Energy services provided
Solar home systems (SHS) and solar lanterns
Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. DOEN Foundation
(Netherlands National Lottery)
Rural Energy Foundation (REF)
57,000 SHS and 36,000 solar lanterns sold
332,000 gained access to electricity
REF. Ashden Awards.
Background and project description
More than 70% of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has no
access to electricity, and in rural areas this often
exceeds 95%. Access to energy products is
hindered by poor market-supply chains, low
awareness of existing technology and lack of access
to finance for entrepreneurs and end users. REF has
helped facilitate access to solar-powered electricity
in SSA by training and supporting rural retailers.
REF promotes SHS (typically 11 to 50 Wp, costing
Marketing a solar lantern:
between US$250 and 630) and solar lanterns (1-10Wp, costing between US$25 to 90). The
solar panels and solar lanterns are all imported; no local manufacturers exist and high
quality and relatively low-cost are available on the international market.
Training and support to market actors
REF identifies retailers and distributors in rural and urban areas, trains them in solar energy
technology, marketing, sales and business administration, and helps them start up and
expand businesses selling solar energy products. Trained retailers who commit to growing
a rural solar business and meet REF quality standards may use the SolarNow brand name,
and benefit from SolarNow promotional activities undertaken by REF. SolarNow technicians
are trained to assemble, install and repair solar products. REF has supported 200 retailers
achieve SolarNow status across Africa.
Selling solar products
REF stimulates financial institutions and other commercial actors to extend credit to
smaller retailers (to increase their stock), to small businesses generating income from
renewable energy (such as phone charging stations, barbershops, etc.), and to end-users
(for them to purchase, for example, a SHS). REF stimulates demand for solar energy
products through large awareness campaigns using the SolarNow brand.
REF has developed tripartite arrangements with banks in which SolarNow retailers and
customers may obtain access to bank loans and microcredit. If the client has saved a
certain amount (typically 30-50% of the purchase price of the solar home system for a
customer), the client can obtain a loan. The client typically repays most of the loan with of
the solar home system in one to three years through savings in kerosene and batteries.
REF provides a limited guarantee to the financial institution, based on which the financial
institution can issue a loan without collateral.
Renewable Energy to Reduce Poverty in Africa