed.
What kind of innovation is necessary for our energy sector today in your view?
Regulators and power producers need to work together to provide an energy landscape that allows a mix of resources to be utilized for electricity provision.
What will be your message at African Utility Week?
That solar home systems can be used as an alternative in urbanized informal settlements as well as rural.
What are you most looking forward to at the Innovation Hub?
Meeting with industry leaders and sharing the lessons learnt at iShack.