The off grid market continues to expand and attract innovative new business and financial models aimed at delivering energy access for the poor. One of the most recent, Eight19 Ltd., made a splash with an article in The Economist explaining their pay-as-you-go “energy escalator” business model (seen in the graphic above).
We sat down with Eight19 (which takes its catchy name from the time it takes sunlight to reach the earth - 8 minutes and 19 seconds) CEO Simon Bransfield-Garth who offered up a fascinating vision of the future of energy dubbed the “Un-Grid”. Take a minute to read his take below.
So how does eight19 work?
We provide off-grid communities (mostly in Africa) a “pay-as-you-go solar model” personal solar system called IndiGo. Local people buy scratch cards for around $1 a week which are validated over SMS using their mobile phone and add credit to the IndiGo unit. By combining solar and mobile phone technology, the IndiGo solar electricity system is inexpensive to buy and allows users to light their homes and charge mobile phones as a service.
We have similarities to other pay as you go offerings (like Simpa Networks). The main difference is we start at a smaller scale (light for 2 rooms and provide a USB for phone charging). This lowers the price point to roughly $1/ week providing an 18 month payback. We offer (like others) a progressive purchase option that enables households to own the system. But we also offer the option to upgrade to a more powerful system. This "energy escalator" business model supports a bottom up approach to electrification and allows users to pay less than half their normal spend on kerosene.