HomeRegional NewsEast AfricaFrench energy giant invests in solar ventures

French energy giant invests in solar ventures

French venture capital fund, Total Energy Ventures (TEV), a division of French multinational integrated oil and gas company, Total, is seeking to invest in solar energy solution start-ups, Off Grid Electric and Powerhive. The companies, which have a large Africa-focus, are both involved in deploying clean power solutions to emerging markets and communities that are living off-grid or have limited access to the grid.

Investing in solar start-ups

Reuters reported on Tuesday, that TEV has invested $150 million (ZAR2 billion) in the respective clean power companies.

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Total, Patrick Pouyanné, said: “Off Grid Electric and Powerhive’s systems combine solar power, energy storage and digital customer relationship management, paving the way for distributed energy management models.

“Their systems are expected to speed up electrification in Africa and could be as much a game changer as mobile phones were in their field. Off Grid Electric recently won the Zayed Future Energy Prize in recognition of its efficient, apposite solutions.”

Deploying clean power solutions in East Africa

Tanzania- and California-based Off Grid Electric, which provides light to over 10,000 new customers monthly, has plans to reach  1 million people in Tanzania by 2017, as well as expanding into other sub-Saharan African countries. Off Grid Electric is focused on developing and deploying solar home systems and battery storage to power LED lights, mobile phone chargers and small electronic appliances.

[quote]In 2015, California-based Powerhive, which develops and operates solar microgrids with battery storage announced the launch of Kenya’s first commercial-scale project for roughly 100 microgrids to supply 90,000 households in western Kenya.

The increased power supply has enabled local communities to develop small businesses and skills in agriculture including maize milling, welding, incubating chickens and hair styling.

The technology venture company’s off-grid metering and control solutions division has been running pilot projects for two years across four different villages in Kenya’s Kisii Province—90% of the population in this area live off grid.

The pilot electrification projects have successfully supplied locally generated power to over 1,500 people with a total generation capacity of 80kWh.

Powerhive co-founder and vice president for business development, Rik Wuts said at the time: “Our goal … is in line with that of the government—we want to connect and provide reliable service to as many rural communities as possible.”

Total said in a company statement: “Solar energy gives customers access to flexible, clean energy at affordable prices. Solar systems and microgrids are important components in sustainable distributed energy infrastructure and help drive economic development in rural regions.”

With Africa having leapfrogged traditional means of communication, mobile cellular devices are the primary means of communication for the majority, which has been built into the two solar solutions companies’ business models, which operate via mobile money payment.

Home page pic credit: Total petrochemicals usa

Ashley Theron
Ashley Theron-Ord is based in Cape Town, South Africa at Clarion Events-Africa. She is the Senior Content Producer across media brands including ESI Africa, Smart Energy International, Power Engineering International and Mining Review Africa.