16 February 2012 – During January 2012, 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, launched the KickStart Sustainable Energy Fund. It is aimed at expansion of affordable solar lighting to rural off-grid communities in East Africa. The initial investment will fund the deployment of 4,000 IndiGo units.
KickStart is a new type of profitable, self-sustaining revolving fund that provides working capital to accelerate the roll-out of IndiGo pay-as-you-go solar lighting products in rural off-grid communities. Users receive high quality solar lighting and in-home phone charging, which they pay for on a weekly basis using scratch cards, just like a pay-as-you-go mobile phone. The revenues from the scratch cards recover the cost of the units and are returned to KickStart to allow the deployment of additional units to new users. In this way, consecutive KickStart investments revolve from the original fund, ensuring the money works harder to provide benefit to multiple users over time.
KickStart, accepts donations or defined-term, interest-free loans from impact investors, to provide working capital to stimulate the growth of pay-as-you-go solar products. The program has been primed with a pool from Eight19 and SolarAid of US$200,000 to cover the first 4,000 lighting systems to be deployed in Kenya in early 2012.
Eight19, launched its IndiGo pay-as-you-go personal solar electricity system for off-grid communities in Kenya in September 2011. Users purchase scratch cards 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. Users put credit on their IndiGo device using a scratch card, which is validated over SMS using a standard mobile phone. Householders in these villages who have had the IndiGo system installed are now benefiting from the availability of affordable electricity, which will stimulate social and economic development and provide the energy to power internet connections and electronic devices.
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.”
Simon Bransfield Garth, CEO of Eight19 says, “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.”