With a worldwide focus on connecting the last four-billion of the world’s population to the Internet, a push to ensure the last 1.2-billion people have access to electricity and unlocking the world of finance to the world’s 2.5-billion unbanked, there is a need to start thinking differently.
Mapping out these three challenges, Veriown president and CEO Steve Johanns, speaking on the second day of the PowerGen Africa conference, in Sandton, on Wednesday, said the overlapping issues all had one commonality – the people left out in the cold were all in the same two places – Africa and Asia.
He stated that there was an opportunity to tackle all three challenges as kerosene spend rises, mobile penetration grows and solar and light-emitting diode lighting prices drop significantly.
Johanns told delegates that, in rural India and Africa, an average of $0.30 a day, or 6% of household spending, was spent on dangerous kerosene lighting alone. With 80% of people now having access to a mobile phone, another $0.10 was spent daily on mobile phone charging, with many currently unable to charge devices in their home.
There is a need to eliminate costly and time-consuming physical infrastructure to “clear the way” for a rapid expansion of solar home systems, particularly as grid extensions in rural Africa cost about $2 800 per household to deploy.
In comparison, he said, a solar home system costs a few hundred dollars per household to fund, distribute and set up, and has a growth path trajectory that can be similar to that of the mobile phone explosion.
Johanns pointed to the Veriown Connected Solar System as an example.
The product provided kerosene-dependent households immediate access to “cleaner, safer and affordable energy”, as well as Internet connectivity and easy-to-use Wattcoin PAYGo and banking services.