Kenya is on the leading edge of decentralized solar power. M’KOPA provides a 4 watt solar panel, three LED lights, a DC radio and a cell phone charger, all in a box. The kit costs about $200. The purchaser makes a small down payment and uses his/her cell phone to make small daily payments, about $.45, for one year. Once the system is paid off, a code is transmitted by cell phone, and the charger system is unlocked. Free electricity follows, for the life of the solar panel.
80% of Kenyans live off the electrical grid. A few lights, a radio and a cell phone charger are life altering changes for most of these families.
Here’s how an article on Bloomberg explained it:
The M-KOPA system, which is marketed by dealers in Nairobi and western Kenya, comprises a 4-watt rooftop solar panel, a control box that attaches to the wall of a home or business, three lamps and mobile-phone chargers.
Under the payment plan, the system costs 16,900 shillings, or about $199, in a country where the annual per-capita income is $820. Clients make a down-payment of 2,500 shillings and then daily installments of 40 shillings until it’s paid off.
After that, the owners get power for free. By comparison, Kenyan families spend an average of 50 shillings a day on kerosene to light their homes and fees to have their mobile phones charged at places that have electricity, according to research by M-KOPA.
George Miruka, a 36-year-old father of four, said he stopped worrying about the fire-risk from kerosene lamps after outfitting his mud-walled hut with an M-KOPA system last month. “My children are safe,” Miruka said.
Even if you can connect to the grid, you need $412 just to hook up. Then you have to pay for the electricity. With the M’KOPA system, once you pay your $200, your electricity is free.
This is the future of decentralized electricity, and the innovations will come from places like Kenya and India.