February 10, 2015
Only one month into 2015, private equity firms, venture investors and development banks have poured $42 million into off-grid solar companies working in developing countries. That represents two-thirds of all off-grid investments closed in 2014.
The money was disbursed in four different rounds for companies in solar lighting, solar electronics charging and pay-as-you-go financing.
Last week, Fidelity Growth Partners led a $10-million financing round for Greenlight Planet, a solar lighting company operating in Africa and India. Deutsche Bank and Global Partnerships also added to the round.
Greenlight Planet sells mobile phone and solar lighting devices in order to help reduce expensive and dangerous kerosene use. The money will help Greenlight expand sales operations in Africa and grow its rooftop solar installation business. The company says it’s on track to light 100 million off-grid households by the end of the decade.
Greenlight is also developing a pay-as-you-go mobile platform that will allow customers to pay for their solar lighting systems over weeks or months.
Mobile payment platforms have become a catalyst for “beyond-the-grid” energy. By seeing themselves as energy service providers — not just suppliers of a technology — solar startups focused on energy access are gaining more attention from investors. That includes solar service providers like SolarCityand engineering giants like Schneider Electric.
“Beyond-the-grid enterprises are raising more and more money, but moving from social impact to real venture capital investment will require them to step up their game. That means providing seamless service levels to some of the most price-sensitive, difficult-to-reach customers on earth — akin to what people in developed countries would expect,” wrote Daniel Tomlinson in a GTM op-ed last month.
Source: AFK Insider