Pay As You Go_The Basics
Pay As You Go_The Basics (Photo by American Public Power Association on Unsplash)

RiA-ders!

Jackie is a shining example in the Off-Grid solar industry’s talents. Her first article was so popular that she has been invited back to write another article on the off-grid solar industry!

Quick Summary

The article is touching on points below:

Pay-As-You-Go Solar Solutions for Off-Grid Electricity

  1. Building a mini-grid system
  2. Making the most of the power
  3. Costs and payment plans

ARTICLE

Pay-As-You-Go Solar Solutions for Off-Grid Electricity

The sheer area of land that populations are dispersed across in Africa is one big hurdle which electrification must scale. The other, unsurprisingly, is money. As much discussion at the recent Solar Off-grid Summit showed, off-grid or mini-grid systems are an excellent way to help the process of electrification in rural communities. Support in government policy is growing for these solutions, spurred by successes in Kenya and Tanzania. There is still a long way to go, but with new ideas developing all the time, the path to widespread electrification is becoming easier.

solar panel
Figure 1: A solar panel off the grid on a rooftop in Africa

Building a mini-grid system

The rise of pay-as-you-go (PAYG) systems as a method to make off-grid systems accessible is one such method. Around twenty companies serving nearly half a million people in Eastern Africa currently provide this service. A solar-powered kit including the panel, battery, two or three lights, and a phone charger – and sometimes other appliances – is bought by the customer in installments, rather than a one-off lump sum. Depending on the scheme, the customer may have options to expand their mini-grid with further PV panels, charging points, and appliances. This support of power demands over a customer’s lifetime can help to open many doors: efficient cooking stoves to help daily life, smartphones to aid connectivity and business opportunities.

pay as go
Figure 2: A typical Pay-As You Go Solar kit – Off-Grid Electric M30 (Lighting Global)

Making the most of the power

An important part of making these PAYG systems viable and efficient is education for the users about how to manage electricity usage and demand. Including timers or simple motion sensors in the solar kits can help to increase the efficiency and convenience of lights – and making sure that LED bulbs are used helps further, as LEDs use less power and last longer. Other options include adding insulation to a house – which helps to save between 40 and 50% of the energy needed in heating and cooling systems.

Costs and payment plans

An initial payment is normally required as security for the scheme – often around 30 USD – but this is not as high as purchasing the kit outright. Daily rates average between 0.30USD and 2.00 USD for higher usage. The costs are calculated to be competitive with other forms of electricity generation, such as diesel or kerosene generators and battery-powered torches, to make the plan more attractive and provide savings straight away. Payments can be made in a variety of ways depending on the scheme, but include M-pesa or mobile phone credit, and scratch cards. Many schemes also allow one-off top-up payments against the balance, which is useful for those with irregular income streams. The flexibility in the payment plan means that the scheme is much more accessible for rural communities, who often have lower and more irregular income sources.

wakawaka
Figure 3: Activating a Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) solar unit (Make Wealth History, 2018)

Solar power is ideal for these schemes as African countries are rich in the cost-free initial factor: sunlight. Solar-powered mini-grid systems can be relatively simple to construct and maintain, and as the source is renewable and natural it means independence from external factors such as purchasing fuel or batteries to sustain electricity needs. The flexible installment-based payment plan means that many more people can access electricity and all the benefits it brings, without the need for costly one-off payments.  

Jackie’s bio: After taking a career sabbatical to become a mother, Jackie now writes full time on topics ranging from news and current affairs to business and finance. She has, in the past battled problems with anxiety and panic, and in her spare time she volunteers for a number of local charities that support people with mental health issues.

Jackie -How Clean Energy Can Reduce Africa’s Debt
Jackie – Pay-As-You-Go Solar : The Basics

Sources

  1. RiA: Solar Off-grid Summit: The seven wings of the Kilimanjaro
  2. RiA: How Clean Energy Can Reduce Africa’s Debt?
  3. eniday: https://www.eniday.com/en/technology_en/pay-as-you-go-solar-in-africa/
  4. 12VMonster: https://www.12vmonster.com/blogs/product-questions/ten-tips-for-off-grid-home-energy
  5. Sun-connect: http://www.sun-connect-news.org/articles/market/details/off-grid-solar-in-africa-benefits-and-opportunities/
  6. The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/business/economics-blog/2015/jun/05/solar-power-africa-sun-electricity-crisis

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