Weekly Review April 25-29


Every week at ID we read a lot about what we do and what we like. This week we read a lot about energy for the under-served at the base of the pyramid.
There is an interesting trend in emerging markets:  families are moving from rural areas to urban areas, but bringing their rural energy habits with them. This article looks at user-centered design (UCD) to understand the needs, desires, and limitations of those at the base of the pyramid (BoP). NextBillion conducted three case studies to see if those at the BoP living in urban areas but practicing rural habits could determine “design insights for consumer energy products targeted to rural BoP markets.” During the studies, the researchers visited participants for six to seven weeks to interview and observe their usage habits for energy products for both cooking and lighting. The case studies revealed “insights for improved product design, marketing and user education.” The results are useful for innovators with technological ideas and will help them serve those at the BoP desperately need affordable and safe energy.
EGG electricians and their new customer
via EGG-energy

First Customer at Mbagala Site” from EGG-energy 

Our portfolio company EGG-energy got their first new customer at their new station in Mbagala. Mr. Saidi Benju purchased “a 2-light system under a 6-month subscription for his bar for a total cost of Tsh 164,00 (USD $109).” EGG electricians installed the system at Mr. Benju’s bar. This is the most cost-effective lighting system for his business. Now he can power a radio to attract new customers and enhance his service. EGG is helping small business owners at the BoP become sustainable and more profitable to truly lift them out of poverty. Also, a big congratulations to EGG-energy – they pitched at Wipro Technologies & Knowledge@Wharton’s Global Innovation Tournament 2011 and won the grand prize!
This article evidences the growth of alternative and clean energy industry. BrightSource energy is going public and expecting to raise $250 million from their initial public offering. BrightSource focuses on solar-thermal energy because it can be stored. Storing solar thermal power and smart grids are a solution for consistent energy services. Based in the Southwest, we’d like to see this technology applied affordably for those at the BoP.
Top Up the World” by Abby Callard
For those at the BoP, services that allow customers to only pay what they can afford are the models that succeed. We first saw this with pre-paid mobile phones, and now with mobile payments. She features our portfolio company, Simpa Networks, as an example of using these payment models for other services.  In Simpa’s case, they use “progressive purchase technology” to make solar energy affordable for those at the BoP. Simpa allows customers to make a partial payment up front for a solar energy system for their home, similar to the initial investment of purchasing a mobile phone. From there, Simpa allows customer to make payments on the remaining balance of the system, just like mobile customers pay for their airtime. By allowing the user to pay for the energy from the system overtime, Simpa is able to recoup the system costs. We search for companies like Simpa who are that forefront of making technology highly affordable and easily accessible for those who need it most.
Finally, do you have a technological innovation in energy for the underserved at the BoP? We’re now seeking BETA Residents.